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Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)

C. groenlandica. (Oeder.)Fern.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Coptis trifolia

A yellow dye is obtained from the leaves and stems[207].

Can be grown as a ground cover plant in the peat garden[200].

  • Medicinal Use

    Goldenthread is a very bitter tasting herb that was formerly highly valued and widely used in North America by the native Indians and white settlers alike, though it is little used in modern herbalism[254]. It was employed mainly to treat any soreness in the mouth[254].

    The dried roots, stems and leaves are antiphlogistic, highly astringent, sedative, stomachic, tonic[4, 21, 46, 61, 207, 222]. The plant is valued as a local application in the treatment of thrush in children[4]. It is also used in the treatment of ulcerated mouths and as a gargle for sore throats or mouths[21, 46, 61, 207, 213]. It is said to be useful in the treatment of dyspepsia and helpful in combating the drink habit[4].

    The plant contains the alkaloid ‘berberine’, which is a mild sedative[213], anti-inflammatory and antibacterial[222]. The root is collected in the autumn and dried for later use[213].

  • Edible Use

    The whole plant is said to be eaten[105, 177], or it can be mixed with sassafras-root bark and Irish moss and brewed into a kind of herbal root beer[183]. This plant contributes a bitter flavour and a yellow colour to the beverage[183]. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.

  • Cautionary Notes

    Although no specific mention of toxicity has been found for this species, it belongs to a family that contains many species that are mildly toxic and so it is wise to treat this plant with some caution.

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – best sown in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe in an ericaceous compost[164]. Seal the pot in a polythene bag until germination takes place, which is usually within 1 – 6 months at 10¡c[164]. Stored seed should be sown as early in the year as possible. Four weeks cold stratification may be beneficial[164]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow on in a shady part of the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out in mid-autumn or in spring. Division in spring[200].
Requires a light moist humus-rich slightly acidic soil with a northerly aspect or light shade[1, 200]. A very ornamental plant[1]. The sub-species C. trifolia groenlandica (Syn C. groenlandica) is the form used medicinally in N. America[222].
N. America, E. Asia – Japan.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.