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Berberis aquifolium/vulgaris

Berberis (Mahonia) aquifolium/vulgaris                                 Common name:  Oregon Grape, Barberry

Family: Berberidaceae

Part used: Bark of root or stem

Constituents: Isoquinoline alkaloids (berberine, berbamine, palmatine), flavonoids, resins, tannin, chelidonic acid

Actions: Bitter digestive stimulant, mild sedative, spleen tonic, antiseptic, inflammatory-modulating, antimicrobial, immuno-modulating, alterative, astringent, hepatoprotective, cholagogue, anti-neoplastic, mild laxative, anti-pyretic, anti-hemorrhagic, hypotensive, anti-emetic, hepatic stimulant, cholagogue, choleretic, anti-diarrheal, uterine stimulant

Medical uses: Is a traditional remedy for correcting liver function and promoting the flow of bile. It is indicated when gallstones or gall bladder 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. It can treat candidiasis at any site, as well as gastroenteritis and H.Pylori infection. For chronic skin diseases like psoriasis and acne berberis can be used topically. As a tonic will strengthen the whole system and is of great use in fever and infections of all kinds.

Pharmacology: 

  • Isoquinoline alkaloidsberberine & berbamine are anti-microbial, inhibit platelet aggregation and adhesion, stimulate intestinal contraction, cholagogue, hepatoprotective, immuno-stimulant and cytotoxic.

Pharmacy:  Tincture: (1:5, 60%), 1-2ml TID. Decoction: 1 tsp/cup, simmer 15 min TID. Dried bark: 1-2g, TID.

Contraindications: Avoid during pregnancy.

Toxicity: None (contraindications are due to extension of physiologic effects of this herb in conditions that are exacerbated by GI stimulation). Theoretically could cause intestinal or vaginal dysbiosis by using extreme doses of standardized extracts. Berberine displaces albumin from bilirubin, thus this herb may be harmful during later stages of pregnancy.

Interactions: Increases gut motility, thus may decrease absorption of many drugs if taken simultaneously (theoretical). Interferes with absorption of tetracycline if taken simultaneously.

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