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Coptis
shopping: one variety
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Coptis chinensis

coptis

plant overview
dyeing yellow with coptis

Coptis chinensis is a perennial evergreen native to China, where it is also known as Chinese goldthread and Huang lian. As a goldthread species and member of the Ranunculaceae family of flowering plants, it is related to the common buttercup. The root, which is harvested in the fall, yields a yellow dye due to the presence of an alkaloid called berberine. Coptis root also contains other active organic compounds, including hydrastine, coptisine and palmatine.

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Coptis
01.
Where in the World
habitat and range for coptis

Coptis is native to China.

02.
A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information about coptis

description
Coptis is a perennial stemless herb of the Ranunculaceae family, 20–50 cm high. Leaves basal, long petiolate; blade triangular-ovate, 3–8 cm long by 2.5–7 cm wide, ternatisect; leaflets pinnatifid, lobes incised, the terminal leaflet longer than the others. Peduncles 1–2, 12– 25cm long, bracts resembling leaves. Inflorescence a terminal cyme with 3–8 whitish green flowers; sepals narrow-ovate, 9–12 mm long; petals small, oblanceolate, 5–7mm long; stamens numerous, 3–6mm long; carpels 8–12, with carpophores, follicles many-seeded. Seeds with black crustaceous testa. Rhizome shaped like a cockspur, 5–6 cm long, brownish yellow, densely covered with numerous nodes and often with rootlets; interior yellow-orange; in transverse section, the central pith deeper in color.

The entire plant is extremely aromatic.

common names & nomenclature
Coptis is from the Greek koptein "to cut off" in reference to the divided leaves, chinensis is in reference to China where the plant is native.

Also known as:
chinese goldthread, ch’uan-lien, coptis, coptis rhizome, gold thread, huang lian, huang-lien, huánglián, oren, perlenschnur, weilian, mishmi bitter

03.
Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting coptis

climate
Coptis grows in damp coniferous woods and bogs, forests, shaded places in valleys at elevations of 500-2000 metres. Prefers a northerly aspect or light shade, plants are hardy to at least -15°c.

soil
Coptis does best in a light moist humus-rich slightly acidic soil.

growing
Sow coptis seeds in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe in compost. Seal the pot in a polythene bag until germination takes place, which is usually within 1 - 6 months at 10°c. Stored seed should be sown as early in the year as possible. Four weeks cold stratification may be beneficial. Transplant out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow on in a shady part of the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out in mid-autumn or in spring. Can also do division in spring.

harvesting
The root is harvested in the autumn and used fresh or dried.

preserving
Store dried root in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

04.
The Rest of the Story
coptis history, folklore, literature & more

Coptis (Coptis chinensis) is a low-growing, shrub-like perennial native to China that is a cousin to the North American herb, goldenseal. Also known as huang lian, mishmi bitter and Chinese gold thread, coptis is commonly used in Chinese medicine to treat conditions associated with excessive heat or dampness, such as insomnia. In fact, coptis is counted among the 50 fundamental Chinese herbs used to address dysfunction of the heart, lungs, gastrointestinal system and liver.

The medicinal part of the plant is the golden rhizome or root. Like goldenseal, coptis root contains berberine, a plant alkaloid extensively studied for its numerous pharmacological effects. For example, the antioxidant properties of berberine may help to enhance immune function. Berberine also demonstrates antimicrobial activity and effectively counters several pathogens, including Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, Candida and Salmonella, to name a few. According to the National Institutes of Health, berberine also checks various fungi and bacteria. In fact, one study sponsored by the agency showed that a single dose of berberine extract significantly improved diarrhea and other symptoms of Escherichia Coli.

Other studies indicate that coptis root lowers serum cholesterol, reducing the risk of atherosclerosis. In addition, a study published Cardiovascular Drug Review stated that berberine compounds may be useful in treating arrhythmias. In one study involving tuberculosis patients, three months of therapy with coptis root was credited with the cessation of fever, cough and spitting up blood. Meanwhile, Japanese scientists at Saitama Medical University have found that berberine extracts may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. A few studies using animal models show that berberine reduces blood sugar.

Coptis root is generally safe and without significant side effects beyond mild stomach upset. However, people with Raynaud's disease may temporarily experience an increase in symptoms while using this herb. Like many other herbs, it should not be used during pregnancy or nursing. This herb should also be avoided while taking tetracycline antibiotics since berberine hinders the absorption of these drugs. Finally, since berberine may reduce blood sugar, do not use this herb without professional supervision if you take diabetes medications.

for educational purposes only

This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

please be advised: 
you should always consult with your doctor
before making any changes to your diet!!
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