Barberry Benefits, Uses, Dosage And Side Effects | Barberry And Other Anti-Oxidative Medicines

Barberry Benefits, Uses, Dosage And Side Effects | Barberry And Other Anti-Oxidative Medicines

Barberry - Dr. Axe

Barberry has an incredible range of health benefits, and recent research is proving that.

This berberine-containing plant has been used for over 2,500 years for its medicinal properties. Barberry and goldenseal are often used for similar medicinal purposes because of their berberine content.

Why is berberine so important? It’s been shown to inhibit the growth of bacteria and lower inflammation, which is huge since we know that inflammation is at the root of most chronic diseases.

In addition, barberry extract has beneficial effects on both the cardiovascular and neural systems. Studies have shown that antioxidant-rich barberry can even help prevent center types of cancer.

What Is Barberry?

The barberry plant is one of over 500 species of shrubs in the same family, the family Berberidaceae. In Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and central Asia, the barberry shrub or barberry bush is common.

Barberry is a relative of some Oregon grape species.

It is also referred to as European barberry, trailing mahonia or berberis. The barberry bush‘s root, bark, and red berries are used for medical purposes.

Is it possible to eat a barberry? The red berries of the plant are a rich source of vitamins A and C and can be eaten raw or cooked.

The fruit, stem, and root bark contain berberine. There are studies that show that berberine has anticonvulsant, antimicrobial, anti- inflammatory, hypotensive and sedative effects.

Berberine has been shown to have a positive impact on the immune system, making it helpful for a wide range of infections and diseases.

In addition to berberine and vitamin C, barberry also contains contains the B vitamin thiamine; the carotenoids beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin; as well as chromium, cobalt and zinc.

Related: Uva Ursi: How Bearberry Can Support the Skin & Urinary Tract


There are many different barberry varieties.

  • Japanese barberry
  • Evergreen barberry
  • Yellow barberry
  • The pygmy barberry has a resemblance to the Crimson barberry.
  • The orange barberry is a fruit.
  • Concorde barberry

Many people like to use Japanese barberry in landscapes because it has attractive orange-red fall foliage and red fruit. However, beware that the Japanese barberry shrub (Berberis thunbergii) is known to be an invasive species that tends to harbor ticks.

Is there any non invasive barberry? Sunjoy Todo™ is a seedless (therefore sterile and non-invasive) barberry plant bred by Dr. Tom Ranney of North Carolina State University.

The Japanese barberry has purple foliage and orange-yellow flowers that produce berries but no seeds.

Perennial yellow flowers such as daylilies and ornamental grasses are some of the common companion plants for barberry shrubs.

Potential Health Benefits

1. Fights Infection

Many studies have pointed out that the berberine contained within barberry has significant antimicrobial and antifungal abilities. By inhibiting the ability of bacteria to attach to human cells, it helps protect against many infections.

Barberry is used to ease a large variety of inflammation and infection in the body. It helps with bladder, urinary tract and gastrointestinal infections. It also helps relieve common respiratory tract ailments, including sore throat, nasal congestion, sinusitis and bronchitis. Candida infections may also be improved through the use of this herb.

2. Aids the GI Tract

Berberine acts on the smooth muscles that line the intestines, helping improve digestion and reduce gastrointestinal pain. Barberry is even an effective treatment for diarrhea, including both traveler’s diarrhea and diarrhea caused by food poisoning.

A few studies have suggested that it improves gastrointestinal problems faster than antibiotics, most likely due to its astringent properties. Studies like the one published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases showed that berberine relieves bacterial diarrhea without any negative side effects.

3. Prevents and Helps Diabetes

Barberry is an excellent choice to prevent and improve diabetes because of its positive effects on blood sugar.

One study conducted on berberine compared taking 500 milligrams of this compound found in barberry two to three times daily for three months with taking the common diabetes drug metformin. Berberine was able to control blood sugar and lipid metabolism as effectively as metformin, with researchers describing berberine as a “potent oral hypoglycemic agent.” 

Additional studies have also indicated that berberine improves glucose and lipid metabolism disorders. A study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine showed that berberine can improve insulin sensitivity by adjusting adipokine (cell-signaling proteins) secretion. 

There is evidence that adipokines can act as a mediator of inflammation and resistance to insulin.

Barberry benefits - Dr. Axe

4. Improves Heart Health

When it comes to heart health, many medicinal properties of the Berberis species of plants have been reported, including effectiveness in improving hypertension, ischemic heart disease, cardiac arrhythmias and cardiomyopathy.

Poor blood flow can be caused by an irregular, rapid heart rate. Alternative medicines, like yoga and barberry, have been shown to be very effective at treating a condition called atrial fibrillation.

