Botanical Name:Mahonia aquifolium
Species: M. aquifolium
Alternative Names: Alegrita, California Barberry, Japonica, Mahonia, Mountain Grape, Mountain Holly, Pepperidge, Sourberry, Sowberry and Yellow Root.
Habitat:Oregon-grape is a native plant on the North American west coast from British Columbia to northern California, occurring in the understory of Douglas-fir forests and in brushlands. It is the state flower of Oregon.
Description:Oregon-grape (Mahonia aquifolium, Berberidaceae) is an evergreen shrub related to the barberry. Some authors place Mahonia in the barberry genus, Berberis. The Oregon-grape is not closely related to grapes, but gets its name from the purple clusters of berries whose color and slightly dusted appearance is reminiscent of grapes. It is sometimes called Tall Oregon-grape to distinguish it from Creeping Oregon-grape (M. repens) and “Cascade” or Dwarf Oregon-grape (M. nervosa). The name is often left un-hyphenated as Oregon grape, though doing so invites confusion with the true grapes. It also occasionally appears in print as Oregongrape.
Oregon-grape grows to 1-5 m tall. Its leathery leaves resemble holly and the stems and twigs have a thickened, corky appearance. The flowers, borne in late spring, are an attractive yellow.
Different Uses:Oregon-grape is used in landscaping similarly to barberry, as a plant suited for low-maintenance plantings and loose hedges. Oregon-grape is resistant to summer drought, tolerates poor soils, and does not create excessive leaf litter. Its berries attract birds.
The small purplish-black fruits, which are quite tart and contain large seeds, are sometimes used locally mixed with Salal to make jelly. The fruit is bitter, and generally not eaten without being sweetened first. As the leaves of Oregon-grape are holly-like and resist wilting, the foliage is sometimes used by florists for greenery and a small gathering industry has been established in the Pacific Northwest. The inner bark of the larger stems and roots of Oregon-grape yield a yellow dye.In some areas outside its native range, Oregon-grape has been classified as an invasive exotic species that may displace native vegetation.
Ingredients:The root of Oregon grape contains berberine alkaloids such as berberine and hydrastine. Berberine is one of the active ingredients found in goldenseal that helps bloodshot eyes and sore throats.Oregon grape rhizome and roots have the following properties: alterative, antibiotic, antiseptic, astringent, bitter taste, cholagogue, cooling, diuretic, emetic, laxative, thyroid stimulant. They affect the blood, intestines, liver, skin, spleen and stomach.
The plant is used medicinally by herbalists. Recent studies indicate that M. aquifolium contains a specific multidrug resistance pump inhibitor (MDR Inhibitor) named 5’methoxyhydnocarpin (5’MHC) which works to decrease bacterial resistance to antibiotics and antibacterial agents.
Oregon grape root is commonly used medicinally as an effective alternative to the threatened goldenseal. Both plants similarly contain the alkaloid berberine, known as an anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial used in the treatment of infection. Berberine and other alkaloids present in Oregon grape root have been shown to kill a wide range of microbes and have been effective in speeding recovery from giardia, candida, viral diarrhea, and cholera. Mahonia aquifolium is also known to be capable of treatment on inflammatory skin diseases such as Eczema and Psoriasis. Oregon grape root also has anticancer properties that are receiving more attention by researchers. Other actions may include alterative, diuretic, laxative and tonic.
Oregon Grape Root is used as a treatment for skin diseases and as a treatment for prostate infection. It is also used as a blood cleanser, to stimulate the liver and gall bladder, and as a mild laxative. Externally, a decoction of the root bark is used as a liniment for arthritis. Do not use during pregnancy.
Oregon Grape Root is a disinfectant and helps relieve pain during urinary infections. It acts as an antispasmodic and relieves pain from kidney stones and helps clear urine with thick mucus or red sediments. Barberry is also useful for many liver and gall bladder problems, hepatitis, and cirrhosis. It assists in detoxification from effects of poor diet, medications or drugs and helps stimulate the immune system.
Health Warning: Because of a potential toxicity or adverse effects of berberine, consult a reputable herbalist regarding dosages and treatments. Use of berberine is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Traditional uses of Oregon grape include: acne, arthritis, bronchial congestion, chronic fatigue, eczema, hepatitis, herpes, hypoglycemia, indigestion, lymphatic congestion, menstrual problems, psoriasis, scrofula, syphilis, and vaginitis.
Oregon Grape is rich in vitamin C and has been made into a beverage that was useful for scurvy, fever and upset stomachs. This drink was also used as a mouthwash and gargle. The root soaked in warm beer was said be helpful for cases of hemorrhaging and jaundice.
In modern times, Oregon grape is known as a good liver cleanser. This is due to the fact that it increases bile production. This action also aids digestion and purifies the blood. When combined with dandelion, milk thistle or celandine, it can be very effective in combatting hepatitis B and jaundice.
Oregon grape’s antiseptic properties make it a useful external application for skin conditions. Internally, its blood purifying properties make it useful for blood conditions as well as skin problems.
Recent studies have shown that berberine containing herbs may be useful for those suffering from diarrhea and especially bacterial dysentery. This high berberine content makes it a good alternative to goldenseal in many cases, including infections.
Doses:Fresh Oregon grape root and rhizome should be used promptly to assure the strongest potency. A decoction is made by steeping 1 teaspoon of the root for 30 minutes in 1-1/2 pints of boiling water. This mixture is then strained before drinking. In capsule form, take 1-2 capsules 2-3 times daily. In liquid form, take 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon daily of Oregon grape.
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.