Coptis Health Benefits (As Backed by Science)

coptis health benefits

Long used in Asia, the medicinal plant Coptis is starting to get attention in the West now too. There has been a huge amount of research on its medical benefits, especially for gastrointestinal and liver health.  Here’s what you need to know about Coptis health benefits and how to use it.

Quick Pick: Organic Coptis Extract
This extract is made from organic Coptis chinensis, which is considered the most potent species. It is also has a very high menstruum (extraction) ratio.

What Is Coptis?

Coptis is a genus of medicinal plants which has been used for centuries in Asia.  It is one of the 50 fundamental herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine.  The rhizome of Coptis contains large amounts alkaloids, including berberine, which have proven health benefits.

Other Names for Coptis:

  • Goldthread
  • Canker root
  • Savoyane
  • Huang lian
Coptis medicinal plant and root
Image showing Coptis leaves, roots and flower


Health Benefits of Coptis

Coptis root contains numerous alkaloids, including: berberine, pamatine, coptisine, jatrorrhizine, columbamine, and epiberberine.  These alkaloids are responsible for the numerous health benefits of Coptis.  The main benefits are:


1. Gastrointestinal Health

The alkaloids in Coptis aren’t absorbed into the bloodstream well.  However, they do act in the GI tract when they come into contact with it.

The alkaloids reduce inflammation in the intestinal walls and smooth muscle contraction.  They also balance gut microbiota.  Studies show these properties make coptis an effective treatment for IBS and it could have potential for treating IBD and leaky gut.


2. Liver and Gallbladder Health

Another key benefit of Coptis plant is for liver and gallbladder health.   Research shows that coptis increases bile production levels in the liver.  Bile is important for breaking down cholesterol.  Without enough bile, gallstones can form.  Bile also has many other roles in the body, such as vitamin absorption, keeping gut bacteria balanced and neurological function.

Research shows Coptis is just as effective as bear bile supplements for treating liver diseases – and is a much more humane supplement!

Also read: How to Increase Bile Naturally


3. Antimicrobial

Numerous studies show that Coptis extracts are antimicrobial.  They work in numerous ways, such as blocking bacteria’s ability to bind to mucous membranes in the GI tract and preventing biofilm formation.

These properties are why Coptis has long been used to treat stomach infections, including food poisoning from E. coli and Salmonella.  Research also shows that Coptis may be effective against Candida infections.


4. Anti-inflammatory

Research shows that Coptis is a potent anti-inflammatory.  It works in numerous ways, including disrupting inflammation pathways and balancing gut bacteria.  Studies like this and this one found it was as effective as drugs like dexamethasone and celecoxib in reducing inflammation but without the potential gastric side effects.

Coptis is sometimes applied to the skin for its anti-inflammatory benefits. This can help reduce damage from UV light and other damage.


5. Natural Ulcer Treatment

We now know that a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori is behind most ulcers.  Studies have found that alkaloids in Coptis, specifically palmatine, inhibit the H. pylori bacteria.  Coptis also inhibits urease, which allows H. pylori to survive in the acidic stomach environment.


6. Cancer

There have been various promising studies which show Coptis may help fight cancer.  It has numerous mechanisms of action, including blocking the expression of cancer cells and making it harder for them to grow.  However, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center warns that, “Data are lacking on whether huanglian can help prevent or treat cancer.”


7. Depression

Berberine is a well-researched natural treatment for depression. It works by regulating neurotransmitters. It increases dopamine levels, reduces neuro-inflammation and regulates hormones – all of which can improve mental health.


8.  Cholesterol

Because Coptis increases bile production, it makes it easier for the body to digest fats.  Research shows that this helps reduce LDL cholesterol levels as well as increasing HDL cholesterol.  There is also some research showing that this can help reduce obesity levels and prevent cardiovascular diseases related to high cholesterol.


Want to try Coptis? Here’s what you need to know when choosing Coptis supplements.

Image credits:
Fleur, feuilles et racines du Coptide du” (CC BY 2.0) by Charles de Mille-Isles,
Coptis trifolia” (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) by PA Natural Heritage Program

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