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Heartburn/GERD and Barberry

Written by maria_rn, FoundHealth.

The Barberry plant, particularly the root and bark, have been used to treat gastrointestinal conditions and cough.

Effect of Barberry on Heartburn/GERD

Barberry's root and bark contain alkaloids, the most prominent of which is called berberine. Some laboratory studies suggest that berberine has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, hypotensive, sedative, and anticonvulsant effects. The berberine found in barberry is thought to relieve abdominal pain and help with digestion by acting on the smooth muscles that line the intestines.

Read more details about Barberry.

Research Evidence on Barberry

The clinical research on the medicinal effects of barberry is limited. However, many laboratory studies suggest that berberine, the plant alkaloid present in barberry and other plants, may help in treating various diseases. Berberine is reported to depress intestinal paralysis and stop inflammatory congestion of the intestine's mucosal surface.

How to Use Barberry

Barberry is available in capsule, dried herb, tablet, tea, tincture, and tincture forms. Always check the direction on the label.

When using barberry for indigestion, liquid forms of barberry may be recommended.

  • It is usually taken 15 to 20 minutes before a meal.
  • Take the capsule or tablets form with a full glass of water.
  • To make sure that you will get the correct dose, measure the liquid forms with a dropper or a dose-measuring spoon or cup
  • Do not use different formulations (e.g., tablets, liquids, teas, capsules) of barberry at the same time, unless specifically directed by a health care professional. Taking different formulations together can increase the risk of an overdose.

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 effectiveness.


  1. Inbaraj JJ, Kukielczak BM, Bilski P, et al. Photochemistry and photocytotoxicity of alkaloids from goldenseal ( Hydrastis canadensis L.) 1. Berberine. Chem Res Toxicol. 2001;14:1529–1534.
  2. Chan E. Displacement of bilirubin from albumin by berberine. Biol Neonate. 63(4):201-8.
  3. Pasqual MS, Lauer CP, Moyna P, Henriques JA. Genotoxicity of the isoquinoline alkaloid berberine in prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms. Mutat Res. 286(2):243-52.
  4. Khin-Maung-U, Myo-Khin, Nyunt-Nyunt-Wai, et al. Clinical trial of berberine in acute watery diarrhoea. BrMed J. 1985;291:1601–5.

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