Herbal Allies: Huang Lian /// Coptis Root

Coptis Root

This golden, auric wonder glows like a honey-dipped sun, but under its florid veneer it shrouds a lethal combination of antibiotic and anti-inflammatory moxie engulfed in an acerbic matrix of bitter oomph. Coptis is, quite possibly, the bitterest herb I have ever tasted. Long enshrined in traditional medicine for its ability to treat conditions associated with excess dampness, inflammation, and heat, its bitterness is the key to its effectiveness. The bitter taste and yellow hue indicate the presence of berberine, an alkaloid with strong antibiotic effects that effectively drains excess and heat from the body. In test tube studies, berberine was shown to inhibit the growth of streptococcal bacteria responsible for some forms of pneumonia, and it exhibits broad-spectrum antibacterial and antiviral activity (take that, o meager single-minded flu shot!) that supports the use of coptis to treat skin, mouth, eye, gastrointestinal, and vaginal infections. A robust stalwart of heavy-hitter herbal prescriptions, Coptis takes on staphylococcus, strains of streptococcus, hepatitis B, salmonella, SIBO, cholera, and its motto is basically “I can handle all this jelly.” ALL HAIL.