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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2014, Article ID 871720, 7 pages
Review Article

From Prejudice to Evidence: The Case of Rhizoma Coptidis in Singapore

1Dongfang Hospital, Second Affiliated Hospital of Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, No. 6, District 1, Fangxingyuan, Fangzhuang, Fengtai District, Beijing 100078, China
2School of Biological Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, 50 Nanyang Avenue, Singapore 639798
3School of Acupuncture-Moxibustion and Tuina, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, 11 North East Third Ring Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100029, China

Received 1 August 2014; Accepted 23 November 2014; Published 25 December 2014

Academic Editor: Rainer W. Bussmann

Copyright © 2014 Chin Ee Ho et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Rhizoma Coptidis (RC), commonly known as huanglian, is a herb frequently used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) prescriptions. Known to have “clearing damp-heat, quenching fire and counteracting poison” properties, it was widely used in the Chinese community in Singapore. Berberine, an alkaloid isolated from RC, is known to have a wide array of therapeutic effects including antimicrobial, antineoplastic, and hepatoprotective effects. In 1978, RC was implicated in causing neonatal jaundice (NNJ) and kernicterus in neonates suffering from glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency, leading to the banning of RC and berberine in Singapore. More than three decades later, accumulating evidence-based studies pointing to the safety of RC for general public and better understanding of G6PD deficiency, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) in Singapore reviewed and lifted the prohibition on RC and berberine, turning a brand new chapter in the history of TCM in Singapore. This paper aims to review the safety of RC and berberine, using the prohibition of use and subsequent lifting of ban on RC and berberine in Singapore as an illustration to highlight the importance of evidence-based studies in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).