Coptis japonica Thunb

[From Latin, japonica = from Japan]

Physical description: It is a herb which grows to a height of 30 cm. It is found in China and Japan. Leaves: originate from a rhizome. The petiole is 12 cm-20 cm long and channeled. The petiolules are channeled and 1 cm-2.5 cm long. The blade consists of 3 folioles which are deeply incised, very thin and 6.7 cm x 5.5cm-4.7cm x 3.5 cm. The midrib is sunken above and raised below. The folioles show 4 to 5 pairs of secondary nerves. The flowers are small and white, and attached to reddish pedicels arising from the rhizomes. The fruits consist of 7-9, papery and 1.1cm-1.3cm x 4cm pediceled carpels hooked at the apex (Fig. 34).

Synonymy: Coptis anemonaefolia Sieb. & Zucc.

Common names: Japanese goldthread; huang lia (Chinese).

Uses: In Japan, the rhizome of Coptis japonica (Thunb.) Mak. is used to promote appetite and digestion. In Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, Coptis japonica (Thunb.) Mak. is used to assuage headaches, soothe itchiness and treat eczema marginatum. In Malaysia, Coptis japonica (Thunb.) Mak. is used to resolve eye inflammation.

Pharmaceutical interest: The rhizome of Coptis japónica (Thunb.) Mak. is known to accumulate several sorts of protoberberines, among which are palmatine, jatrorrhizine and berberine, the last being a powerful antibacterial agent. Recent research shows that berberine chloride from the rhizome of Coptis japónica (Thunb.) Mak. inhibits aldose reductase isolated from male Sprague-Dawley rats (Lee HS 2002). Berberine and palmatine from Coptis japónica (Thunb.) Mak. inhibit catecholamine by impeding the activity of tyrosine hydroxylase in PC12 cells with IC50 values of 9.5 ^g/mL and 7.7 ^g/mL respectively (Lee MK etal., 1996). Jatrorrhizine and berberine extracted from the rhizome of Coptis chinensis are monoamine oxidase inhibitors which might hold some potential for the treatment of depression. Jatrorrhizine inhibits non-competitively both MAO-A and -B from rat brain mitochondria with the IC50 value of 4 and 62 ^M, respectively, berberine competitively inhibits MAO-A with an IC50 value of 126 fzM (Kong LD et al., 2001). Several lig-nans, including pinoresinol and isolariciresinol, isolated from Coptis japonica (Thunb.) Mak. inhibit the production of TNF-a, (Cho JY et al., 2000; 2001).

Fig. 34. Coptis japonica (Thunb.) Mak. From: KLU Herbarium 17902. Ex. Herb. Universitatis Tokyoensis. Geographical localization: Japan, Niigita Pref., Iwahune-gun, Sekikawa-mura, nearTakanosu-onsen, 27 Apr 1972, altitude: 400 m, Japan. Field collector & botanical identification: M Togashi &YTateishu.

Fig. 34. Coptis japonica (Thunb.) Mak. From: KLU Herbarium 17902. Ex. Herb. Universitatis Tokyoensis. Geographical localization: Japan, Niigita Pref., Iwahune-gun, Sekikawa-mura, nearTakanosu-onsen, 27 Apr 1972, altitude: 400 m, Japan. Field collector & botanical identification: M Togashi &YTateishu.

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