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Oregon Grape

Also indexed as: Berberis aquifolium, Mahonia
Oregon Grape: Main Image© Steven Foster
Common names:
Botanical names:
Berberis aquifolium

How It Works

Alkaloids, including berberine, berbamine, canadine, and hydrastine, may account for the activity of Oregon grape. Isolated berberine has been shown to effectively treat diarrhea in patients infected with E. coli. One of the ways berberine may ease diarrhea is by slowing the transit time in the intestine. Berberine inhibits the ability of bacteria to attach to human cells, which helps prevent infections, particularly in the throat, intestines, and urinary tract. These actions, coupled with berberine’s ability to enhance immune cell function, make Oregon grape possibly useful for mild infections although clinical trials are lacking on the whole root.

In one clinical trial, an ointment of Oregon grape was found to be mildly effective for reducing skin irritation, inflammation and itching in people with mild to moderate psoriasis. Whole Oregon grape extracts were shown in one pharmacological study to reduce inflammation (often associated with psoriasis) and stimulate the white blood cells known as macrophages. In this study, isolated alkaloids from Oregon grape did not have these actions. This suggests that something besides alkaloids are important to the properties of Oregon grape responsible for reducing inflammation.

The bitter-tasting compounds as well as the alkaloids in Oregon grape root are thought to stimulate digestive function.

How to Use It

A tea can be prepared by boiling 1–3 teaspoons (5–15 grams) of chopped roots in 2 cups (500 ml) of water for fifteen minutes. After straining and cooling, 3 cups (750 ml) can be taken per day. Tincture, 1/2–3/4 teaspoon (3 ml) three times per day, can be used. Since berberine is not well absorbed, Oregon grape root might not provide adequate amounts of this compound to treat significant systemic infections. A physician should be consulted in the case of infection before attempting to use Oregon grape. An ointment made with 10% Oregon grape extract applied three or more times daily may be useful for psoriasis.

Copyright © 2011 Aisle7.

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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2013.

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