March 30, 2023 3 min read

Healing Potential of Coptis chinensis Rhizome in Tibetan and Ayurvedic Medicine: A Comprehensive Review of Scientific Studies


Coptis chinensis, commonly known as Chinese goldthread, is a medicinal plant with a long history of use in traditional medicine, mainly Tibetan and Ayurvedic medicine. This monograph aims to review scientific studies on the healing potential of Coptis chinensis rhizome and its pharmacological properties. Emphasis is placed on the traditional uses in Tibetan and Ayurvedic medicine and the modern scientific evidence supporting these claims.


Coptis chinensis is a perennial herb belonging to the Ranunculaceae family and is native to East Asia. Its rhizome has been used for thousands of years in various traditional medicine systems, including Tibetan and Ayurvedic medicine. This monograph aims to comprehensively review the scientific studies supporting the healing potential of Coptis chinensis rhizome and their applications in Tibetan and Ayurvedic medicine.

Coptis chinensis Rhizome Composition and Pharmacological Properties:

1.1. Chemical Constituents:

The rhizome of Coptis chinensis contains various bioactive compounds, including alkaloids (such as berberine, coptisine, and palmatine), phenolic acids, and flavonoids.

1.2. Pharmacological Properties:

The rhizome exhibits various pharmacological properties, such as antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, and antidiabetic activities.

Traditional Uses in Tibetan Medicine:

2.1. Antimicrobial Properties:

In Tibetan medicine, Coptis chinensis rhizome treats infections and gastrointestinal disorders caused by bacterial, viral, or fungal pathogens. Scientific studies have shown that the alkaloids, particularly berberine, have potent antimicrobial activity against various pathogens, including Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Candida albicans.

2.2. Anti-inflammatory and Analgesic Properties:

The rhizome is also used to alleviate pain and inflammation in various conditions. Research has demonstrated that berberine and coptisine possess anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects through inhibiting pro-inflammatory cytokines (e.g., TNF-α, IL-6) and modulation of the COX-2 enzyme.

Traditional Uses in Ayurvedic Medicine:

3.1. Gastrointestinal Disorders:

In Ayurvedic medicine, Coptis chinensis rhizome treats gastrointestinal disorders like diarrhea, dysentery, and indigestion. The antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties of the alkaloids present in the rhizome may contribute to these therapeutic effects.

3.2. Liver Protection:

The rhizome is also used in Ayurveda for its hepatoprotective effects. Scientific studies have shown that berberine can protect against liver injury and reduce oxidative stress, inflammation, and fibrosis in liver cells.

Additional Healing Potentials:

4.1. Anticancer Activity:

Recent studies have demonstrated that Coptis chinensis rhizome extract exhibits anticancer activity against various cancer cell lines, including breast, lung, and colon cancer. The anticancer effects are attributed to the alkaloids, particularly berberine, which can induce apoptosis and inhibit tumor cell proliferation and migration.

4.2. Antidiabetic Properties:

Research has shown that Coptis chinensis rhizome extract has potential hypoglycemic and antidiabetic effects due to the presence of bioactive compounds such as berberine, which can improve glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity.

Safety and Toxicity:

5.1. General Safety:

Coptis chinensis rhizome is generally considered safe when consumed in moderate amounts. There have been few reported cases of side effects or toxicity. However, excessive consumption of the rhizome may lead to gastrointestinal discomfort, diarrhea, or bloating.

5.2. Contraindications and Precautions:

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should exercise caution when using Coptis chinensis rhizome, as there is limited information regarding its safety during pregnancy and lactation. Individuals with known allergies to Coptis chinensis or other members of the Ranunculaceae family should avoid consuming the rhizome. Additionally, those taking medications for diabetes should consult with their healthcare provider, as Coptis chinensis rhizome may have hypoglycemic effects that could interfere with blood sugar control.


Coptis chinensis rhizome has been used for centuries in traditional Tibetan and Ayurvedic medicine for its various healing potentials. Modern scientific studies have provided evidence supporting many of these traditional uses, including antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, hepatoprotective, anticancer, and antidiabetic properties. Further research is needed to explore the full potential of Coptis chinensis rhizome and its bioactive compounds in preventing and treating various diseases. Overall, the rhizome shows promise as a valuable therapeutic agent in both traditional and modern medicine.

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