Barberry Herb - Benefits & Uses of Barberry

SCIENTIFIC NAME(S):Berberis vulgaris L. and B. aquifolium Pursh. However,more appropriately designated Mahonia aquifolium Nutt. Family: Berberidaceae

COMMON NAME(S): Barberry, Oregon grape, trailing mahonia, berberis,jaundice berry, woodsour, sowberry, pepperidge bush, sour-spine.

Barberry has played a prominent role in herbal healing for more than 2,500 years. Medicinal use of barberry dates as far back as ancient Egypt, when pharaohs and queens took it with fennel seed to ward off the plague. Today, it is widely used for medicinal purposes in Iran, including for biliary disorders (such as gallbladder disease) and heartburn.

Barberry and goldenseal ( Hydrastis canadensis ) have very similar therapeutic uses because both herbs contain active substances called berberine alkaloids. These substances have been shown to combat infection and bacteria, stimulate the activity of the immune system, and lower fever.


The plant has a long history of use, dating back to the Middle Ages. The extracts of the plant are used today in homeopathy for treatment of intestinal disorders and sciatica. A decoction of the plant has been used to treat GI ailments and coughs.The plant has been used as a bitter tonic and antipyretic. More than three dozen traditional uses for barberry have been cited, including treatment of cancer, cholera, and hypertension. The alkaloid berberine was included as an astringent in eye drops, but its use has become rare. The fruits have been used to prepare jams and jellies. The medicinal use of the plant has been limited by the bitter taste of the bark and root.

Botany :- The barberry B. vulgaris grows wild throughout Europe but has been naturalized to many regions of the eastern US. B. aquifolium is an evergreen shrub native to the Rocky Mountains. Barberry grows to > 300 cm with branched, spiny holly-like leaves. Its yellow flowers bloom from May to June and develop into red to blue-black oblong berries

Uses of Barberry

The fruits have been used in jams and jellies. Plant alkaloids have been found to be bactericidal, antidiarrheal, anticonvulsant, hypotensive, and sedative. Berberine is a uterine stimulant.

Barberry has also been used in connection with a variety of other conditions, including diarrhea, enlarged spleen, tuberculosis, hemorrhoids, kidney disease, gout, arthritis, low back pain, malaria and parasite infections, and has been use internally to treat skin conditions.

Side Effects of Barberry

Barberry can produce stupor, daze, diarrhea, and nephritis.


As a tincture, 2-3 ml of barberry can be taken three times per day. Standardized extracts containing 5-10% alkaloids, with a total of approximately 500 mg of berberine taken each day, are preferable for preventing infections. Standardized extracts of goldenseal are a more common source of berberine, since goldenseal contains a higher concentration of berberine than barberry. A tea/infusion can be prepared using 2 grams of the herb in a cup of boiling water. This can be repeated two to three times daily.


Symptoms of poisoning are characterized by stupor and daze, diarrhea, and nephritis.


  • Large doses can cause nausea, vomiting, constriction of the bronchial tubes, and potentially hazardous drops in blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. Stop using the herb immediately.
  • Do not give to children under 2 years old. For older children and those older than 65, start with a lower strength than recommended above.
  • Use only under strict professional supervision if you have heart disease or chronic respiratory problems.

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