Oregon grape, Oregon grape root, mountain holly, mountain grape, mahonia, creeping barberry
Roots, inner stem bark (primary), leaves, berries
Native to regions of North America and found in mountainous areas
Oregon grape is a plant that can be sustainably harvested for its medicinal properties. To minimize impact on the plant, it is recommended to only harvest the inner bark of woody stems when collecting from wild plants. When harvesting from cultivated plants, gently pull the stem and cut the root free, leaving the crown intact for replanting. The best time to collect roots and stems is from mid-summer to winter, before or after the plant has flowered or fruited. Leaves can be collected from May to mid-fall. For those who follow lunar cycles, it is recommended to harvest the bark during the three-quarter waning moon. Berries can be collected when ripe and used fresh or dried.
While barberry is often considered North America's premier source of berberine, Oregon grape contains similar properties and is viewed by some herbalists as a counterpart to Northeastern U.S. barberry. This versatile plant has been used in Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, and by Native American tribes, as well as by the Eclectics. It is valued for its health-supporting properties and is also used for dying fabric and fiber, while the leaves make a great substitute for holly leaves in floral arrangements. Additionally, the berries of Oregon grape can be made into a delicious jam or wine.
Oregon grape has a long history of use by Native American tribes for medicinal and practical purposes. The roots and branches were utilized by tribes such as the Blackfoot, Karuk, Okanagan-Colville, Samish, Sanpoil, Squaxin, and Thompson for a variety of ailments, including gastrointestinal issues and as a tonic for preventing illnesses. The fruit was also used as a food source and the bark, stem, and leaves were used as a dye for fabrics. Western settlers learned of the plant's value from Native Americans and incorporated it into their home remedies, with a popular beverage made from Oregon grape marketed in the late 1800s to relieve jaundice. While caution was advised due to its potency, the plant's versatility and effectiveness have made it a valuable resource for centuries.
Oregon grape is a bitter herb that has been used historically and continues to be used today to stimulate digestion. It is believed to help break down and absorb fats and oils by stimulating the production of hydrochloric acid, pepsinogen, and bile. To stimulate salivary secretions, it is recommended to take 15 to 20 drops of Oregon grape tincture in water before eating. This herb is particularly useful for those with indigestion, teeth or gum problems, and a white or yellowish coating on their tongue in the morning. Native American tribes have used Oregon grape for digestive disturbances, and it is often used to treat symptoms of sluggish digestion such as reflux, constipation, and bloating. Oregon grape is also known to remove waste products from the blood by altering internal mucosa. Herbalists often combine Oregon grape with other carminatives in their digestive bitter formulas, and it can be used in combination with wild iris for cases of sluggish digestion. Moderate to high doses of Oregon grape bark and root can be used, with doses ranging as high as 5ml TID (3x/day) daily depending on the condition, particularly for GI tract infections. (1)
For centuries, Oregon grape has been recognized for its medicinal properties in treating persistent skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema. Today, it continues to be used for its historical purposes in treating chronic skin conditions such as dandruff, acne, and pruritus. Oregon grape has been found to be particularly effective in treating intractable moist eczema.
Oregon grape is a plant that contains berberine, which has a specific effect on the liver. Its bitter taste stimulates the liver and can be helpful for those with impaired hepatic function. Many herbalists view Oregon grape as a gentle hepatic-biliary stimulant that increases the flow of bile through the liver and gallbladder, enhancing its blood detoxification properties. Studies have shown that Oregon grape can normalize liver enzyme elevations and reduce inflammation associated with hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver toxicity. Its hepatoprotective properties may stem from its influence on the liver’s cytochrome P450 pathway, which points towards its alterative action. Combining Oregon grape with dandelion and fennel can be beneficial for cases of jaundice, enlargement of the liver and spleen, gallstones, and arthritis. Additionally, combining Oregon grape with desert parsley (Lomatium dissectum) can assist in supporting liver function.(3)
Decoction: 3-9 grams up to 2-3 times a day
Tincture: 10-30 drops up to 3 times a day. Fresh plant 1:2 60% or dried plant 1:5 70%.
Capsule: 1-2 capsules(00) up to 2-3 times daily.
Fluid extract: 10-20 drops up to 2-3 times daily. (1:1) 60%.
Glycerite: 0.4-1 tsp. up to 3 times a day. Dried root 1:5.
While Oregon grape has many potential health benefits, it is important to be aware of its contraindications. This plant should not be used in cases of emaciation or weak digestion, and caution should be taken during pregnancy. Berberine, a compound found in Oregon grape, can cause hemolysis in babies with G6PD deficiency. Additionally, those with lactation, bile-duct obstruction, septic cholecystitis, hepatic cancer, other hepatocellular diseases, hyperthyroidism, or acute inflammation should avoid using this plant. It is also important to note that berberine may decrease the efficacy of certain herbs, supplements, and drugs, according to a systematic review of scientific literature.
(1)Davis, R. (2017). Oregon grape monograph. Retrieved from http://reneeadavis.com/2017/03/25/oregon-grape-monograph/
(2)Kane, C. (2017). Medicinal plants of the western mountain states. AZ: Lincoln Town Press.
(3)Kane, C. (2017). Medicinal plants of the western mountain states. AZ: Lincoln Town Press.
(4)Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press.
(5)Alfs, M. (2003). 300 Herbs: A materia medica & repertory. New Brighton, MN: Old Theology Book House.
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