Barberry Benefits

Latin Name

Berberis vulgaris

Also Known As

European Barberry, Jaundice Berry, Mountain Grape, Oregon Grape, Pipperidge, Sow Berry


Europe, Africa and Asia

Parts Used


Traditional Use and Health Benefits

The bark and berries of the Barberry bush have a long and enduring history in many ancient medicinal systems, utilised for either medicinal or culinary purposes. The bark was used to break fevers, stimulate digestion and for gastrointestinal disorders, whilst the berries were known for their diuretic qualities, high vitamin C content, and for their astringent cooling properties. The berries were popularly used to make jam – Barberries are naturally high in pectin which allowed the jam to set nicely as it cooled after boiling.

This native plant of Europe, Africa and Asia has been recorded in medicinal use for more than 2,500 years in Ayurvedic, Traditional Chinese and Native American medicine systems, as well as in Western herbalism.

Barberry Benefits

Immune System

One of the most powerful plant alkaloids in Barberry bark is “berberine” (also found in Goldenseal), and it is this phytonutrient that is responsible for many of its benefits. Berberine has been shown to stimulate the immune system by activating the macrophages that devour harmful micro-organisms. It is naturally antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal – in particular berberine has been shown to inhibit the ability of bacteria to attach itself to human cells.

Digestive Health

A healthy digestive system is the cornerstone of vibrant health, allowing the body to absorb nutrients fully and to expel waste efficiently. Classed as a “bitter herb”, Barberry Root has long been used to support this delicate system. The bitter alkaloids found in this herb stimulate and regulate the digestive system and aid in the secretion of bile, which is good for liver health. Berberine also acts as a mild purgative which makes Barberry highly effective for constipation.

Studies show that Barberry outperforms antibiotics cases of gastro-intestinal problems, possibly due to its astringent effects. It has also been shown to clear up bacterial diarrhoea without any negative side effects.

Bladder/Urinary Health

The berberine found in Barberry Root Bark has a powerful antibacterial action which supports the traditional use of this herb to combat bacterial Urinary Tract Infections. Research now shows that berberine is effective for UTIs due to its ability to inhibit bacterial adhesion to uroepithelial cells (the cells lining the surface of the urinary bladder). Barberry has been found to be particularly effective in preventing E coli from binding to urinary tract cells. As an anti-inflammatory, Barberry will also soothe an inflamed urinary tract.

The berries of the Barberry plant are naturally diuretic and high in vitamin C. The diuretic action allows the body to flush out bacteria, whilst the vitamin C content supports and boosts the immune system in its efforts to fight off infection.

Typical Use

Barberry Bark Tincture

Traditionally Taken: 2-3ml taken 2-3 times per day, or as directed by a Herbal Practitioner.

Barberry Bark Powder

A typical dosage of Barberry Bark is ½g- 1g of powdered bark up to three times per day.

Folklore and History

The Barberry (along with other berberine containing herbs) has been used throughout history for its medicinal properties. Traditional Chinese Medicine documents its use dating back over 3,000 years ago, whilst the Ancient Egyptians combined Barberry with Fennel Seeds to prevent plagues and treat fevers. 

In folklore and magic, Barberry was used to ward off evil and protect ones house and self from enemies. People would lay Barberry branches across the path of their enemies to literally "bar" their progress. 


The chief constituent of Barberry bark is berberine. Other constituents of Barberry are; oxyacanthine, berbamine, berberrubine, bervulcine, columbamine, isotetrandine, jatorrhizine, oxycanthine, palmatine, vulcracine, carbohydrates, organic acids, some vitamins, poliphenolic compounds, pectin, tannin, and mineral elements.


Not recommended for children, pregnant or breastfeeding women. If you are taking any prescription medications, please consult your healthcare practitioner.