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Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)
While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.

Related Terms

  • Agracejo (Spanish), agrecejo, almindelig berberis (Danish), alvo (Spanish), anthocyanins, berbamine, Berberidaceae (family), Berberidis cortex, Berberidis radicis cortex, berberine, berberine bisulfate, berberine chloride, Berberis amurensis, Berberis aristata, Berberis asiatica, Berberis chitria, Berberis croatica, Berberis dumetorum, Berberis heterophylla, Berberis koreana, Berberis lycium, Berberis × ottawensis, Berberis thunbergii spp., Berberis vulgaris, berberitze, berberrubine, berberry, bervulcine, cannabisin G, columbamine, crespino (Italian), Croatian barberry, curcuma, Daruharidra, épine-vinette (French), European barberry, flavonols, green barberry, green hornet barberry, isotetrandine, Japanese barberry, jatorrhizine, jaundice berry, Korean barberry, kotsakhuri, Lebanon barberry, (+/-)-lyoniresinol, mountain grape, orange rocket barberry, oxyacanthine, oxycanthine, palmatine, pipperidge bush, piprage, -(p-trans-coumaroyl)tyramine, purple barberry, red barberry, Sauerdorn (German), sowberry, tannins, uva-espin (Portuguese), vinettier (French), vulcracine.
  • Note: For further information regarding barberry's constituent berberine, please see the Berberine monograph.

Background

  • Barberry (Berberis vulgaris) has been used in Indian folk medicine for centuries, and the Chinese have used berberine, a component of barberry, since ancient times. Barberry is also popular in Iran and is included in both British and Indian pharmacopoeias. The first documented use of berberine was in 1933 for trachoma (a bacterial eye infection).
  • Barberry is widely grown in North America and is found in 31 American states and four Canadian provinces, particularly those along the Eastern Seaboard and in the Midwest.
  • Historically, barberry was commonly used for its antidiarrheal and antibiotic properties. In traditional medicinal practices, it has been used to treat metabolic disorders, diabetes, cystitis, joint pain, and symptoms of menopause. It is used in the form of a liquid extract or consumed as component of spices (i.e., kotsakhuri). In general, a salt of the alkaloid berberine is administered.
  • Early studies have shown berberine to have promising anti-inflammatory and blood sugar-lowering effects, and future clinical research is warranted in these areas.
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Evidence

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Dosing

The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.

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Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

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Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.