|Oregon Grape Quick Facts|
|Scientific Name:||Mahonia aquifolium|
|Origin||North American West from Southeast Alaska to Northern California, and eastern Alberta to southern Colorado|
|Colors||Green berries mature to a blue-black color with a white cast|
|Shapes||Ellipsoid berries that are borne in clusters and look somewhat like grapes|
|Health benefits||anti-depressant, inflammations, Skin Conditions, Digestive Health, Liver Health, antifungal, anti-amoebocidic, Bone Strengthener, Fights against cancer|
Genus name Mahonia honors Bernard M’Mahon, American horticulturist and author of The American Gardener’s Calendar (1806). The specific epithet aquifolium represents “sharp-leafed” (as in Ilex aquifolium, the common holly), referring to the spiny foliage. Both the roots and rhizomes have been used medicinally for hundreds of years to treat infections because of their powerful antibiotic properties. The plant contains the alkaloids berberine and hydrastine. Berberine is extremely bactericidal, amoeboidal and trypanocidal. Oregon grape extracts were shown in one pharmacological study to reduce inflammation, and to stimulate the white blood cells known as macrophages. Roots are used in herbology as a nutritional aid to the digestive and circulatory systems. The fruit is an excellent gentle and safe laxative.
Oregon grape is a medium-sized, broadleaf evergreen shrub that grows about 1–2 m (3 ft. 3 in–6 ft. 7 in) tall by 1.5 m (5 ft.) wide. The plant is found growing in relatively dry to moist rocky sites in open coniferous forests, and forested slopes. The plant does best in partial shade in moist, rich, well-drained, acidic soils and is intolerant of alkaline pH soils, poor soils, compacted soils, clay soils, wet soils, heat, full sun, exposed sites, or at windswept corners of foundations. The plant has deep vertical taproot and a network of fine roots in the upper layer. It is 1-4 cm in diameter, covered by a thin outer bark that covers a bright yellow inner bark. Twigs are light brown, fairly stout, virtually unbranched, and with a coarse texture with corky, gray brown colored bark.
The stiff and leathery leaves of Oregon grape are technically leaflets, since the leaves are pinnately compound. The leaflets are flat and toothed. There are generally seven to nine of them in a leaf. They are arranged in two parallel rows and are joined to the leaf stem without a stalk. At the tip of the leaf there is a terminal leaflet that is joined to the stem with a stalk. There is a very noticeable vein down the center of each leaflet.
The leaflets are usually medium to dark green in color. They may have attractive red or bronze patches at times, such as when they are first produced, and they are often red in winter. The upper surface of each leaflet is waxy. The lower surface is not as shiny and is a paler green color. The leaves are used in floral arrangements because they stay in good condition for a long time after they’re picked.
Flowers and Berries
Flowers and berries of Oregon grape are brightly colored and beautiful. The plant is very noticeable when it’s in bloom or when it bears berries. Flowers are bright yellow and are arranged in attractive clusters. Each flower has six yellow petals and six outer sepals of the same color. Six stamens (the male reproductive structures) and one pistil (the female structure) are located in the center of the flower. Flowering normally takes place from January to May. These mildly fragrant flowers are followed by Ellipsoid berries. These berries are initially green maturing to a blue-black color with a white cast. Berries are tart but they taste good when sweetened. These berries are wonderful for making jam, jellies. The correct identification of the plant is vital if the berries are being collected for food. It’s also important that the berries are collected from an area that is free of pesticides or pollutants. Berries in clusters look like small grapes while the foliage is holly-like in appearance.
Health benefits of Oregon Grapes
Oregon grape is known for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties and its extracts have been used to treat physical complaints like dysentery, jaundice, peptic ulcers and a variety of skin conditions as well. Additionally, the extract is extremely beneficial for psoriasis, eczema, athlete’s foot, acne and other fungal infections. It also eases inflammation, itching and irritation. Listed below are few of the popular health benefits of using Oregon grapes
1. Perform natural anti-depressant
Prolonged sadness, anxiety, the absence of appetite, insomnia or excessive sleepiness is some common signs of depression. Deficiency of neurotransmitters like serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine in the brain leads depression.
