Herb: Huang Lian


Latin name: Coptis chinensis


Family: Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)



Medicinal use of Huang Lian:

Huang Lian is commonly used in Chinese herbalism, where it is considered to be one of the 50 fundamental herbs. The root is a pungent, very bitter, cooling herb that controls bacterial and viral infections, relaxes spasms, lowers fevers and stimulates the circulation. It is one of the most frequently used herbs in prescriptions for the treatment of diabetes mellitus. The root is analgesic, locally anaesthetic, antibacterial, antidote, antipyretic, bitter, blood tonic, carminative, cholagogue, digestive, sedative, stomachic, tonic and vasodilator. It is particularly helpful in the treatment of diarrhoea, acute enteritis and dysentery, whilst it is also used in the treatment of insomnia, fidget, delirium due to high fever, leukaemia and otitis media. Externally it is used to treat various skin problems such as acne, boils, abscesses and burns whilst it is also used as a gargle for mouth and tongue ulcers, swollen gums and toothache. As an eyewash it is used to treat conjunctivitis. The root is harvested in the autumn and used fresh or dried.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Evergreen
Perennial

Height:
25 cm
(9 3/4 inch)

Flovering:
February
to March

Habitat of the herb:

Damp coniferous woods and bogs. Forests, shaded places in valleys at elevations of 500 - 2000 metres.

Other uses of Huang Lian:

A bright yellow pigment found in the roots can be used for dyeing. Can be grown as a ground cover plant in the peat garden.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - best sown in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe in an ericaceous compost. Seal the pot in a polythene bag until germination takes place, which is usually within 1 - 6 months at 10C. Stored seed should be sown as early in the year as possible. Four weeks cold stratification may be beneficial. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow on in a shady part of the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out in mid-autumn or in spring. Division in spring.

Cultivation of Huang Lian:

Damp coniferous woods and bogs. Forests, shaded places in valleys at elevations of 500 - 2000 metres.

Known hazards of Coptis chinensis:

Although no specific mention of toxicity has been found for this species, it belongs to a family that contains many species that are mildly toxic and so it is wise to treat this plant with some caution.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.