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J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Oct 29;126(1):5-17. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2009.08.009. Epub 2009 Aug 15.

Berberine and Coptidis rhizoma as novel antineoplastic agents: a review of traditional use and biomedical investigations.

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  • 1School of Chinese Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong, PR China.

Abstract

ETHNOPHARMACOLOGICAL RELEVANCE:

Coptidis rhizoma (huanglian) and its major component, berberine, have drawn extensive attention toward their antineoplastic effects in the recent years. The antineoplastic effects are related to the Chinese Medicine (CM) properties of huanglian in treating diseases by removing damp-heat and purging fire and counteracting toxicity.

AIM OF THE REVIEW:

To trace the long history of the traditional use of huanglian from folk medicines, especially from Chinese medicine, to recent pharmacological studies of huanglian and berberine, with an emphasis on their antineoplastic effects and the promise as novel antineoplastic agents.

METHODS:

A total of seven databases were extensively searched for literature research. The terms and keywords for searching included huanglian, berberine, Coptis, Coptidis rhizoma, anticancer, anti-invasion, antimatastasis and mechanism. The papers including ours with studies on anticancer and mechanism, pharmacology and toxicology of huanglian and/or berberine were focused.

RESULTS:

In view of traditional use, the anticancer effects of huanglian can be ascribed to its CM trait by removing damp-heat, fire and toxicity. From modern biomedical studies, anticancer effects have been demonstrated in both huanglian and berberine. The underlying molecular mechanisms involve cell-cycle arrest, apoptosis induction and anti-inflammation. Berberine is an essential anticancer compound in huanglian. In some studies, the use of huanglian was shown to be more effective and beneficial than the use of berberine alone. The presence of other protoberberine-type alkaloids in huanglian might give synergistic effects for the anticancer effects. Berberine also demonstrates effects of antiangiogenesis, anti-invasion and anti-metastasis in some cancer cell lines, however, more investigations are required to unravel the underlying mechanisms involved.

CONCLUSIONS:

The modern evidences of treating cancer with huanglian and berberine have a strong linkage with traditional concept and rules of using huanglian in CM practice. As anticancer candidates with low toxicity, berberine and its altered structure, as well as huanglian and its formulae, will attract scientists to pursue the potential anticancer effects and the mechanisms by using technologies of genomics, proteomics and other advanced approaches. On the other hand, relatively few in vivo studies have been conducted on anticancer effects of huanglian and berberine. The clinical application of berberine or huanglian as novel cancer therapeutic agents requires in vivo validations and further investigations of their anticancer mechanisms.

PMID:
19686830
DOI:
10.1016/j.jep.2009.08.009
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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