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Huáng Lián 黃連

Pharmaceutical name Coptidis Rhizoma Coptis (chinensis) rhizome
Category Clear Heat, Dry Dampness
Key Properties Cools heat
Drains fire (esp in HT & ST)
Dries dampness
Resolves toxicity
Properties Bitter
Tropism HT, LI, LV, ST(MJ)
Actions & Indications 1) Clears Heat & Drains Dampness (ST/HT: teeth, vomiting)
2) Drains Fire & Resolves Fire Toxicity (clear HT fire)
3) Clears Heat & Stops Bleeding (use charred)
4) Clears Heat topically
Dosages 1.5-9g
Contraindications (TCM) Caution with Cold, Yang Def, or Yin Def, esp Cold from SP & ST Def
(Herb has strong bitter, cold & drying properties)
Contraindications (Western) Relatively safe, but may be associated with: allergic reaction/rash, dizziness, headache, tinnitus, nausea, vomiting, palpitations, shortness of breath, abdominal fullness, diarrhea, and reduction of red blood cells
Chemical Composition Berberine, coptisine, palmatine, jatrorrhizine, epiberberine,
worenine, columbamine, magnoflorine
Pharmacological Effects • Antibiotic: broad spectrum antibiotic effects against Bacillus dysenteriae, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Salmonella typhi, E. coli, Vibrio cholerae, Bacillus proteus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Diplococcus meningitidis, S. aureus, β-hemolytic streptococcus, Diplococcus pneumoniae, Corynebacterium diphtheriae, Bordetella pertussis, Bacillus anthracis, and leptospira; inhibitory effect strongest against E. coli, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and S.aureus; use of Huang Lian or its components individually commonly associated with resistance; however, use of Huang Lian within an herbal formula reportedly enhances its antibiotic effectiveness over tenfold with little incidence of resistance; berberine most effective for gastrointestinal infection, but not for systemic infection, since it has poor absorption by the intestines and short half-life; Huang Lian also has antifungal and antiviral activities; according to one report, a 15% decoction of Huang Lian is effective against numerous pathogenic fungi and dermatophytes; also has inhibitory effect against influenza and hepatitis viruses
• Anti-inflammatory: oral administration of 50 mg/kg of berberine in rats has marked anti-inflammatory effect
• Cardiovascular: intravenous injection of berberine at 0.1 to 6.0 mg/kg lowered blood pressure in anesthetized dogs, cats and rats; mechanism is dilation of blood vessels and inhibition of secretion of adrenal glands; berberine also has antiarrhythmic actions
• Antipyretic: intravenous injection has demonstrated antipyretic effects in rabbits; exact mechanism of action is unclear, may be related to cAMP in the central nervous system
• Cholagogic: Huang Lian and berberine increase production and decrease density of bile acid; also reduce plasma level of cholesterols
• Antiulcer: inhibits secretion of gastric acid and is commonly used in conjunction with other herbs to treat peptic ulcers
• Others: local anesthetic and antidiarrheal effects
Herb-Drug Interactions • Cyclophosphamide: an in vitro study reported that berberine in rats was effective in preventing cyclophosphamide-induced cystitis; according to report, administration of berberine has dose-depend ent effect to block cyclophosphamide-induced bladder edema and hemorrhage, as well as nitric oxide metabolites increase in rat urine and plasma; berberine could be a potentially effective drug in the treatment of cyclophosphamide-induced cystitis, and prevent and treat cyclophosphamide urotoxicity
Classical Formula(s)

Wu Shi Lian Mei Tang (Master Wu's Coptis and Mume Decoction) 吳氏連梅湯

Xiao Xian Xiong Tang (Minor Decoction Stuck in Chest) 小陷胸湯

Zuo Jin Wan (Left Metal Pill) 左金丸

Dang Gui Liu Huang Tang (Tankuei and Six-yellow Decoction) 當歸六黃湯 (当归六黄汤)

Ge Gen Huang Qin Huang Lian Tang (Kudzu, scutellaria, and coptis decoction) 葛根黃蓮黃苓湯

Huang Lian E Jiao Tang (Coptis and Ass-Hide Gelatin Decoction) 黃蓮阿膠湯

Huang Lian Jie Du Tang (Coptis Decoction to Resolve Toxicity) 黃蓮解毒湯 (黄连解毒汤)

Huang Lian Tang (Coptis Decoction) 黃蓮湯

Lian Po Yin (Coptis and Magnolia Bark Decoction) 蓮朴飲

Mu Xiang Bing Lang Wan (Aucklandia and Betel Nut Pill) 木香檳榔丸

Pu Ji Xiao Du Yin (Universal Benefit Drink to Eliminate toxin) 普濟消毒飲 (普济消毒饮)

Qing Shu Yi Qi Tang (Clear Summerheat and Augment the Qi Decoction) 清暑益氣湯

Qing Wei San (Clear the Stomach Powder) 清胃散

Qing Wen Bai Du Yin (Xi Jiao substituted with Shui Niu Jiao) (Clear Epidemics and Overcome Toxicity Drink 清瘟敗毒飲

Qing Xin Li Ge Tang (Clear the Heart and Enable the Diaphragm Decoction) 清心利膈湯

Qing Ying Tang (clear the nutritive-level decoction)清營湯 (清营汤)

San Zhong Kui Jian Tang (Decoction to Disperse Swelling and Ulcerate What is Hard) 散腫潰堅湯

Shao Yao Tang (Peony Decoction) 芍藥湯

Shi Gao Tang (Gypsum Decoction) 石膏湯

Wu Mei Wan (Mume Pill) 烏梅丸 (乌梅丸)

Zhi Shi Dao Zhi Wan (Unripe Bitter Orange Pill to Gide Out Stagnation) 枳實導滯丸

Zhi Shi Xiao Pi Wan (Immature Bitter Orange Pill to Reduce Focal Distention) 枳實消痞丸

Bai Tou Weng Jia Gan Cao E Jiao Tang (Pulsatilla Decoction plus Licorice and Ass-Hide Gelatin) 白頭翁加甘草阿膠湯

Bai Tou Weng Tang (Pulsatilla decoction) 白頭翁湯

Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang (Pinellia Decoction to Drain the Epigastrium) 半夏瀉心湯

Dang Gui Long Hui Wan (Tangkuei, Gentian, and Aloe Pill) (delete she xiang) 當歸龍薈丸 (減麝香)

Fei Er Wan (Fat Baby Pill) 肥兒丸

Sheng Yang Yi Wei Tang (Raise the Yang and Augment the Stomach Decoction) 升陽益胃湯

Xie Xin Tang (Drain the Epigastrium Decoction) 瀉心湯

Zhu Che Wan (Halt the Carts Pill) 駐車丸

Zhu Sha An Shen Wan (Cinnabar Pill to calm the Spirit) 朱砂安神丸


This information is a reference tool for Chinese herbal studies. It is not intended to replace professional medical advice. Please consult a primary health professional if you require health advisory.