Barberry – Health Benefits, Uses, Research, Preparation, Precautions


Barberry – Health Benefits, Uses, Research, Preparation, Precautions

Barberry is a shrub that has red berries and yellow inner bark. It grows in temperate climates. I use barberry frequently in my herbal practice, as it fights infections of many types. It is my preferred substitute for endangered, expensive goldenseal root.


This article on barberry was written for by Patricia Bratianu RN PhD RH-AHG. Find out more about her at the end of this article.

Common Names

Sourberry, (berberis vulgaris)

Traditional and Modern Health Uses

Barberry contains diverse healing compounds which make the herb valuable for treating a wide array of ills. One of the compounds, berberine, exerts powerful antibacterial actions.

Leaves, berries, and roots of barberry are all useful medicinally. Barberry root bark is the most readily available part for purchasing. It is the plant part which I use most often when preparing herbal remedies.

A tea may be applied topically to rashes, skin irritations and wounds to relieve itching and prevent infections. Psoriasis may be relieved with barberry root use. It has an astringent action which helps to staunch bleeding. Sterile infusions and decoctions may be used as eye drops and washes for the treatment of eye infections.

Barberry effectively reduces loose stools caused by an array of illnesses, including cholera and many other types of diarrhea which are caused by amoebas and other one-celled organisms.

Barberry is very useful for the treatment of respiratory illnesses. In addition to the herb’s antibacterial actions, barberry reduces fevers and acts as an expectorant.

Liver problems respond to therapies which include barberry. It can relieve jaundice, stimulate bile production and be used as an adjunct therapy for the treatment of hepatitis. Barberry helps to relieve constipation and improves the digestion of fats.

Barberry has traditionally been classified as a blood purifier. This makes it useful for people who suffer from cancer and some types of arthritis. The anti-inflammatory actions of barberry make the herb valuable for treating joint and sciatic pain.

Barberry improves white blood cell counts, making it useful as an adjunct treatment for patients who undergo chemotherapy. It destroys cancer cells and protects the body from injury due to cancer-causing agents.

The herb possesses sedative and antioxidant compounds. Barberry may help to prevent irregular heart rates.

Current research

A great deal of research has been conducted on the compound berberine, while fewer studies have been conducted on the whole herb. Renowned herbalists James Duke and Steven Foster record that studies reveal that the root bark may protect liver health and prevent kidney stone formation.

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