Barberry Root Herb Profile

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Barberry Root and barberry benefits
Wellness Mama » Blog » Natural Remedies » Barberry Root Herb Profile

Barberry is a large bush that can grow up to 15 feet tall. Though native to Europe, it has been grown in parts of the US and is now most often grown in Iran. It has leaves similar to a holly bush and red berries. The bark of the trunk and root is known for its medicinal uses as it contains alkaloids that assist in a number of bodily functions, especially of the digestive track.

Barberry Root Use

According to Bulk Herb Store:

Barberry is noted in folk medicine as a cure for nearly every gastrointestinal ailment, lymphatics, urinary tract and respiratory infection. It has been used as a bitter tonic and antypyretic. Berberine, the primary alkaloid, is a potent antibiotic, astringent and anti-fungal. When taken for infections, it controls the overgrowth of candida albacans as well as functioning as a bactericide. This is a real advantage over conventional antibiotics. It also controls infectious diarrhea and increases the production of the digestive enzymes.

In Italy, barberry is known as “Holy Thorn” as it was believed to have formed part of the crown of thorns that Jesus wore.

Some sources claim that barberry has a beneficial effect on blood pressure by causing a dilatation of the blood vessels. It has traditionally been used to relieve hepatitis, colic, jaundice, diabetes, and consumption.

Externally, barberry root has been used for sores, burns, ulcers, acne, itch, ringworm, cuts, and bruises. It is sometimes recommended (under physician oversight) for congestive jaundice and inflammation of the gallbladder and gallstones.

As a bitter tonic with mild laxative effects, barberry has been used by weak or debilitated people to strengthen and cleanse the system. It is also thought to reduce an enlarged spleen. The herb is said to combat malaria and has been effective in the treatment of protozoan infections.

Berberine (found in barberry) is highly antibacterial and makes a good external compress for inflammatory eye conditions such as blepharitis and conjunctivitis.

From the University of Maryland Medical Center:

The stem, root bark, and fruit of barberry contain alkaloids, the most prominent of which is berberine. Laboratory studies in test tubes and animals suggest that berberine has antimicrobial (killing bacteria and parasites), anti-inflammatory, hypotensive (causing a lowering of blood pressure), sedative, and anticonvulsant effects. Berberine may also stimulate the immune system. It also acts on the smooth muscles that line the intestines. This last effect may help improve digestion and reduce gastrointestinal pain. (1)


The berries of the barberry plant (barberries) are also beneficial and are used in recipes in some parts of the world. The berries are high in citric acid and vitamin C, and are also a good source of berberine.

Typically, the root bark is used in remedies and the berries in cooking, though both have medicinal properties.

Barberry can be found in capsules or in dried form and can be used in tinctures. Dried berries are also available.

Ever used barberry root? What herbs are in your kitchen?

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


12 responses to “Barberry Root Herb Profile”

  1. Jeff Minton Avatar
    Jeff Minton

    I know berberine is expensive, and I read that barberry has many of the benefits. I was thinking of ordering the barberry root. How much per day should I take? Thanks

    1. Jamie Larrison Avatar

      It depends on several factors, including what you’re using it for, underlying health conditions, age/weight, etc. For precise dosing, it’s best to work with a natural health practitioner. That said, one recommendation is to drink 1 cup 3 times daily of a decoction made with 40 grams of barberry root bark per 1 liter of water.

  2. nicky Avatar

    Hello- Do I need to buy a supplement called BERBERINE (made from the root of berberis aristada)…. or can I buy a supplement called BARBERRY made from the root in order to get the same product and same claimed benefits…… I have seen BARBERRY powder sold in capsules and also seen BERBERINE powder sold in capsules… Are they the same please?

    1. Jamie Larrison Avatar

      Berberine is derived from barberry root (and other plants). It’s one of the main chemical constituents in barberry, but it’s not the same as the whole barberry root. Like how curcumin is derived from turmeric. They both have their place but aren’t totally interchangeable with each other. It depends on what you want to use it for, but personally I tend to opt for whole plants when I can, in this case barberry root, not berberine.

  3. Bob Avatar

    Berberine made from the root or berberine made from the berries?

  4. Angela Avatar

    Barberry Root changed our daughters life. She takes a pinch of barberry/neem leaf in a tea before meals. She used to react to foods with sickness, hives, emotional/erratic behavior etc. This has cured her almost completely. SO thankful for herbs.

  5. Faith Avatar

    Are you talking about the red Barberry bush in my front yard that I’m about to pull out because the thorns are so dangerous? Or are these ornamental bushes?

    1. Yukidongo Avatar

      It is”barberry”. It contains the alkaloids. Simple enough. You didn’t specify European, or Japanese, or otherwise. But Barberry is Barberry.

      1. Tiffany mast Avatar
        Tiffany mast

        My question is dosage. How long can one use this tea. And how often should one stop wait and start again. I don’t have knowledge in this and certainly don’t want to over use this. Thank you.

  6. Suzanne Avatar

    My functional medicine doctor just gave me a supplement that contains Barberry root, among other things. It is mainly for my liver also containing milk thistle. The jury is still out on it, as it’s only been a few days, but I appreciate all the good stuff I’ve been able to read about it on your site!!

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