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What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

What is Barberry?

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Barberry is a bush that grows wild in Europe and North America. It is closely related to Oregon grape ( Berberis aquifolium). The root, stem, bark, and fruit of barberry are all used medicinally. Barberry was traditionally used as a treatment for digestive problems, including constipation, diarrhea, dyspepsia (stomach upset), heartburn, and loss of appetite. It was said to work by increasing the flow of bile, and on this basis it has also been used for liver and gallbladder problems. Topical preparations of barberry have been recommended for the treatment of eczema, psoriasis, and minor wounds.

The reported uses of barberry include the treatment of the following conditions:

  • cholera
  • hypertension
  • fever
  • gout
  • renal and biliary diseases
  • rheumatic symptoms
  • diarrhea
  • gastric indigestion
  • dermatosis
  • diarrhea
  • intestinal parasitic infections
  • chronic candidiasis.

Safety Issues

One study suggests that topical use of berberine could cause photosensitivity (an increased tendency to react to sun exposure. 1 Berberine-containing herbs should not be used by pregnant women because berberine may increase levels of bilirubin, 2 potentially damaging the fetus, and might also cause genetic damage. 3 Individuals who already have elevated levels of bilirubin (jaundice), or any other form of liver disease, should also avoid berberine-containing herbs.

Safety in young children and nursing women has not been established.

One study hints that berberine may decrease the efficacy of the drug tetracycline. 4

Interactions You Should Know About

If you are using antibiotics in the tetracycline family, barberry might decrease their...