Coptis and Burdock
Coptis and burdock are complementary herbs that support immune health. They are often used in combination in the Chinese tradition, as that enhances their healthful benefits. Both have long histories in herbal traditions, and both are currently undergoing modern research trials to validate their effectiveness.
Coptis (Coptis chinensis) is a low-growing perennial that grows well in damp boggy areas in the cooler regions of Asia and North America. It is known by several names, including: huang lian, yellow root and golden thread. The rhizome, or underground stem, is a bright golden color, and it has been used to dye cloth as well as to support health. Listed in the Chinese Pharmacopoeia, it is one of 50 fundamental herbs in Chinese tradition and is also used in Japanese, Korean and Ayurvedic traditions. Native Americans used the rhizomes as a dye, as a digestive aid and to flavor beer.
The golden color of Coptis is attributed to a high alkaloid content. Its constituents include berberine, epiberberine, coptisine, palmatine and other alkaloids. With a high concentration of berberine, it is sometimes used as a substitute for goldenseal.
Coptis promotes balance in gastrointestinal microflora and supports intestinal health. It supports production of bile, which helps remove waste from the liver and aids digestion. It also soothes occasionally irritated tissue, which further enhances digestion.
Berberine promotes heart and artery health, liver health, digestive health, and respiratory health, as well as relaxation. All of these factors contribute to its support of immune system function. It also supports brain health, bone and joint health, and normal blood sugar levels. It has antioxidant qualities, and it supports production of interferon and supports the body’s normal inflammatory responses.
Burdock (Arctium lappa), can grow up to 9’ tall, and its roots can grow to 3’ deep. Native to Northern Asia and Europe, it is now found in Australia, the United States and Canada – often growing so prolifically to be considered a weed.
Although deep roots make harvesting a challenge, burdock root is well known in China as a nutritious food as well as a support for good health. In Japan, it is a food plant called gobo, which may be eaten fresh, cooked or pickled.
In Native American traditions, burdock is called “bear medicine” – its rich, fatty root was used as food, and the Iroquois dried and stored the root for winter nutrition. Interestingly, its Latin name comes from the Greek word for bear, arktos, and the Latin word lappare, which means to seize – the bur or fruit is brown and fuzzy, and it grabs onto anything that passes to spread its seeds.
Burdock has been used in Chinese herbal traditions and in Europe for thousands of years, and in Western folk herbalism for hundreds of years. It promotes healthy circulation of blood, which helps maintain the quality and texture of the skin (our largest organ, and an essential part of our immune system). Good circulation is also critical for removing toxins from the blood. It contains inulin, which helps support healthy bacteria balance in the colon, and it promotes the flow of bile. Its slippery consistency helps soothe mucus membranes, which also supports healthy digestion. It also supports healthy blood sugar levels as well as healthy liver, immune and lymphatic system function. It supports the body’s natural inflammatory response and activates antioxidant enzymes.
Enhancing immune support
The combination of Coptis and burdock creates a powerful support for healthy immune system function.
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