Monoamine oxidase (MAO) is an enzyme that decomposes these neurotransmitters. Research has given indicators that berberine has the ability to inhibit MAO activity and relieve symptoms of depression. By inhibiting MAO, berberine raises the concentration of key neurotransmitters in the brain, giving a clear improvement in the pharmacological treatment of depression.
2. Protect against inflammations
Berberine present in Oregon grape helps to slow abnormal cell growth in the skin and reduces inflammation. It can relieve the itching caused by skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis and allergic rashes.
3. For better Skin Conditions
When used on the skin, Oregon grape has been found to combat certain skin irritations. Researchers have concluded that herbal remedies are often more effective on dermatological conditions than pharmaceuticals, and the Oregon grapes power to help fight psoriasis and atopic dermatitis would seem to support that claim.
4. Digestive Health
Bitterness of this herb also has a positive effect on the digestive tract. It has a sedative effect on the smooth muscles lining the digestive tract and encourages the flow of bile, which loosens waste in the digestive tract and helps prevent a numerous complications, such as constipation, stomach cramps, diverticulosis, hemorrhoids, gallbladder disease, and irritable bowel syndrome.
5. Liver Health
Oregon grape root is famous among herbalists for its ability to stimulate liver function, improve the flow of bile, and for blood cleansing. Oregon grape root uses have traditionally included treating both liver congestion and infectious conditions of both the stomach and intestines. Another benefit of Oregon grape root is its functioning as an antimicrobial.
6. Act as antifungal
Oregon grape berries act as antifungal. Berberine found in Oregon grape is potential to fight against a wide range of bacteria and fungi. Berberine has the ability to prevent the growth of various Candida species, including Candida albicans.
There is also an indication that berberine kills Candida yeast strains that have become resistant to pharmaceutical antifungals such as fluconazole. Researchers discovered that Berberine was not only capable to inhibit the growth of the Candida strains, but to destruct the yeast cell until it could not survive. It could also destroy the Candida albicans plasma membrane.
7. Perform anti-amoebocidic
Berberine works on human cell’s DNA to prevent amoebas from take hold in the body. To consume this herb you can take it effectively as tinctures, glycerites, capsules, powder, oil, and salves. It’s very useful to take Oregon grape on trip with you where the hygiene is poor.
8. Bone Strengthener
Oregon grape root consists of a number of alkaloids that give it a very bitter taste that can take some getting used to if taken straight. However, the positive benefits of these alkaloids far outweigh the momentary discomfort that their bitter taste may cause. In China, where Oregon grape root is also replaced for the herb coptis, research have shown that one of the alkaloids the plant contains, berbamine, can help strengthen bone marrow and assist chemotherapy and radiation patients in their recovery.
9. Fights against cancer
Oregon grape is wonderful to fight against cancer. Researches have shown the relationship of berbamine and cancer-killing effect. Researchers have found that not only does berbamine aid with healing liver cancer, but it also helps with certain lung and stomach cancers, blood cancers, certain skin cancers, and an aggressive (highly metastatic) type of breast cancer.
Traditional uses and benefits of Oregon grape
- Some Plateau Indian tribes used Oregon-grape to treat dyspepsia.
- Certain extracts from Mahonia aquifolium may be useful in the treatment of inflammatory skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis.
- Oregon grape was often used by several native North American Indian tribes to treat loss of appetite and debility.
- Its current herbal use is mainly in the treatment of gastritis and general digestive weakness, to stimulate the kidney and gallbladder function and to reduce catarrhal problems.
- Root and root bark is alterative, blood tonic, cholagogue, diuretic, laxative and tonic.
- It improves the digestion and absorption and is taken internally in the treatment of psoriasis, syphilis, hemorrhages, stomach complaints and impure blood conditions.
- It has been used as a gargle for sore throats and as a wash for blurry or bloodshot eyes.
- Fruit is an excellent gentle and safe laxative.
- Berberine, universally present in rhizomes of Mahonia species, has marked antibacterial effects and is used as a bitter tonic.
- Since it is not appreciably absorbed by the body, it is used orally in the treatment of various enteric infections, especially bacterial dysentery.
