- Chinese coptis
- Coptis deltoidea
- Coptis teetoides
For Patients & Caregivers
How It Works
Available data are insufficient to determine whether huanglian is effective in preventing or treating cancer.
Derived from the rhizome of the perennial herb Coptis chinensis, huanglian is used in traditional Chinese medicine for diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal fullness, jaundice, high fever coma, toothache, diabetes and eczema. It showed antimicrobial, antidiabetic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Alkaloids that include berberine are considered to be the active components.
Huanglian and berberine showed anti-hyperglycemic activity in small studies, but well-designed trials are lacking. In addition, studies done in laboratory and in animal models indicate that huanglian and berberine have anticancer effects. Clinical trials are needed.
To treat bacterial and viral infections
Laboratory studies show that berberine, a compound in huanglian, stops the growth of bacteria. Human data are lacking.
To treat diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms
Laboratory studies support this claim, but clinical data are lacking.
To lower high blood pressure
Laboratory and animal studies support this claim, but human data are needed.
Do Not Take If
- You are taking drugs that are substrates of Cytochrome P450: Huanglian may increase the risk of side effects of these drugs. However, another study showed that huanglian can also induce CYP3A4 by activating pregnane X receptor. This may decrease the concentration of drugs metabolized by CYP3A4. Clinical significance is not known.
For Healthcare Professionals
Derived from the rhizome of the perennial herb Coptis chinensis, huanglian is used in traditional Chinese medicine for diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal fullness, jaundice, high fever coma, toothache, diabetes and eczema. It showed antimicrobial, antidiabetic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects (16). Alkaloids that include berberine are considered to be the bioactive components (1).
Berberine demonstrated hepatoprotective (9) and anti-inflammatory (14) effects, as well as improving glucose metabolism in a murine model of diabetes (10). Jatrorrhizine, a protoberberine, was shown to offset postoperative ileus-induced delayed gastric emptying, and intestinal transit in mice (15).
Huanglian and berberine have also been reported to exert anti-hyperglycemic activity in small studies, but well-designed trials are lacking (17) (18). In addition, preclinical findings indicate that huanglian (5) (6) and berberine (3) (19) (20) have anticancer effects. Clinical trials have yet to be conducted.
Mechanism of Action
Berberine and berberine-like alkaloids are thought responsible for the biological effects of huanglian. Berberine inhibits human hep-62 hepatoma cell growth due to morphological changes and internucleosomal DNA fragmentation (3). Berberine also inhibits platelet aggregation and can antagonize thromboxane B2. In an animal model, it caused potassium channel blockade resulting in prolongation of the action potential in ventricular monocytes (1).
Huanglian inhibits topoisomerase I and is thought to suppress cyclin B1 protein, causing cancer cell arrest at G2 phase (2). In other studies, it demonstrated antiangiogenic activity (6), induced apoptosis and arrested cell growth by upregulating Interferon beta as well as tumor necrosis factor-alpha genes in breast cancer cells (7).
Cytochrome P450 substrates: Huanglian inhibits CYP2D6 (11) CYP2D6, CYP2C9, as well as CYP3A4 (13), and can therefore affect drugs metabolized by these enzymes.
Prolonged use of huanglian can induce CYP3A4 by activating pregnane X receptor (12). This may reduce the effectiveness of drugs metabolized by this enzyme. But clinical relevance is not known.