Flowers of Huang Lian (Chinese), Chinese Goldthread - Coptis Chinensis (Ranunculaceae)

Medicinal Use of Huang Lian (Chinese), Chinese Goldthread – Coptis Chinensis (Ranunculaceae)


Perennial herb growing to 20 in (50 cm). Has basal leaves and small whitish-green flowers.

Habitat & Cultivation

This herb is native to the mountains of China, and is most commonly cultivated in Szechwan province. The root is dug up in autumn.

Part Used



Huang lian contains isoquiniline alkaloids, including berberine, coptisine, and worenine. Berberine is antibacterial, amebicidal, and antidiarrheal.

Medicinal Actions & Uses

A bitter-tasting herb, huang lian is given in the Chinese herbal tradition as a decoction to “clear heat” and “dry dampness,” relieving fever, red and sore eyes, and sore throats. The herb is particularly helpful for diarrhea and dysentery, and has been used to quell vomiting. Skin problems such as acne, boils, abscesses, and burns are also treated with huang lian. Like the root of goldthread (C. trifolia), huang lian is taken as a gargle for mouth and tongue ulcers, and for swollen gums and toothache.


In a Chinese trial, 30 patients with tuberculosis were given huang lian, and all of them showed marked improvement in their symptoms.


Use only under professional supervision. Do not take during pregnancy.