What Is Radix Berberidis (San Ke Zhen)

Radix Berberidis also known as San Ke Zhen is the root of Berberis. It is an ethnic medicine commonly used by the Tujia people in western Hubei, which first appeared in <Fen Lei Cao Yao Xing> (Properties of Medicinal Herbs by Category) in the 32nd year of Guangxu in Qing Dynasty (1,906 AD).

Berberis is a large genus of the Berberidaceae and is a thorny evergreen shrub or deciduous shrub. There are about 500 species of this genus, which are distributed in temperate and subtropical regions in Europe, Asia, Africa and America.

Most of the plants in this genus are ornamental plants, and only some species have medicinal value. The roots and stems of some of them can be refined into yellow dyes.

The Radix Berberidis referred to herein is the root of Berberis soulieana, Berberis wilsonii, Berberis poiretii or Berberis vernae.

Berberis soulieana often grows on river banks, ditches, or hillsides. It is mainly distributed in Gansu, Shaanxi, Hubei and Sichuan in China.

Berberis wilsonii often grows on dry hillsides or sunny bushes in limestone areas at altitudes of 1,000-4,000 meters above sea level. It is distributed in Yunnan, Sichuan, Tibet and Gansu in China.

Berberis poiretii often grows in shrubs, gravel texture, grassland deserts, ravines, or river banks at an altitude of 600-2300 meters. It is distributed in Jilin, Liaoning, Inner Mongolia, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Shanxi and Hebei in China.

Berberis vernae often grows in river banks or hillside shrubs at an altitude of 2,200-3,850 meters. Its main producing areas are Gansu, Qinghai and Sichuan in China.

In spring and autumn each year, people gather the roots of Berberis, remove their fibrous roots and impurities, cut them into pieces, dry them in the sun, and make them into Chinese herbs.

Radix Berberidis contains berberine, berbamine, palmatine, jatrorrhizine, oxyacanthine, magnoflorine, isocorydaline, daucosterol, epifriedelinol, sucrose, quercetin, taraxerol, and β-sitosterol. The solid Radix Berberidis with bright yellow cross-section is the best.

According to <Fen Lei Cao Yao Xing>, the medicinal property of Radix Berberidis is relatively cold, with toxicity and bitter taste. It has a certain therapeutic effect on the pathological changes of the liver, stomach, and large intestine meridians. In folk medicine, Radix Berberidis is often used to replace Huang Bai (Cortex Phellodendri) or Huang Lian (Rhizoma Coptidis).

In Chinese medicine, it is used to clear heat and dry dampness, purge fire and remove toxin, treat bacterial dysentery, eczema, jaundice, sore throat, otopyorrhea, leukopenia, and essential hypertension.

Health benefits of Radix Berberidis

  • Anti-inflammation, anti-pathogen, and anti-tumor.
  • Inhibiting platelet aggregation and preventing atherosclerosis and thrombosis.
  • Increasing the number of white blood cells, exciting the uterus, and relaxing muscles.
  • Lowering blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood lipids, antagonizing experimental myocardial ischemia and cerebral ischemia.
  • A small dose of berberine can excite the heart, enhance cardiac contractility, and increase coronary blood flow.
  • Large doses of berberine can inhibit the heart and weaken cardiac contractility.
  • A small dose of berberine can excite the animal cerebral cortex, but a large dose of berberine can inhibit the animal cerebral cortex.
  • Clearing damp-heat in large intestine and stomach, and treating diarrhea and jaundice caused by damp-heat.
  • Purging toxic heat and treating eczema, skin ulcers, and abscesses.
  • Reducing liver fire and relieving redness and swelling of the eyes caused by excessive liver heat.
  • Inhibiting Staphylococcus aureus, Hemolytic Streptococcus, Pneumococcus, Shigella dysenteriae, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Proteus, Candida albicans, and Leptospira.
  • It contains jatrorrhizine, which can positive muscle strength and anti-arrhythmia.
  • The topical application of wine-soaked Radix Berberidis can treat traumatic injury.

Radix Berberidis is used with other Chinese herbs

Side effects of Radix Berberidis

Radix Berberidis is poisonous. Excessive use of it may cause abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, acid regurgitation, or heartburn.

A small proportion of patients taking it may cause gastrointestinal reactions such as abdominal pain, bloating, or belching.

Precautions of Radix Berberidis

  • The dosage of Radix Berberidis should be controlled at 10-15g.
  • It can be made into decoction or ground into powder for external use.
  • People with deficiency-cold in spleen and stomach should not take it.
  • Pregnant women and children should not take it.

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