What Are the Benefits of Berberis?

Berberis, also known as barberry, is a tough, hardy bush native to Europe and the British Isles, according to HerbCompanion.com. It was used medicinally in ancient Egypt and India. Oregon grape is closely related to berberis and has many of the same healing properties. Berberis is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and has been used for intestinal, cardiovascular, and liver, kidney and gall bladder issues.

Digestive Aid

Berberis and its cousin, Oregon grape, produce an alkaloid substance called berberine. Berberine has been shown to be effective at treating "intestinal infections, such as bacterial dysentery," according to HerbCompanion.com. "It acts partly by preventing microbes from latching onto human cells." In hospitals, berberine is employed to combat "bacterial diarrhea [and] intestinal parasitic infections." According to Herbal-Supplement-Resource.com, berberis has been employed in the treatment of candidiasis (candida yeast) and "may...prevent some symptoms of indigestion such as heartburn and nausea." Berberis capsules, tincture, teas and other formulations are readily available from naturopaths and at natural pharmacies and health food stores.

Cardiovascular Benefits

Studies performed on berberis extracts "suggest [berberis] alkaloids can stabilize heart disorders, such as tachycardia (rapid heartbeat) and ventricular fibrillation," according to HerbCompanion.com. The herbal extract helps potassium move through the body and relax blood vessels, which aids in decreasing blood pressure. Tea made from berberis can be found online and at health food and herbal tea retail outlets.

Kidney, Gallbladder and Liver

According to HerbCompanion.com, berberis fruit can enhance the flow of bile in the gallbladder. It is also "thought to stimulate blood flow to the liver and improve liver function." In addition, "barberry fruit compounds might help break up stones in the urinary tract by precipitating out calcium oxalate" just as citrus juices do. Look for berberis preparations at natural food stores and natural pharmacies.