The Medicinal Herb Info site was created to help educate visitors about the often forgotten wisdom of the old ways of treating illnesses. Many of today's drugs and medicines were originally derived from natural ingredients, combinations of plants and other items found in nature.

We are not suggesting that you ignore the help of trained medical professionals, simply that you have additional options available for treating illnesses. Often the most effective treatment involves a responsible blend of both modern and traditional treatments.

We wish you peace and health!


Scientific Names


  • Berberis vulgaris L.
  • Berberidaceae
  • Barberry family

Common Names

  • Berberidis
  • Common barberry
  • Daruharidra (Sanskrit name)
  • European barberry
  • Jaundice berry
  • Pepperidge bush
  • Sowberry
  • Wood turmeric

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Parts Usually Used

Root, root-bark, berries
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Description of Plant(s) and

Barberry is a densely branched, deciduous shrub 3-8 feet tall, with many tripartite spines on the yellowish branches; the root is yellow on the outside and its bark has a bitter taste. The stems, growing from 3-8 feet high, are reddish when young but turn dirty gray when older. The leaves are obovate to oval and have a soft, bristly point, grow crowded together on short shoots.

The small, yellow flowers, 10-20 per raceme, appear from April to June and hang from the branches in clusters. Petals are not notched. The flowers are followed by bright red, oblong berries 1/2 inch long grow in copious clusters, ripening in August and September, have an agreeable acid taste and should be eaten only when ripe.

Another variety: Amur barberry (Berberidis amerenis)
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Where Found

Grows in hard, gravely soil in the northeastern states and sometimes in rich soils in the western states. In woods, fence rows, waste ground, roadsides and hedges.
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Medicinal Properties

Tonic, purgative, hepatic, antiseptic, alterative, refrigerant, anthelmintic, bacteriocide, aoebicidal
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Biochemical Information

Berberine alkaloid, chelidonic acid, resin, tannin, wax, berbamine, berberrubine, columbamine, hydrastine, jatrorrhizine, manganese, oxycanthine, palmatine, and vitamin C
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Legends, Myths and Stories

Many species of barberry are found all over the world. They are all used for similar medicinal purposes by the different traditions.
The yellow root was an important dye for baskets, buckskins, and fabric among Native Americans. The early Spanish-Americans used the yellow root to make neck-crosses (crucifixes).
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The berries must be ripe when used; taken for fever or diarrhea, dysentery, typhus fever. The fresh juice used for mouthwash to strengthen gums or gargle. The root-bark contains berberine, a bitter alkaloid, that aids in the secretion of bile and is good for liver problems, acts as a mild purgative, and helps regulate the digestive processes, dyspepsia. Possible beneficial effect on the blood pressure by causing a dilatation of the blood vessels. Good for hepititis, colic, jaundice, diabetes, consumption. Used as a bitter tonic to stimulate digestion, and in the treatment of inflammatory arthritic, sciatica, and rheumatic complaints. Decreases heart rate, depresses the breathing, stimulates intestinal movement, reduces bronchial constriction, and kills bacteria on the skin. Externally, for sores, burns, ulcers, acne, itch, tetters, ringworm, cuts, bruises. As a tonic it will help convalescent patients recuperate.
The berries can be made into jellies or cooked with other fruits.
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Formulas or Dosages

Gather the root in spring or fall. Use only ripe berries.

Decoction: use 1/2 to 1 tsp. root bark with 1 cup water. Boil briefly, then steep for 5 minutes. Take 1/2 to 1 cup during the day, a mouthful at a time.

Tincture: take 3-7 drops, 3 or 4 times a day, in water.
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Nutrient Content

Vitamin C
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Avoid in pregnancy. Large doses harmful.
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Buy It! Back to Eden, by Jethro Kloss; Back to Eden Publishing Co., Loma Linda, CA 92354, Original copyright 1939, revised edition 1994

Buy It! The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

Buy It! Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke., Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10000

Buy It! The Nature Doctor: A Manual of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, by Dr. H.C.A. Vogel; Keats Publishing, Inc., 27 Pine Street (Box 876) New Canaan, CT. 06840-0876. Copyright Verlag A. Vogel, Teufen (AR) Switzerland 1952, 1991

Herbal Gardening, compiled by The Robison York State Herb Garden, Cornell Plantations, Matthaei Botanical Gardens of the University of Michigan, University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley., Pantheon Books, Knopf Publishing Group, New York, 1994, first edition

Buy It!The Magic of Herbs, by David Conway, published by Jonathan Cape, Thirty Bedford Square, London, England. (Out of print)

Buy It! Planetary Herbology, by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., O.M.D., Lotus Press, PO Box 325, Twin Lakes. WI 53181., Copyright 1988, published 1992

Buy It! The Complete Medicinal Herbal, by Penelope Ody, Dorling Kindersley, Inc, 232 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, First American Edition, copyright 1993

Buy It! Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, Shambala Publications, Inc., Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, 1973

Buy It! Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician: Updated With 117 Modern Herbs, by Nicholas Culpeper, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1990, (reprint of 1814)

Buy It! American Folk Medicine, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1973

Buy It! Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fifth Edition: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food Supplements, by James F. Balch, M.D. and Phyllis A. Balch, C.N.C., Avery Publishing Group, Inc., Garden City Park, NY

Buy It! Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

Buy It! An Instant Guide to Medicinal Plants, by Pamela Forey and Ruth Lindsay, Crescent Books (January 27, 1992).

Buy It! Old Ways Rediscovered, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, published from 1954, print 1988

Buy It! The Rodale Herb Book: How to Use, Grow, and Buy Nature’s Miracle Plants (An Organic gardening and farming book), edited by William H. Hylton, Rodale Press, Inc. Emmaus, PA, 18049., 1974

Buy It! The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine, by Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasant Lad, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, Second edition, 1988.

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