Herbs & Plants

Oregon-grape (Mahonia aquifolium, Berberidaceae)

Mahonia nervosaImage via Wikip

Botanical Name:Mahonia aquifolium

Kingdom: Plantae

Division: Magnoliophyta

Class: Magnoliopsida

Order: Ranunculales

Family: Berberidaceae

Genus: Mahonia

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.

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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.

Medicinal Use:
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.[citation needed] 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.


Ailmemts & Remedies

A Nagging Scratchiness (Psoriasis)

Psoriasis is a mysterious skin disease that affects around 5 per cent of the population. It usually starts between the ages of 16 and 25 years or after the age of 55 as disfiguring, scaly, itchy, eruptions anywhere on the body. It can occur on the elbows and knees, in flexures and folds or on the face and scalp. About 10 per cent of patients may develop psoriatic arthritis, with joint pains that make mobility difficult. The nails may be affected, becoming yellow and disfigured or eventually falling off.

You may click to see the pictures

Psoriasis occurs because there is an imbalance between the rate of formation and the rate of shedding of the skin in certain areas of the body. Normally new skin forms in the lowermost skin layer and gradually moves upwards. Eventually the topmost layer falls off. In most people this process takes about a month. It is a uniform, asymptomatic process and occurs unnoticed. In those with psoriasis the entire process is accelerated, uncoordinated and happens within just a few days. The skin piles up, producing the thickened silvery appearance.

Psoriasis may be precipitated by environmental factors like a bacterial (streptococcal) infection, exposure to medication like anti-malarials, some anti-hypertensives, pain killers such as indomethacin, or anti-depressants like lithium. It may appear with prolonged exposure to certain chemicals like disinfectants and paint thinners. It can also be aggravated by stress and alcoholism. There may be a genetic predisposition. Most often, no real cause is found.

The diagnosis is usually made from the typical appearance of the lesions. A scraping or biopsy may be needed if the manifestation or history is not typical. The lesions tend to wax and wane, sometimes mysteriously disappearing all together. This makes evaluation of any treatment regimen difficult. Also, unlike in the case of other chronic illness, there is no standard treatment regimen.
Bathing in tepid water to which a few drops of coconut oil has been added may bring relief

In mild cases, simple home remedies may be sufficient. Adding coconut oil to the bath water and avoiding harsh soaps and detergents is helpful. At night, a moisturising emollient like paraffin wax, petroleum jelly or baby oil may be locally applied. The hair on the scalp has to be parted and the oil applied with a brush. Sometimes the scales (particularly on the scalp) can be quite thick. Regular use of a salicylic acid shampoo alternating with a coal tar shampoo can be quite effective.

If these simple measures are not effective, a dermatologist can recommend stronger topical applications of other chemicals or steroids. These ointments may have side effects and should be used only under medical supervision. Steroid creams cause the lesions to disappear rapidly. They are most effective when applied at night and the area is sealed off under a piece of polyethylene. The creams have to be chosen carefully, as significant quantities of some of the molecules can be absorbed through the skin, causing inadvertent steroid side effects. Sometimes, it can cause thinning and atrophy of the treated area. The use of steroid creams should be tapered off, and not stopped abruptly, to prevent rebound reactivity in the psoriatic patches.

Light therapy is effective. Treatment using light becomes more efficient if a photosensitising medicine is taken prior to exposure. Natural early morning sunlight or artificial light with ultra violet (UV) lamps can be used. UV light, used unsupervised for prolonged periods (more than 200 hours), increases the risk of skin cancer.

Oral medication that can be used are methotrexate or the newer retinoids. However, they can cause gene mutations. Women who have taken retinoids should not become pregnant while on treatment and for least two years afterwards.

Psoriasis follows a frustrating, remitting, relapsing course over a lifetime. The number of relapses and their severity can be reduced if patients follow a few simple, disease-modifying, lifestyle guidelines.

• Eat a nutritionally balanced diet with plenty of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants

• Exercise regularly. Aerobic exercise like walking, jogging or swimming releases disease-modulating chemicals from the muscles

• Try to maintain ideal body weight. Psoriasis often occurs in skin creases or folds, which are commoner in the obese

• Bathe daily so that the scales get washed off. Use tepid water and a moisturising soap. Pat the skin dry after a bath instead of harshly rubbing it with a rough towel

• Apply a non-medicated moisturising cream soon after a bath when the skin is still soft

• Expose your skin to a moderate amount of sunlight.

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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Herbs & Plants News on Health & Science

Aloe Vera: The Wonder Plant!

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One important point to note is that it must be immediately applied in order to get relief from pain

Click to see the plant

The gel of aloe vera has as many as 75 nutrients, which augur good health, has also turned out to be a very popular remedy for burns and wound. One important point to note is that it must be immediately applied in order to get relief from pain. The gel of aloe vera is potent and it is got from the leaves. In fact, minor cuts, bruises and scrapes heal quickly on application of the gel. Even shingles, which can be very painful at times, responds to aloe vera.

