Goldthread rhizomes

Chinese: 黄连

Pinyin: Huáng Lián

Parts used: Dried rhizome

TCM category: Herbs that clear Heat and dry Dampness

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): Bitter

Meridian affinity: GallbladderSpleenStomachHeartLarge intestineLiver

Scientific name: Coptis chinensis, Coptis deltoidea or Coptis teeta

Other names: Golden thread, Canker root

Use of goldthread rhizomes (Huang Lian) in TCM

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 goldthread rhizomes 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.

Common TCM formulas in which goldthread rhizomes are used*:

Key TCM concepts behind goldthread rhizomes (Huang Lian)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), goldthread rhizomes are plants that belong 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 '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 goldthread rhizomes are plants that are Cold in nature. This means that goldthread rhizomes typically help 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 goldthread rhizomes can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Goldthread rhizomes also taste Bitter. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like goldthread rhizomes tend 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 goldthread rhizomes are thought to target the Gallbladder, the Spleen, the Stomach, the Heart, the Large intestine and the Liver. Similar to modern medicine, in TCM the Gall Bladder stores and releases bile produced by the Liver. It also controls the emotion of decisiveness. The Spleen on the other hand assists with digestion, blood coagulation and fluid 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. In addition to regulating blood flow, the Heart is believed to be the store of the "spirit" 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 body fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.

Research on goldthread rhizomes(Huang Lian)

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.