Complementary Medicine - Cam
Parts Used & Where Grown
The root and stem bark contain the medicinally active components of barberry. The barberry bush also produces small red berries. Although this particular species is native to Europe, it now also grows throughout North America. A closely related species, Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium), is native to North America.
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Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.
For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.
3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)
Traditionally, in European and American herbalism, barberry was used to treat a large number of conditions, particularly infections and stomach problems.1 It has also been used internally to treat skin conditions.
How It Works
How It Works
The alkaloid, berberine, receives the most research and widest acclaim as the active component of barberry and its relatives. Berberine is also a key constituent of goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis). Berberine and its related constituents (such as oxyacanthine) are antibacterial17 and have been shown to kill amoebae in a test tube study.18 Berberine inhibits bacteria from attaching to human cells, which helps prevent infection .19 This compound treats diarrhea caused by bacteria, such as E. coli. 20 Berberine also stimulates some immune system cells to function better.21 Berbamine is another alkaloid found in barberry. It may help reduce inflammation22 and is an antioxidant .23
The bitter compounds in barberry, including the alkaloids mentioned above, stimulate digestive function following meals.
How to Use It
For digestive conditions, barberry is often combined with other bitter herbs, such as gentian , in tincture form. Such mixtures are taken 15 to 20 minutes before a meal, usually 2–5 ml each time. 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. An ointment made from a 10% extract of barberry can be applied topically three times per day for psoriasis . 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.24
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.
Interactions with Medicines
Certain medicines interact with this supplement.
Types of interactions: Beneficial Adverse Check
Replenish Depleted Nutrients
Reduce Side Effects
Potential Negative Interaction
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
Berberine has been reported to interfere with normal liver function in infants, raising a concern that it might worsen jaundice.29 For this reason, berberine-containing plants, including barberry, goldenseal, and Oregon grape should be used with caution during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Strong standardized extracts may cause stomach upset and should be used for no more than two weeks continuously. Other symptoms of excessive berberine intake include lethargy, nose bleed, skin and eye irritation, and kidney irritation.30
1. Duke JA. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1985, 78.
2. Hahn FE, Ciak J. Berberine. Antibiotics 1976;3:577–88 [review].
3. Mahajan VM, Sharma A, Rattan A. Antimycotic activity of berberine sulphate: an alkaloid from an Indian medicinal herb. Sabouraudia 1982;20:79–81.
4. Bhakat MP. Therapeutic trial of Berberine sulphate in non-specific gastroenteritis. Indian Med J 1974;68:19–23.
5. Kamat SA. Clinical trial with berberine hydrochloride for the control of diarrhoea in acute gastroenteritis. J Assoc Physicians India 1967;15:525–9.
6. Desai AB, Shah KM, Shah DM. Berberine in the treatment of diarrhoea. Indian Pediatr 1971;8:462–5.
7. Khin-Maung-U, Myo-Khin, Nyunt-Nyunt-Wai, et al. Clinical trial of berberine in acute watery diarrhoea. Br Med J 1985;291:1601–5.
8. Schulz V, Hänsel R, Tyler VE. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physician’s Guide to Herbal Medicine. 3rd ed, Berlin: Springer, 1998, 168–73.
9. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 425–6.
10. Tewari JP, Srivastava MC, Bajpai JL. Pharmacologic studies of Achillea millefolium Linn. Indian J Med Sci 1994;28(8):331–6.
11. Gupte S. Use of berberine in treatment of giardiasis. Am J Dis Child 1975;129:866.
12. Choudhry VP, Sabir M, Bhide VN. Berberine in giardiasis. Indian Pediatr 1972;9:143–6.
13. Kaneda Y, Torii M, Tanaka T, Aikawa M. In vitro effects of berberine sulphate on the growth and structure of Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia lamblia and Trichomonas vaginalis. Ann Trop Med Parasitol 1991;85:417–25.
14. Wiesenauer M, Lüdtke R. Mahonia aquifolium in patients with psoriasis vulgaris—an intraindividual study. Phytomed 1996;3:231–5.
15. Galle K, Müller-Jakic B, Proebstle A, et al. Analytical and pharmacological studies on Mahonia aquifolium. Phytomed 1994;1:59–62.
16. Melchart D, Linde K, Worku F, et al. Immunomodulation with Echinacea—a systematic review of controlled clinical trials. Phytomedicine 1994;1:245–54.
17. Amin AH, Subbaiah TV, Abbasi KM. Berberine sulfate: Antimicrobial activity, bioassay and mode of action. Can J Microbiol 1969;15:1067–76.
18. Subbaiah TV, Amin AH. Effect of berberine sulphate on Entamoeba histolytica. Nature 1967;215:527–8.
19. Sun D, Courtney HS, Beachey EH. Berberine sulfate blocks adherence of Streptococcus pyogenes to epithelial cells, fibronectin, and hexadecane. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 1988;32:1370–4.
20. Rabbani GH, Butler T, Knight J, et al. Randomized controlled trial of berberine sulfate therapy for diarrhea due to enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli and Vibrio cholerae. J Infect Dis 1987;155:979–84.
21. Kumazawa Y, Itagaki A, Fukumoto M, et al. Activation of peritoneal macrophages by berberine-type alkaloids in terms of induction of cytostatic activity. Int J Immunopharmacol 1984;6:587–92.
22. Wong CW, Seow WK, O’Callaghan JW, Thong YH. Comparative effects of tetrandrine and berbamine on subcutaneous air pouch inflammation induced by interleukin-1, tumour necrosis factor and platelet-activating factor. Agents Actions 1992;36:112–8.
23. Ju HS, Li XJ, Zhao BL, et al. Scavenging effect of berbamine on active oxygen radicals in phorbol ester-stimulated human polymorphonuclear leukocytes. Biochem Pharmacol 1990;39:1673–8.
24. Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C, et al. (eds). PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics, 1998, 688–90.
25. Khin-Maung-U, Myo-Khin, Nyunt-Nyunt-Wai, et al. Clinical trial of berberine in acute watery diarrhoea. Br Med J 1985;291:1601–5.
26. Rabbani GH, Butler T, Knight J, et al. Randomized controlled trial of berberine sulfate therapy for diarrhea due to enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli and Vibrio cholerae. J Infect Dis 1987;155:979–84.
27. Khin-Maung-U, Myo-Khin, Nyunt-Nyunt-Wai, et al. Clinical trial of berberine in acute watery diarrhoea. BMJ 1985;291:160–5.
28. Rabbani GH, Butler T, Knight J, et al. Randomized controlled trial of berberine sulfate therapy for diarrhea due to enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli and Vibrio cholerae. J Infect Dis 1987;155:979–84.
29. Chan E. Displacement of bilirubin from albumin by berberine. Biol Neonate 1993;63:201–8.
30. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 309–10.
Last Review: 02-05-2013
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