Apart from providing relief from itching, it helps to heal the blisters and sores. For people suffering from Psoriasis, aloe vera has provided relief by reducing the pain and itching. It has been proved that the gel causes considerable improvement in the nature of the lesions.

Although the benefits of aloe vera are very useful for skin disorders, the juice is used in cases of people suffering from heartburn, ulcers and other digestive disorders. People suffering from indigestion or the irritable bowel syndrome have claimed that the juice of aloe vera does provide comfort.

Source:The Times Of India

Ailmemts & Remedies


Psoriasis is a disease/disorder, where angry red lesions on the skin , multiply, and scale over with silvery patches, Of course this is an over simplification.

But Psoriasis is non contagious, Usually inherited. It is an Autoimmune disorder and very rarely life threatening.


The word Psoriasis has come from ancient Greece and it means itch. Red eruptions appear on the surface of the skin and begin to eatch.These areas form plaques over the reddendend lesions. The plaques resemble multi-layered scales of skin. Psoriasis varies in intensity from a few random spots to a massive outbreak sometimes covering the entire body and requiring hospitalization too.

Psoriasis has a tendency to be genetically inherited.Recently it has been classified as being an autoimmune disorder.This disorder can originate in juveniles or not be evident until adulthood.It has been reported to initiate as early as birth or not occur until very late in life.Once Psoriasis begins, there are only remissions and replaces of varying degree of intesity..There is no known cure yet,only possible control over the severity.

Psoriasis reacts.It has triggers(such as systematic step infection) which can cause the body to go from mild to severe case within days.There are also other factors,such as sunlight,which may help to decrease the severity.

Psoriasis occurs in 2% of the total population.It can be mildly annoying problem or can destroy the self-esteem and life of the victim.Although it is not at al contagious, it definitely an ugly disease that can alenate coworkers and acquitances.

Arthritis can sometimes stem from psoriasis, attacking the joint spaces,giving the victim another disease to deal with.This disease can be consuming.The ugliness of the patches,the chronic eatching and flaking(although not life threatening) impact the self-esteem and life style of the victim.Time and money are spent to keep it under control.

Treatment Advances Improve Outlook
With the emergence of several new therapies, including the biologic agents, more people are experiencing substantial improvements and reporting a greatly improved quality of life.

American Academy of Dermatology. “American Academy of Dermatology’s Psoriasis Public Awareness Campaign Provides Latest Information About this Skin Condition.” Available at: Accessed April 26, 2005. American Academy of Dermatology. Psoriasis. Available at: Accessed April 26, 2005

Topical treatment

Bath solutions and moisturizers help sooth affected skin and reduce the dryness which accompanies the build-up of skin on psoriasis plaques. Medicated creams and ointments applied directly onto psoriasis plaques can help reduce inflammation, remove built-up scale, reduce skin turn over, and clear affected skin of plaques. Ointment and creams containing coal tar, anthralin, corticosteroids, vitamin D3 analogues (for example, calcipotriol), and retinoids are routinely used. The mechanism of action of each is probably different but they all help to normalise skin cell production and reduce inflammation.

The disadvantages of topical agents are variabily that they can often irritate normal skin, can be awkward to apply, cannot be used for long periods, can stain clothing or have a strong odour. As a result, it is sometimes difficult for people to maintain the regular application of these medications. Abrupt withdrawal of some topical agents, particularly corticosteroids, can cause an aggressive recurrence of the condition. This is known as a rebound of the condition.

Some topical agents are used in conjunction with other therapies, especially phototherapy.


It has long been recognised that daily, short, nonburning exposure to sunlight helped to clear or improve psoriasis. Niels Finsen was the first physician to investigate the theraputic effects of sunlight scientifically and to use sunlight in clinical practice. This became known as phototherapy.

Sunlight contains many different wavelengths of light. It was during the early part of the 20th century that it was recognised that for psoriasis the therapeutic property of sunlight was due to the wavelengths classified as ultraviolet (UV) light.

Ultraviolet wavelengths are subdivided into UVA (380–315 nm), UVB (315–280 nm), and UVC (< 280 nm). Ultraviolet B (UVB) (315–280 nm) is absorbed by the epidermis and has a beneficial effect on psoriasis. Narrowband UVB (311 to 312 nm), is that part of the UVB spectrum that is most helpful for psoriasis. Exposure to UVB several times per week, over several weeks can help people attain a remission from psoriasis.

Ultraviolet light treatment is frequently combined with topical (coal tar, calcipotriol) or systemic treatment (retinoids) as there is a synergy in their combination. The Ingram regime, involves UVB and the application of anthralin paste. The Goeckerman regime, combines coal tar ointment with UVB.

A form of phototherapy called Grenz Rays (also called ultrasoft X-rays or Bucky rays) was a popular treatment of psoriasis during the middle of the 20th century. This type of therapy was superseded by ultraviolet therapy and is no longer commonly used.


