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Berberis aquifolium/vulgaris

Berberis aquifolium/vulgaris                                

Common name:  Oregon Grape, Barberry

Family: Berberidaceae

Part used: Inner bark of root or stem


  • Isoquinoline alkaloids (berberine, berbamine, palmatine, and others)
  • Flavonoids
  • Tannins
  • Phytosterols
  • Resins & Lignan
  • Volatile oil

Medicinal Actions:

  • Alterative
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antimicrobial
  • Anti-neoplastic
  • Astringent
  • Bitter
  • Hepatic stimulant (cholagogue & choleretic) & Hepatoprotective
  • Laxative (mild)

Medical uses: 

  • Has a long history of medical use in Traditional Chinese Medicine for the treatment of a wide range of health disorders, including  tuberculosis, periodontitis, dysentery, pharyngolaryngitis, eczema, and wounds.
  • A traditional remedy for correcting liver function and promoting the flow of bile. It is indicated when gallstones or gallbladder inflammation is present and when jaundice occurs due to a congested state of the liver.
  • As a bitter tonic with mild laxative effects, it helps strengthen and cleanse the system in weak or debilitated people, and is an ideal alterative for skin conditions due to liver toxicity and for chronic skin diseases like psoriasis and acne. Can be used topically or internally.
  • As a tonic will strengthen the whole system and is of great use in fever and infections of all kinds. As an antimicrobial can treat candidiasis at any site, as well as gastroenteritis and H.Pylori infection.


  • Alkaloids are regarded as the major constituents and perhaps responsible for most of the properties, with berberine being the most widely distributed.
  • Isoquinoline alkaloids (berberine & berbamine) are antimicrobial, inhibit platelet aggregation and adhesion, stimulate intestinal contraction, cholagogue, hepatoprotective, immuno-stimulant and cytotoxic.
  • Berberine displaces albumin from bilirubin, thus this herb may be harmful during later stages of pregnancy.


  • Decoction: 1 tsp/cup, simmer 20 min TID.
  • Tincture: (1:2. 60%), 3-7 ml QD, 50 ml weekly max.
  • Dried bark: 1-2g, TID.
  • Topical as cream, lotion or compress.


  • Theoretically could cause intestinal or vaginal dysbiosis by using extreme doses of standardized extracts.


  • Avoid during pregnancy and lactation.
  • Limit long-term use (absolute max. 2 months consecutive).


  • Increases gut motility, thus may decrease absorption of many drugs if taken simultaneously (theoretical).
  • May potentiate effect of drugs on displacing bilirubin (theoretical).


  • Find a complete list of references for this monograph as well as images and a review of its evidence based applications in Dr. Marciano’s Herbal Textbook.


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