A 2015 study reported that barberry’s active alkaloid berberine produces a biochemical action in the heart that prolongs the effective refractory period, which improves atrial fibrillation. The study concludes that the berberine acts as a class IA or III anti-arrhythmic agent, but the benefits of berberine in atrial fibrillation/atrial flutter have not been systematically studied in human clinical trials — therefore its mainstream acceptance in the treatment of atrial fibrillation remains limited.

Barberry has also been shown to reduce the density of serum cholesterol and triglycerides, which is excellent for heart health and overall wellbeing.

5. Combats Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a metabolic disorder that involves not one, but a combination of three or more of the following health issues: abdominal obesity, high blood sugar, high triglyceride levels, high blood pressure or low HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

A 2014 study in Iran aimed to explore the impact of supplementation with barberry, a fruit rich in antioxidants, on pro-oxidant-antioxidant balance (PAB) in patients with metabolic syndrome. PAB is a measure of factors that promote and control oxidative stress, and PAB may also be associated with the risk factors of coronary heart disease.

The less stress the body is under the better, because the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to oxidize them is unbalanced.

A total of 106 patients with a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome were randomized in two groups. The control group received three placebos for six weeks, while the case group received three barberry tablets.

There was no significant change in the control group while the barberry group had a significant decrease in PAB.

The suppression of systemic oxidative stress is associated with the suppression of barberry supplements, according to the findings. This herb can be used to fight metabolic syndrome and all of it’s possible side effects.

6. Cleanses the Liver and Gallbladder

The liver stores vitamins, minerals and iron and is able to break down hormones and fat. The main job of the gallbladder is to store bile that is cholesterol-rich. Your body is able to digest certain types of food.

Barberry improves bile secretion. By boosting the secretion of bile, barberry is excellent for improving the health of both the liver and gallbladder, and also lowering LDL “bad” cholesterol.

A poor diet can affect the bile secretion of the body. Waste products leave the body through bile excretion.

Related: The Gallbladder Diet and Natural Treatment Protocol

Uses and Dosage

The ancient Egyptians used barberry to ward off plagues and it was also used to treat dysentery in India.

European herbalists have used it to treat a range of health problems, from inflammation to high blood pressure and abnormal uterine bleeding.

According to a scientific article published in 2019, barberry’s compounds “have a strong impact on human health and can be used as a painkiller, as well as for the relief of fever, diarrhea and vomiting. They are also useful for curing liver and vascular problems and preventing many diseases.”

Barberry can be found in capsule, fluid extracts, tinctures, and as an over the counter medicine. The dried roots can be used in tea, and its extracts are standardized to contain 8 percent to 12 percent alkaloids.

There is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of barberry doses.

For children, it should only be used under the supervision of a qualified health care provider, if at all. For adults, it’s traditionally used at a dose of two grams three times daily or an equivalent amount in extract form.

Barberry can be applied to the skin three times a day to treat skin conditions such as Psoriasis.

It is not recommended for a long period of time without the supervision of your doctor.

Risks, Side Effects and Interactions

People who use normal and appropriate amounts of barberry don’t report any negative side effects. There are possible side effects with high dosages, such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and low blood pressure.

It is not recommended for very young children. In infants, it can interfere with the function of the liver.

pregnant women should not take it because it could cause a baby to be born with a congenital abnormality. The berberine can be passed to the infant in this way, so Barberry is not recommended for nursing mothers.

Barberry should never be taken at the same time as cyclosporine. Other drugs it may negatively interact with include medications changed by the liver including lovastatin (Mevacor), clarithromycin (Biaxin), indinavir (Crixivan), sildenafil (Viagra), and triazolam (Halcion).

You should talk to your health care provider if you combine barberry with any of the drugs mentioned.

The effectiveness of antibiotics in the tetracycline family might be decreased by Barberry.

Check with your doctor before taking any other prescription medicine, non-prescription medicine or supplements. If you have any chronic health issues, such as diabetes, check with your doctor before consuming any barberry supplements.

Final Thoughts

  • Barberry is an herbal remedy and its benefits come from the extensively researched alkaloid it contains known as berberine.
  • The Japanese barberry is the most popular variety.
  • It has a lot of antibacterial, antifungal, and antiprotozoal properties.
  • It is used for the treatment of bladder, urinary tract, gastrointestinal or respiratory infections.
  • It may be helpful to people with diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and abnormal heart rhythms. It is also good for the health of the gallbladder and the bile duct.
  • Studies show that it can help fight breast cancer.
  • Barberry can be used to treat a health problem.

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