Psoralen and ultraviolet A phototherapy (PUVA) combines the oral or topical administration of psoralen with exposure to ultraviolet A (UVA) light. Precisely how PUVA works is not known. The mechanism of action probably involves activation of psoralen by UVA light which inhibits the abnormally rapid production of the cells in psoriatic skin. There are multiple mechanisms of action associated with PUVA, including effects on the skin immune system.

Dark glasses must be worn during PUVA treatment because there is a risk of cataracts developing from exposure to sunlight. PUVA is associated with nausea, headache, fatigue, burning, and itching. Long-term treatment is associated with squamous-cell and melanoma skin cancers.

Systemic treatment

Psoriasis which is resistant to topical treatment and phototherapy is treated by medications that are taken internally by pill or injection. This is called systemic treatment. Patients undergoing systemic treatment are required to have regular blood and liver function tests because of the toxicity of the medication. Pregnancy must be avoided for the majority of these treatments. Most people experience a recurrence of psoriasis after systemic treatment is discontinued.

The three main traditional systemic treatments are the immunosupressant drugs methotrexate and ciclosporin, and retinoids, which are a synthetic forms of vitamin A. Other additional drugs, not specifically licensed for psoriasis, have been found to be effective. These include the antimetabolite tioguanine, the cytotoxic agent hydroxyurea, sulfasalazine, the immunosupressants mycophenolate mofetil, azathioprine and oral tacrolimus. These have all been used effectively to treat psoriasis when other treatments have failed. Although not licensed in many other countries fumaric acid esters have also been used to treat severe psoriasis in Germany for over 20 years.

Biologics[4] are the newest class of systemic treatment for psoriasis. These are manufactured proteins that interrupt the immune process involved in psoriasis. Unlike generalised immunosuppressant therapies such as methotrexate, biologics focus on specific aspects of the immune function leading to psoriasis. These drugs are relatively new, and their long-term impact on immune function is unknown. Examples include Amevive®, etanercept (Enbrel®), Humira®, infliximab (Remicade®) and Raptiva.

Alternative Therapy

  • Antibiotics are not indicated in routine treatment of psoriasis. However, antibiotics may be employed when an infection, such as that caused by the bacteria Streptococcus, triggers an outbreak of psoriasis, as in certain cases of guttate psoriasis.
  • Climatotherapy involves the notion that some diseases can be successfully treated by living in particular climate. Several psoriasis clinics are located throughout the world based on this idea. The Dead Sea is one of the most popular locations for this type of treatment.
  • In Turkey, doctor fish which live in the outdoor pools of spas, are encouraged to feed on the psoriatic skin of people with psoriasis. The fish only consume the affected areas of the skin. The outdoor location of the spa may also have a beneficial effect. This treatment can provide temporary relief of symptoms. A revisit to the spas every few months is often required.
  • Some people subscribe to the view that psoriasis can be effectively managed through a healthy lifestyle. This view is based on anecdote, and has not been subjected to formal scientific evaluation. Nevertheless, some people report that minimizing stress and consuming a healthy diet, combined with rest, sunshine and swimming in saltwater keep lesions to a minimum. This type of “lifestyle” treatment is suggested as a long-term management strategy, rather than an initial treatment of severe psoriasis.
  • Some psoriasis patients use herbology as a holistic approach that aims to treat the underlying causes of psoriasis.
  • A psychological symptom management programme has been reported as being a helpful adjunct to traditional therapies in the management of psoriasis.
  • It is possible that Epsom salt may have a positive effect in reducing the effects of psoriasis.

Future Drug Development

Historically, agents used to treat psoriasis were discovered by experimentation or by accident. In contrast, current novel therapeutic agents are designed from a better understanding of the immune processes involved in psoriasis and by the specific targeting of molecular mediators. Examples can be seen in the use of biologics which target T cells and TNF inhibitors. Future innovation should see the creation of additional drugs that refine the targeting of immune-mediators further.

Research into antisense oligonucleotides is in its infancy but carries the potential to provide novel theraputic strategies for treating psoriasis.


Psoriasis is a chronic lifelong condition. There is currently no cure but various treatments can help to control the symptoms. Many of the most effective agents used to treat severe psoriasis carry an increased risk of significant morbidity including skin cancers, lymphoma and liver disease. However, the majority of people’s experience of psoriasis is that of minor localised patches, particularly on the elbows and knees, which can be treated with topical medication. Psoriasis does get worse over time but it is not possible to predict who will go on to develop extensive psoriasis or those in whom the disease may appear to vanish. Individuals will often experience flares and remissions throughout their life. Controlling the signs and symptoms typically requires lifelong therapy.

“The heartbreak of psoriasis”

The phrase “the heartbreak of psoriasis” is often used both seriously and ironically to describe the emotional impact of the disease. It can be found in various advertisements for topical and other treatments; conversely, it has been used to mock the tendency of advertisers to exaggerate (or even fabricate) aspects of a malady for financial gain. (In Bloom County, the character of Opus once considered the possibility of his suffering from “the heartbreak of nose hemorrhoids.”) While many products today use the phrase in their advertising, it originated in a 1960s advertising campaign for Tegrin, a coal tar-based medicated soap.

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