The barberry plant is a shrub that has gray, thorny branches. This shrub can grow up to nine feet tall. The flowers of the barberry plant are bright yellow and bloom between the months of April and June. These flowers then become dark, drooping bunches of red berries in the fall.
The use of barberry dates back approximately three thousand years, originating in China and in India where it was used for the treatment of diarrhea and intestinal infections. The barberry plant was used by Native Americans for treating liver conditions like jaundice. Additionally, Egyptians mixed the berries of the plant with fennel seed to protect themselves from the plague. Barberry is made up of an alkaloid known as berberine, which can also be found in other medicinal herbs such as goldenseal and Oregon grape. The therapeutic effects of barberry can be attributed to its berberine content.
Studies have concluded that berberine contains properties that are effective against a wide variety of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. These studies also found that berberine was much more effective in treating some bacteria than even a strong antibiotic. Other studies have found that barberry has the potential to kill microorganisms including staphylococci, streptococci, salmonella, Giardia lamblia, Escherichia coli, shigella, and Candida albicans. The berberine in barberry has been noted to contain antidiarrheal properties. This alkaloid is also recommended for stimulating the immune system.
The effects of barberry include helping against cancer, liver problems, kidney problems, coughs, cholera, diarrhea, fever, inflammation, hypertension, and tumors. Barberry has also been recommended to increase bile secretions and stimulate appetite. This herb may also help in cases of anemia and malnutrition. Barberry stimulates bile production for liver problems and also dilates blood vessels to lower blood pressure.
Barberry is used in easing inflammation and infection of the urinary, gastrointestinal, and respiratory tracts, as well as candida infections of both the skin and vagina. Barberry extract has also been shown to improve symptoms that are associated with certain skin conditions, such as psoriasis. However, more research is still needed on determining the reliability of these findings.
Barberry is shown to be an extremely effective treatment for diarrhea. A few studies have found that barberry is able to improve symptoms faster than antibiotics. This is possibly due to its astringent properties. However, antibiotics are still thought to be more effective at killing bacteria in the intestines. For this reason, it is best to use barberry to ease symptoms, along with a standard antibiotic, as bacterial diarrhea can have extremely serious consequences.
The bark, root, and berries of the barberry plant are used to provide antibacterial, antineoplastic, antiseptic, aromatic, astringent, blood purifier, cholagogue, diuretic, hepatic, hypotensive, purgative, and stomachic properties. The primary nutrients provided by this herb include iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin C.
Primarily, barberry can be beneficial in dealing with the loss of appetite, high blood pressure, impurities in the blood, candidiasis, constipation, diarrhea, dysentery, fevers, indigestion, infections, jaundice, liver disorders, pyorrhea, and sore throat. However, this herb is also extremely helpful in dealing with anemia, arthritis, boils, breath odor, cholera, gallstones, heart problems, heartburn, hemorrhages, itching, kidney problems, migraines, rheumatisms, ringworm, and skin conditions.