Tracking evidences of Coptis chinensis for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease from pharmacological, pharmacokinetic to clinical studies

J Ethnopharmacol. 2021 Mar 25:268:113573. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2020.113573. Epub 2020 Nov 9.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Coptis chinensis (C. chinensis, Huanglian in Chinese), a famous traditional herbal medicine used for clearing heat and detoxification since thousands of years ago, is widely and traditionally used for clinical treatment of stomach inflammation, duodenum and digestive tract ulcers alone or through combing with other herbs in compound formulations.

Aim of the review: Through literature reviews of C. chinensis and berberine (one of the most important bioactive compounds derived from this plant) for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), this review aims to provide beneficial information for further exploration of the potent bioactive constituents from C. chinensis, deep investigation on the molecular mechanisms for the treatment of IBD, as well as further research and development of brand new products from C. chinensis for clinical therapy of IBD.

Methods: "C. chinensis" and "IBD" were selected as the main keywords, and various online search engines, such as Google Scholar, PubMed, Web of Science, China National Knowledge Infrastructure database (CNKI) and other publication resources, were used for searching literatures.

Results: To present, C. chinensis together with other herbs are involved in plenty of Chinese herbal prescriptions for the treatment of IBD, but little research focused on the single therapeutic effects of C. chinensis or extracts from this herb for the treatment of this disease. Berberine, one of important and representative bioactive compound isolated from C. chinensis, was reported to treat IBD effectively at a big arising speed in recent years. However, systematically and comprehensively reviews on the research of C. chinensis and berberine for the treatment of IBD from the aspects of chemical constituents, pharmacological effects, pharmacokinetics as well as clinical studies are seldom accomplished by researchers. Bioactive components from C. chinensis exert therapeutic effects for the treatment of IBD mainly through the inhibition of oxidative stress, antinociception, protection of intestinal mucosal epithelial barrier, regulation of T helper cells, as well as antibacterial activity. Although numerous studies on bioactive compounds from C. chinense have been performed by clinical investigators in recent years, most of them should be performed in a more strict and standard way to ensure the safety and efficacy of these compounds.

Conclusions: Berberine is considered as the representative and effective component from C. chinensis, but many other chemical components isolated from C. chinensis also have therapeutic effects for the treatment of IBD, which need deep research and further exploration. To accelerate research and development of C. chinensis and its bioactive components for the treatment of IBD, clinical trials are needed to clarify the effectiveness and safety of these chemical components from C. chinensis, as well as their molecular mechanisms for IBD treatment in vitro and in vivo. It is believed that continuous research and exploration on C. chinensis together with its bioactive compounds will bring great hope to the treatment of IBD.

Keywords: Berberine; Clinical study; Coptis chinensis; Inflammatory bowel disease; Pharmacokinetics; Pharmacology; Review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Berberine / isolation & purification
  • Berberine / pharmacokinetics
  • Berberine / therapeutic use
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / methods
  • Coptis*
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / isolation & purification
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / pharmacokinetics*
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / therapeutic use*
  • Ethnopharmacology / methods*
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / ethnology
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / metabolism
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional / methods*


  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Berberine