Barberry is a bush that grows wild in Europe and North America. It is closely related to
). The root, stem, bark, and fruit of barberry are all used medicinally. Barberry was traditionally used as a treatment for digestive problems, including constipation, diarrhea, dyspepsia (stomach upset), heartburn, and loss of appetite. It was said to work by increasing the flow of bile, and on this basis it has also been used for liver and gallbladder problems. Topical preparations of barberry have been recommended for the treatment of eczema, psoriasis, and minor wounds.
There are no medically established uses of barberry. Only
double-blind placebo-controlled studies
, can establish a treatment effective, and none have been performed on barberry. (For information on why this type of study is essential, see
Why Does This Database Rely on Double-Blind Studies?
Very weak evidence (too weak to be relied upon at all) hints that barberry root extracts may have anti-inflammatory, fever-reducing, and analgesic (pain-reducing) effects.
Similarly weak evidence hints that barberry fruit may have antihypertensive and antihistaminic effects.
, contains the chemical berberine. There has been some studies of purified berberine that might apply to barberry, as well. Berberine inhibits the growth of many microorganisms, including fungi, protozoa, and bacteria.
In one placebo-controlled study, berberine effectively reduced lung injury among lung cancer patients receiving radiation therapy.
On this basis, berberine has been proposed as a topical antiseptic for use in
. Berberine has also shown potential as a treatment for various heart-related conditions, including reducing
high blood pressure
However, it is not clear that barberry provides enough berberine to produce any of these potential benefits.
Topical formulations of the related plant
have shown some promise for
and barberry has been marketed for this condition as well. However, there is no direct evidence that it works.
Barberry is traditionally used at a dose of 2 grams three times daily, or an equivalent amount in extract form. For treatment of
and other skin conditions, barberry is used in the form of a 10% cream, applied to the skin three times daily.
One study suggests that topical use of berberine could cause photosensitivity (an increased tendency to react to sun exposure.
Berberine-containing herbs should not be used by pregnant women because berberine may increase levels of bilirubin,
potentially damaging the fetus, and might also cause genetic damage.
Individuals who already have elevated levels of bilirubin (jaundice), or any other form of liver disease, should also avoid berberine-containing herbs.
Safety in young children and nursing women has not been established.
One study hints that berberine may decrease the efficacy of the drug tetracycline.
If you are using antibiotics in the
family, barberry might decrease their effectiveness.
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Last reviewed September 2014 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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