Barberry Barberry

Barberry | Berberis vulgaris

general characteristics

general characteristics

Common names include barberry, European barberry, berberidis, pepperidge bush, piperidge, jaundice berry.

Barberry has been used for many hundreds of years in places like Egypt and the Middle East as a preventative against plaques and many other infectious and parasitic diseases. In India, its use as a medicine can be traced back 2,500 years.


It is a native of North Africa and parts of Asia but grows in many countries now. It is a deciduous shrubby plant growing up to 10 feet with sharp spines/thorns, small leathery and prickly leaves, small yellow flowers that hang in bunches in May/June followed by oblong shaped scarlet red berries in the Autumn.

It commonly grows on the edges of woodland, heaths and hedges, among other shrubs and is common in gardens and parks. It prefers dappled shade and can grow in most soil conditions.

Barberry dried root bark and tincture are available to buy in our herbal shop.





harvesting and preparation

harvesting and preparation

The root and/or the bark of the root and stems of barberry are the parts used medicinally. A section of root can be unearthed on a dry day in Autumn, cut off and the outer bark carefully removed. Cut the bark into small pieces before laying out on a tray lined with newspaper for drying. Dry out of the sun for a few days and store in an airtight container in a cool dark place.
The dried berries can also be used for mild fevers and to remedy diarrhoea and are rich in vitamin C. The berries are rich in medicinal compounds also and have quite different actions to the root and root bark.


Barberry dried root bark and tincture are available to buy in our herbal shop.

therapeutic actions and uses

therapeutic actions and uses

Barberry is considered by many herbalists as one of the safest all round liver, spleen, stomach and pancreatic tonic. It is bitter and cooling in nature. One of its most researched components is berberine (a yellow alkaloid also present in goldenseal and oregon grape root) which is a powerful antimicrobial. It also contains antioxidants.
Barberry is a fine and well respected liver tonic. It normalises liver secretions, corrects liver functions and is a mildly stimulating digestive tonic and mild laxative. It is considered a prime remedy for  jaundice (especially when due to liver congestion), gallstones and gallbladder inflammation and disease, gastritis, stimulates the flow of bile (and cleanses the digestive tract) yet also helps to remove excess bile from the system. Due to its stimulating and tonic action on the liver, caution is advised in cases of serious liver disorders such as liver cancer and following acute hepatitis for example and in cases where jaundice is caused by some sort of blockage. Its action on the liver makes it suitable in formulas for menopausal hot flushes and chronic hepatitis. It can also help in cases of toxicity caused by medications and environmental chemicals.
Useful for many types of intestinal and digestive system upsets and infections such as giardia, amoebic dysentery, cholera, salmonella, leishmania, shigella and H pylori, the bacteria implicated in many gastric ulcers and gastritis and parasites. Barberry tones the mucous membranes of the entire gastro-intestinal tract including the stomach and can help to alleviate nausea and vomiting, heartburn, colitis, crohns disease, indigestion, constipation and IBS (irritable bowel) as well as spasm in the digestive tract including oesophagitis.
It can also be helpful in sexually transmitted infections such as syphilis and genital warts and have a powerful antimicrobial action on infections in the reproductive area such as pelvic inflammatory disease and salpingitis. Conditions in the ovaries such as erratic ovulation and polycystic ovaries can benefit from barberry's powerful cleansing action on the liver also.
Barberry root can also help the body to gain weight, yet also helps with obesity. Excess weight can be shed when the liver and digestive and lymphatic systems are gently stimulated and cleansed. The appetite will be stimulated by the bitter nature and also encourage a good healthy appetite where there is none.
Kidney cleansing and stones. The homoeopathic remedy of barberry is the number one remedy for kidney stones and in fact stones or infections and blockages in the salivary glands too.
Barberry is mildly sedative and anti-convulsant so can prove useful in a formula for migraine and degenerative nervous diseases and conditions such as alzheimers, schizophrenia and convulsions and seizures.
Due to its tonic and cleansing effects on mucous membranes, it can be used for catarrhal states of the respiratory system or when catarrhal build up is implicated in any area of the body. Its mildly sedative action can be useful in whooping cough and coughs generally.
Barberry root is useful in anaemia, enlarged spleen and has a use in the treatment of malaria. It stimulates blood flow to the spleen.
Lowers blood sugar somewhat so can be used as part of a treatment in diabetes.
Slows rectal haemorrhage, can help heal anal fistulas
It dilates the blood vessels so can help to lower blood pressure.
Barberry tea makes an effective eyewash for allergic and infective conjunctivitis, tired and sensitive eyes and inflamed eyelids.
It can also help inflamed gums or other gum disorders like gingivitis.
It is useful in the treatment of fevers and for stimulating the immune system, is antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-parasitical, anti-fungal and antiviral, fights against toxaemia and is considered a 'blood cleanser' in the old herbal tradition. It also has a positive cleansing action on the lymphatic system.
Due to its stimulation of production of new white blood cells, barberry can be a useful herbal ally during chemotherapy and radiotherapy to combat the white cell depletion that results from these treatments.
It is very useful for skin infections and conditions such as staphylococcus infections, vitiligo, psoriasis, eczema, acne, spots, boils and infected wounds and itching (especially when caused by liver or gallbladder disorders).
Its anti-inflammatory components and blood/liver cleansing nature make it suitable in rheumatism, gout, arthritis, lumbago, sciatica and backache.

It acts as an antibacterial in the whole system and can be used to reduce the overload of 'bad' bacteria in the gut before encouraging the growth of 'good' bacteria with herbs, diet and fermented foods. This makes it suitable in the treatment of candida and fungal infections such as athletes foot, thrush etc.

Barberry combines well with fringe tree bark for gallbladder and skin diseases.

Herbalists and people who use plant remedies regularly, often allude to an innate intelligence in the plants. This recent investigation on barberry's ability to abort its own seeds to prevent parasitic infestation hints at the depths of the capabilities and usefulness of the plant kingdom.


dosage and cautions

dosage and cautions

Barberry is considered by the majority of herbalists to be a generally safe liver tonic herb when taken in the correct dose and usually as a part of a formula with other herbs.

Overdose should be avoided as it can result in diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, haemorrhoid's, dizziness and venous engorgement.

Caution should be used in gallbladder disorders involving blockages as barberry increases the flow of bile and may worsen the situation. Consult a herbalist in these cases.

*Barberry can interact with many prescribed and over the counter medications so consult with a qualified herbalist if you are taking any medicines before using barberry.

*Some sources suggest avoiding barberry if diarrhoea is present. This directly contradicts many years of experiential use as a prime remedy for persistent and infective diarrhoea such as dysentery.

*Stimulates the uterus and may cause miscarriage so avoid in pregnancy.  *Avoid when breastfeeding.


Tincture (1:10 concentration): 2-4ml in a little water, 3 times daily.

Dried root in tea form: 1 level teaspoon of root, 3 times daily.

Many herbalists suggest taking this preparation cold. Achieve this by adding 3 level teaspoons of dried herb to a pan with about 3 cups worth of water, bring to the boil, simmer gently for 20 minutes then leave to brew overnight with a lid on. Strain off and drink the liquid throughout the next day, after meals.

Add 12 to the child’s age. Divide the child’s age by the total.
E.g. dosage for a 4 year old...... 4 {age} divided by 16 {age + 12} = . 25  or 1/4 of the adult dosage.
*Do not give to children under one year old and only under supervision of an experienced Herbalist in small children.







Child watering plants




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