- It should not be used with Glycyrrhiza species (Licorice) because this nullifies the effects of the berberine.
- Berberine has also shown anti-tumor activity.
- It is sometimes used in the treatment of jaundice, hepatitis, cirrhosis and general digestive problems.
- Oregon grape can kill or suppress the growth of candida and other fungal infections, staphylococcus, streptococcus, E. coli, Entamoeba histolytica, Trichomonas vaginalis, Giardia lamblia, Vibrio cholerae, and other harmful microbes.
- Tincture of the herb is used traditionally as both oral and topical herbal remedy to treat eczema, acne, conjunctivitis and herpes.
- It is also used in treatment of gall bladder disease, hemorrhages and a few forms of cancer.
- Native American tribes used Mahonia aquifolium as a treatment for fungal infections, skin problems and dysentery.
- Many tribal communities also used it for intermittent fevers accompanied by diarrhea.
- It was used by the Apache community as a gum remedy.
- It was also used for tuberculosis infections by the Nitinaht, Sanspoil, and Miwok people.
- Blackfoot community used it as a blood medicine, infant remedy, and for rheumatism.
- It was considered to be an effective remedy for liver and gallbladder ailments, gastrointestinal infections, constipation, malaria, syphilis, and uterine hemorrhage.
Ayurvedic Health benefits of Oregon grape
- Candidiasis: Take Oregon grape (Barberry) decoction. Drink 2-3 cups a day. OR have Barberry capsules. Else you can have Barberry extract. Barberry Tincture. Take 25-50 drops 3 times a day. (Caution: Adults- Do not take after 7 days. Children- Do not take after 3 days. Avoid use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.)
- Liver Tonic: Put One tablespoon Oregon grape root in one cup boiling water. Steep for 5 minutes and filter. Take One tablespoon 3-4 times a day.
- Giardiasis: Buy Berberis Aquifolium – Mother Tincture from a Homeopathic Shop. Take 10 drops of this tincture in one glass of water, once a day after meals.
- Acne: Take 1 tsp of chopped dried Oregon grape root, 1 tsp chopped Goldenseal root and 1 tsp of powdered Lavender. Mix them well. Boil in a glass of water for 20 minutes. Cool. Wash your face with it twice a day. OR: Add 1 tsp of powdered Oregon grape root and Goldenseal root in few drops of hot water. Prepare a paste. Add 4-5 drops of Lavender Oil. Apply on the affected area and let it dry. Rinse. Apply Aloe Vera gel if skin gets dry.
- Acne: Prepare a tincture of Oregon grape, Berberis Aristata, Coptis, and Golden Seal. Take 18-20 drops in 1/4 cup of water thrice a day up to 2 weeks.
- Blurred Vision: Take the leaves and the Flowers of Chickweed, Barberry, Marigold, Goldenseal, Oregon grape, Eyebright, Cornflowers. Prepare an infusion. Let it cool. Use as an eyewash, 2-3 times a day.
- Blurred Vision: Take the leaves and the Flowers of Eyebright, Goldenseal, Oregon grape, Chamomile, Marigold, Witch Hazel. Prepare an infusion. Use the infusion to dampen a soft cloth. Keep it over your eyelids, and lie down for 10 minutes.
- Acne: Take one tablespoon each of dried powdered Golden Seal root and Oregon Grape Root. Put these herbs in a cup of water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Let it cool. Strain and use it as a face wash.
- Liver Diseases: Prepare a powdered mixture of equal amount of Red clover, Fennel, Cleavers, Dandelion, Oregon grape root, Burdock root, Chickweed and Parsley root. Boil 1 to 2 cups of water. Add one teaspoon of the powered mixture in it. Allow it to get cool down. Consume 1 cup of tea once a day before breakfast.
- Small purplish-black fruits, which are quite tart and contain large seeds, are included in smaller quantities in the traditional diets of Pacific Northwest aboriginal peoples, mixed with Salal or another sweeter fruit.
- They are sometimes used to make jelly, alone or mixed with salal.
- Oregon grape juice can be fermented to make wine, similar to European barberry wine folk traditions, although it requires an unusually high amount of sugar.
