Barberry plant for Herbal Naturopathy: properties, benefits, uses, side effects

Barberry ( Berberis vulgaris ) is a plant of the Berberidaceae family known since ancient times for its medicinal properties. Let’s find out what they are.

Property of the Barberry

Herbal medicine attributes numerous properties to the barberry, such as:

  • Stomachic – eupeptic : is a bitter tonic used as a stomachic in dyspepsia; digestive function regulator. It also has the power to stimulate the appetite in cases of loss of appetite .
  • Laxative : in high but not excessive doses, it is a mild purgative, useful in cases of constipation and constipation.
  • Hepatoregulator : acts by regulating the activity of the liver through a purifying action, making it fall within functional limits in cases of hepatic hypertrophy and jaundice.
  • Cholagogue : closely linked to the hepatoregulatory function is the more specific one of the production and release of bile (cholagogue action), which positively prevents cases of biliary lithiasis (gallstones). There is also a better emulsion of fats in the intestine caused by the increased release of bile.
  • Diuretics : the diuretic function is mainly given by the leaves. Indicated in cases of dropsy, a medical term for the accumulation of liquids. With this effect, the barberry is indicated for those suffering from gravel, that is, sandy deposits in the kidneys. In fact, it facilitates its elimination through the urine and avoids the accumulation of oxalates, responsible for its formation and possibly transformation into stones.
  • Adaptogen : the large amount of vitamin C makes it an adaptogen against winter and spring colds.
  • Febrifuge : the property of lowering the body temperature contained in the fruits, pushed the barberry to be used as a general febrifuge, whether it was flu fever or typhoid fever.

Its most important active ingredients are berberine (an isoquinoline – alkaloid) and berbamine (a benzylisoquinoline), present in all parts of the plant, except in the fruits and seeds. Berberine is highly regarded in the pharmaceutical field for its antimicrobial and antisecretive properties, in the treatment of various kinds of infections such as bacterial diarrhea and recurrent Candida albicans infections, for its hypocholesterolemic and hypoglycemic properties

How to use

There are three parts of the plant that are used in herbal medicine:

  • the bark of the roots, which is harvested in late autumn;
  • leaves, harvested in spring;
  • the fruits that are picked when ripe.

You can prepare an excellent natural herbal tea based on barberry: just pour 150 ml of boiling water on 1-2 teaspoons of dried leaves and let the mixture rest for at least five minutes and then filter it.

As for the decoction of barberry root, instead, you will have to pour a teaspoon of finely chopped root bark into 150 ml of boiling water, then boil for at least 20-30 minutes and then filter. The methods of intake should not exceed one cup 1-2 times a day.

There is also barberry berry syrup that can be prepared very easily: just insert 500 grams of ripe berries in water and then wait until they are softened, then pass them and combine with a little honey: leave cook until obtaining an excellent syrup, letting it cool and then pouring it into a glass bottle.

As for the external use, the barberry can be effectively exploited to gargle and rub the gums, to counteract pyorrhea: it is recommended to use the decoction of the bark and root at 5-8%. The mother tincture is directly extracted from the bark, dried from the root, subjected to a particular processing and then packaged in tablets or drops. There is also the possibility, however, to purchase the mother tincture also in the form of a solution, especially the vials that are used for injections.

Being able to use all parts of the plant, all forms can be made : powder for capsules and tablets, decoctions, herbal teas and infusions, fluid extracts and tinctures. 

Contraindications of barberry

Avoid using barberry in case of cardiorespiratory insufficiency and hypersensitivity to one or more components. At high doses poisoning can occur due to the many alkaloids present. Administration to children is not recommended.

Description of the plant

Barberry ( Berberis vulgaris ) is a plant belonging to the Berberidaceae family. The name of the genus comes from the Greek Berberi, which means Conchiglia, due to the concave petals.

It is a tree from one to three meters high with large roots that are dark on the outside and yellow on the inside; the plant has many thorny branches. The leaves are elliptical, narrow at the base into a short petiole and rounded at the apex; the surface is large and shiny, the margin is serrated. The leaves are alternate on the long branches or are gathered in bundles on very short twigs, at the base of each of which there is a thorn composed of three to seven prickly spines. The fruit is a berry 1 cm long, red and persistent on the plant, which contains two to three seeds with a horny shell.

Habitat of the Barberry

It is a plant that grows mainly in woods, hedges, uncultivated fields and, in particular, in the European and Caucasus mountains


The barberry has a name that derives from an Arabic word, or “harbaris”, with which all those fruits of these plants were indicated, which were often exploited as a medicinal essence even by the followers of the Salerno school.

In the Middle Ages it was mistakenly used as a cure for typhus. The belief that it could fight this disease was given by the fact that it is able to lower the body temperature and give temporary relief, without affecting the true cause of the disease.

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