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Barberry as an Herb

Barberry as an Herb

Berberis vulgaris

Both the berries and the bark of barberry are used in healing. Medicinal use of barberry dates back at least to the time of ancient Egypt, when it was combined with fennel seed to prevent plague.

Other Names: Berberry, Pipperidge, Jaundice Berry, Sow Berry, Mountain Grape, Oregon Grape

History has it that the Barberry was first discovered by Native Americans who made a bitter brew of the barberry root powder of the plant. This herb was used in small doses to treat indigestion, heartburn, ulcers and stomach upset. The use of Barberry is widely used in Native European and American healing traditions.

Barberry bark is found in northeastern states and some areas of the western United States. It is believed to help people who are experiencing liver problems, high blood pressure, arthritis and gastrointestinal complaints. It also may improve circulation, according to some reports.

The flowers have a repulsive smell; the stamens lie on the carpels at the slightest touch. The flesh of the fruit is juicy and sour.

Production: Barberries are the ripe fruit of Berberis vulgaris. Barberry root bark or berberis bark is the dried root bark of Berberis vulgaris. Berberis aqui folium is a closely-related American variety that is often used in commercially available Oregon Grape products.

The herb contains the B complex vitamin thiamin, vitamin C, the carotenoids beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, chromium, cobalt, and zinc.

Barberry as an Herb for Medicinal Uses

The medicinal part is the fruit and the root bark. Barberry is used in treating:

  • relief of inflammation caused by bacterial or protozoal infections of ears, nose, throat, and sinuses
  • Relief of pain caused by yeast infections of the skin or vagina.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Relief of psoriasis.
  • Ulcers.
  • Cholera.
  • Stimulation of the gall bladder and liver.
  • Treat diarrhea.
  • Treat painful periods.

For skin disorders: 10 percent of crushed dried bark or berries in ointment can be applied to the skin three times daily.

Because of its strong anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties, barberry also makes good eyewash. People suffering from conjunctivitis or inflamed eyelids can benefit from the application of a compress containing barberry.

Barberry has been used for opium or morphine withdrawal.

Folk Medicine Use

The bark is used for liver malfunctions, gallbladder disease, jaundice, splenopathy, indigestion, diarrhea, tuberculosis, piles, renal disease, urinary tract disorders, gout, rheumatism, arthritis, lumbago, malaria, and leishmaniasis.

Alcoholic extracts have been used for heartburn and stomach cramps. Extracts have also been used for susceptibility to infection, feverish colds, and diseases of the urinary tract.

Barberry is used in the pharmaceutical industry as a syrup for masking flavor.

Culinary Uses of Barberry

Puckery but less bitter than cranberries, ripe barberries can be used to make jam. Dried roots of barberry can be used in tea mixtures and combination preparations.

To prepare a tea infusion, pour approximately 150 ml of hot water into 1 to 2 teaspoons of whole or squashed Barberries and strain after 10 to 15 minutes. The dosage of the infusion is 2g in 250 ml water, to be sipped. The tincture dosage is 20 to 40 drops daily.

Jam or wine made from the fresh berries can relieve constipation and stimulate the appetite.

Recipe From an 1800s Ayer's Booklet

Barberry Sauce Recipe Card from 1800s

Cautions

Barberry fruit and fruit bark: No health hazards or side effects are known in conjunction with the proper administration of designated therapeutic dosages.

Studies show that Barberry may irritate the stomach and may not suit people with stomach ulcers. Although Barberry helps patients suffering from diarrhea, it is less useful when it comes to clearing the microorganisms in the stomach. Thus the disease will not be effectively treated. If Barberry is used to fight diarrhea, it should be used in combination with a standard antibiotic therapy.

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