Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.
Preparation: Remove impurities, soak in water, cut in slices and dry. Crush before use.
Dosage: 1 - 9 grams
Main actions according to TCM*: Expels Damp-Heat especially in the Lower Burner. Eliminates Fire toxicity especially when there is associated Dampness. Acts as a sedative by eliminating Heart Fire. Eliminates Stomach Fire. Expel parasites
Primary conditions or symptoms for which Huang Lian may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Abdominal bloating Vomiting Acid reflux Fever Bloody sputum Nosebleed Toothache Carbuncles Sores Eczema Conjunctivitis Insomnia Restlessness
Contraindications*: Should not be used by those with Stomach or Spleen Qi Deficiency especially when there is diarrhea. It should also not be used by those with Yin Deficiency, or when there is vomiting or nausea due to Cold.
Source date: 1336 AD
Number of ingredients: 5 herbs
Formula key actions: Drains Stomach Fire. Cools the Blood. Nourishes the Yin.
Huang Lian is a king ingredient in Qing Wei San. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.
Source date: 220 AD
Number of ingredients: 7 herbs
Formula key actions: Reverses the flow of Rebellious Stomach Qi. Relieves both Heat and Cold Stagnation in the gastrointestinal tract.
Huang Lian is a king ingredient in Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.
In Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang, Huang Lian is specific for draining "Stagnation stemming from Dampness and Heat", a key issue this formula aims to treat. It also focuses on the epigastrium, making it an even more specific choice as the key ingredient.
Source date: 1522 AD
Number of ingredients: 2 herbs
Formula key actions: Restores the functional communication between the Heart and the Kidneys.
Huang Lian is a king ingredient in Jiao Tai Wan. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.
In Jiao Tai Wan, Huang Lian clears pathogenic Heat from the Heart and thereby calms the Mind. By doing so, the ability of the Kidneys to foster a sense of inner rootedness and strength is facilitated so the normal functional relationship between those two Organs is restored. With the anxiety of the Heart and Mind quelled, the Yin is no longer threatened, Kidney Yin is able to ascend and Heart Yin is nourished.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Huang Lian belongs to the 'Herbs that clear Heat and dry Dampness' category. Herbs in this category are used to clear inflammatory and infectious conditions, referred to as 'Internal Heat' in TCM. This is why most of the herbs in this category will have both antibacterial and antiviral properties. In TCM one has too much 'Internal Heat' in their body as a result of a deficiency of 'Yin' (which is Cold in nature, see our explanation on Yin and Yang) or, more commonly, an Excess of Yang (Hot in nature). Herbs that clear Heat and dry Dampness treat the latter while, at the same time, relieving the body of excess Dampness. As such they tend to be Cold or Neutral in nature.
As suggested by its category Huang Lian is Cold in nature. This means that Huang Lian typically helps people who have too much 'Heat' in their body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Heat in their body are said to either have a Yang Excess (because Yang is Hot in nature) or a Yin deficiency (Yin is Cold in Nature). Depending on your condition Huang Lian can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.
Huang Lian also tastes Bitter. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like Huang Lian tends to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements.
The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Huang Lian is thought to target the Gallbladder, the Heart, the Large intestine, the Liver, the Spleen and the Stomach. Similar to modern medicine, in TCM the Gallbladder stores and releases bile produced by the Liver. It also controls the emotion of decisiveness. In addition to regulating Blood flow, the Heart is believed to be the store of the 'Mind' which basically refers to someone's vitality. The Large Intestine receives the "impure" parts of the digested food from the Small Intestine, absorbs the remaining fluids and excrete the remainder as feces. The Liver is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and the Body Fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions. The Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. The Stomach is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine.
Qingchang Huashi (a recipe containing Coptidis Rhizoma) was effective and safe in treating active ulcerative colitis patients.1
A study in rats suggested Coptis and berberine (the primary alkaloid in Coptis) are potential agents for preventing intestinal injury.2
Berberine (the primary alkaloid in Coptis) may also have anti-atherosclerosis effects.3
Berberine (the primary alkaloid in Coptis) and basic extracts of Coptis chinensis also have demonstrated positive effects in an animal model of neurodegeneration.4
Animal studies suggest Coptis chinensis rhizomes may help with the pain of irritable bowel syndrome.5
1. He HH, Shen H, Zheng K. (2012). Observation of the curative effect of qingchang huashi recipe for treating active ulcerative colitis of inner-accumulation of damp-heat syndrome. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. , 32(12):1598-601.
2. Zhang, Q; Piao, XL; Piao, XS; Lu, T; Wang, D; Kim, SW (2011). "Preventive effect of Coptis chinensis and berberine on intestinal injury in rats challenged with lipopolysaccharides". Food and chemical toxicology. 49 (1): 61–9. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2010.09.032.
3. Wu, M; Wang, J; Liu, LT (2010). "Advance of studies on anti-atherosclerosis mechanism of berberine". Chinese journal of integrative medicine. 16 (2): 188–92. doi:10.1007/s11655-010-0188-7.
4. Zhang, J; Yang, JQ; He, BC; Zhou, QX; Yu, HR; Tang, Y; Liu, BZ (2009). "Berberine and total base from rhizoma coptis chinensis attenuate brain injury in an aluminum-induced rat model of neurodegenerative disease". Saudi medical journal. 30 (6): 760–6. PMID 19526156.
5. Tjong, Y; Ip, S; Lao, L; Fong, HH; Sung, JJ; Berman, B; Che, C (2011). "Analgesic effect of Coptis chinensis rhizomes (Coptidis Rhizoma) extract on rat model of irritable bowel syndrome". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 135 (3): 754–61. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2011.04.007.