- Fruit can be consumed raw or cooked.
- It has an acid flavor, but it is rather nice raw and is especially good when added to a porridge or muesli.
- Fruit can also be dried and stored for later use.
- Raw flowers can also be used to make a lemonade-like drink.
- Oregon grape makes a wonderful jelly.
- Try brewing Oregon grape berry wine or throw some berries into a pie or cobbler.
- Oregon-grape juice can be fermented to make wine, similar to European barberry wine folk traditions, although it requires an unusually high amount of sugar.
Dosage and Administration
- As a tea: Boil 1 to 3 teaspoons (5 to 15 grams) of chopped roots in 2 cups (500 ml) of water for 15 minutes. Strain and cool. Drink up to 3 cups (750 ml) per day.
- As a tincture: Take 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoons (3 ml) three times per day.
- As an ointment: To use topically, use an ointment with 10 percent Oregon grape extract applied three or more times daily.
Oregon grape Jelly
- Measure 6 cups of cleaned, rinsed Oregon grape berries
- Place berries in a cooking pot with 2 cups of water
- Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for 15 minutes. Use a large spoon to mash the berries against the side of the pot so the juice is released.
- Place a Foley food mill over another cooking pot. In 1 to 2 cup increments, turn the berries and juice through the food mill so that the seeds are separated. Remove the seeds from the mill before straining another batch.
- Once finished, measure your juice/pulp. It should yield about 3 cups. If you have less you can add a little water to bring your volume to 3 cups.
- Place a pot on the stovetop; add the juice, 1 ounce of pectin (about ½ of a liquid package) and the juice of ½ lemons. Stir well and then turn onto high heat, stirring consistently.
- Once the mixture is boiling, rapidly add 3 cups of sugar, return to a rolling boil and boil for exactly 1 minute. Remove from the burner.
- Place the jelly in clean hot canning jars, wipe the top of the jars to remove any spillage, cover with lids, and can in a water bath for 10 minutes. If any lids do not seal, refrigerate the jar of jelly and use within three weeks.
Oregon grape Lavender Jelly
- Measure 8 cups of clean, rinsed Oregon grape berries.
- Place berries in a cooking pot with 2 cups of water.
- Bring to a boil, turn down and simmer for 15 minutes as described above.
- Process berries and juice through a Foley Food Mill as described above.
- Measure 4 cups of the juice/pulp.
- Place the juice in a cooking pot, stir in 2 teaspoon of calcium water (included in Pomona’s Pectin, and 2 tablespoons of fresh or dried lavender.
- Measure 2 cups of honey and stir in 2 teaspoons of pectin.
- Bring the juice to a boil.
- Add the honey/pectin and stir vigorously for 1-2 minutes until the mixture returns to a boil. Remove from heat.
- Fill canning jars, seal and can for 10 minutes as described above.
- Roots stem, and leaves of this species are wild-collected for medicinal use and are traded in the medicinal, herbal, and landscaping markets.
- Mahonia species are supposedly used as a substitute for goldenseal.
- Yellow dye is obtained from the inner bark of the stem and roots.
- Foliage is occasionally used by florists for greenery and a small gathering industry has been established in the Pacific Northwest.
- Dark green, violet and dark blue-purple dyes are obtained from the fruit.
- Green dye is obtained from the leaves.
- M. aquifolium may be useful for erosion control.
- Oregon grape is the state flower of Oregon.
- Inner bark and roots of Oregon grape contain a bright yellow chemical called berberine.
- Berberine can act as a dye and is used to stain paper, silk, wool, leather, and wood.
- Barberry, goldenseal, Oregon grape and other plants containing Berberine should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- High doses may causes vomiting, lowered blood pressure, reduced heart rate, lethargy, nose bleed, skin & eye irritation, diarrhea, kidney infection and feelings of haziness and stupor.
- Oregon grape root may also interact with other herbs and certain pharmaceutical drugs and reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics such as doxycycline and tetracycline.
- Individuals with chronic health issues such as kidney disease, live disease, heart disease, or other serious conditions seek advice from a health professional before commencing treatment with Oregon grape.