Walks in the Apricot Forest: Golden Thread

Tian Yi

PureInsight | April 21, 2003

[In Chinese, "Apricot Forest" is another term for the medical community. For more details see: http://www.pureinsight.org/pi/articles/2003/1/23/1368.html]

Golden Threads

[PureInsight.org] In the Chinese culture, before making long trips, it is common for people to assemble a set of Chinese herbal pills so they're prepared for minor medical emergencies. Many of my patients often come to my clinic to purchase the herbal pills before they travel. Berberine is known as one of the most popular emergency medicines for travel, especially for travels to Mexico and Southeast Asia, because of its quick medical effect on many common illnesses in those areas. Sometimes it is difficult to travel anywhere worriless without bringing berberine.

[Note: Berberine-containing plants are used for treatment in virtually all-traditional medical systems, and historically its use in Chinese medicine dates back at least 3,000 years. Berberine has demonstrated significant anti-microbial activity against bacteria, fungi, protozoans, viruses, helminths and chlamydia. Berberine's most often is used for illnesses such as bacterial diarrhea, intestinal parasites, and ocular trachoma infections.]

I have a short amusing story about berberine. An American traveling to Southeast Asia was extremely cautious at all times about what he ate and drank. He even brushed his teeth with bottled water and was very cautious about his food. He never ate anything that was not well cooked. It had been almost a week and close to the time for his return trip. He hadn't gotten sick, and he was very pleased with himself, as his cautious behavior helped him stay well. Then, he felt thirsty and thought of drinking Coca Cola that was provided by the hotel. He thought that the Coca Cola should be safe to drink, as it was shipped in an aluminum can from the US. He drank a big glass of Coca Cola. To his utter surprise, his stomach began to hurt within ten minutes, and shortly after he vomited and had diarrhea. He soon became highly dehydrated and was in a serious condition. He could not imagine how this could have happened. Well, the cause was the ice cubes in the Coca Cola. The ice cubes were made of tap water.

One of the travelers in the group happened to be my patient, who happened to carry berberine pills with him. He gave the American some berberine pills, and within two hours, his symptoms disappeared and the amebic dysentery was cured. The American was so grateful that it made my patient speechless. Ever since then, the American will make sure to stop by the clinic before traveling and stock up on the Chinese medicine that solved his medical emergency.

The active ingredient in berberine is berberine hydrochloride, which is extracted from Golden Threads. In fact, in Chinese, berberine is known as "the essence of Golden Threads."

Then what is Golden Threads? It has been recorded in the chapter on commodities in the Annals of Emei County that "Golden threads grow in rocky mountainous areas that are difficult to reach. The collectors must secure themselves with ropes, which they tie around their waist, before climbing among the rocks to find the golden threads. However, their dangerous hunt for golden threads is often unsuccessful. There are many golden thread varieties, which mainly grow in the Sichuan, Shanxi, Yunnan and Guizhou provinces. However, the wild golden threads that grow on Emei Mountain are most desirable, as they are of superior quality, although they are even more difficult to find."

Golden thread belongs to the buttercup family and has been used for a long time in traditional Chinese medicine. Shen Nong listed golden thread as "Shen Nong's choice of herb" in his Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (or Materia Medica by Shen Nong, a pharmaceutical book by Shen Nong, which lists all the animals, vegetables, and other substances believed to be of medicinal value by traditional Chinese medicine). According to additional historical records, "the roots of golden thread are usually connected together, forming a cluster. Sometimes hundreds of golden thread roots are connected together. That's why golden thread has 'thread' in its name."

Golden thread is a Chinese medicine that tastes extremely bitter. In fact, it is famous for its bitter taste. Of several thousand kinds of Chinese herbal medicines, golden thread has the bitterest taste. Therefore, golden thread has almost become a synonym for bitterness for Chinese people. Since golden thread is famous for its bitter taste, exactly how bitter does it actually taste? According to a study, a solution made of one portion of berberine and 2,5000 portions of water still tastes bitter. In each root or stem of a golden thread, there is approximately 7% Berberine. One can imagine how bitter golden thread tastes.

A Chinese herb may be catalogued as one or many different categories due to its nature and similarities; therefore, an herb may have different usages in medicine. The strengths of an herb may be fully utilized if properly combined with different kinds of herbs. Similarly, golden threads, combined with different kinds of herbs, can treat many diseases.

[Note: The following paragraph assumes an intermediate-level knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine and its terminologies.]

For instance, golden threads, combined with plant soot (or Fuligo Plantae in Latin), can treat acute diarrheas, which discharge pus and blood. Golden threads, combined with Nutgrass Galingale Rhizome (or Rhizoma Cyperi in Latin), can treat different diseases of Qi stagnation. Golden threads, combined with Perilla leaves (or Folium Perillae in Latin), can treat diseases caused by the rise of internal humidity and heat, discordance between lungs and stomach, and nausea and vomiting. Golden threads, combined with a clove of garlic, can treat visceral toxin. Golden threads, combined with Skebia stems (or Caulis Akebiae in Latin) and bamboo leaves, can clear heartburn and cure the problems caused by heartburn, red facial complexion, thirst for cool drink, heat vexation in the heart and chest, insomnia, puss in mouth and tongue, and the voiding of reddish urine.


Processed Nutgrass Galingale Rhizome                                  Dried Perilla Leaves

Skebia Stems

Translated from: http://www.zhengjian.org/zj/articles/2003/3/31/21008.html

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