Barberry herb benefit, review of published studies
June 2 2016 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.

Barberry herb has been used in the Middle East, Europe, China, and India for healing purposes. For medicinal purposes, barberry plant has been studied in terms of its fruit and also in terms of its root. When evaluating research studies with barberry it is important to note the distinction between fruit extract and root extract. Often barberry is mentioned without making a distinction between the fruit and the root. The barberry root has a yellow color which indicates content of berbamine and berberine substances. Berberine is isolated as a main alkaloid from the roots and bark of Berberis vulgaris.

The barberry plant information
Barberry is a shrub growing up to 8 feet in height common to most areas of temperate Europe and the Northeastern regions of the United States. It produces a fruit (Fructis Berberidis) that can be harvested in early autumn.

Zyflamend with barberry extract

Substances and chemicals

Substances in the barberry plant include carbohydrates, organic acids, some vitamins, poliphenolic compounds, pectin, tannin, and minerals, jatrorrhizine, palmatine. Barberry also has berbamine and  berberine. Berberine is a plant alkaloid with a long history of medicinal use in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. It is present in Hydrastis canadensis (Goldenseal), Coptis chinensis (Coptis or goldenthread), Berberis aquifolium (Oregon grape), Berberis vulgaris (barberry), and Berberis aristata (tree turmeric). The berberine alkaloid can be found in the roots, rhizomes, and stem bark of the plants.

Barberry Benefit
Extracts from barberry fruit appear to have natural antihistamine and anti-allergy potential. See allergy for a list of herbs and nutrients that could potentially be helpful in reducing allergy symptoms. The common barberry is known as Berberis vulgaris.
   Extract of barberry herb may have beneficial effects on both the cardiovascular and neural system suggesting a potential use for treatment of hypertension, tachycardia and some neuronal disorders, such as epilepsy and convulsion. Traditionally barberry has been used for liver and gastrointestinal disorders along with anti-parasitic, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal activity.
   Barberry fruit extract has anti-hypertensive or blood pressure lowering potential.

Barberry use in Bulgaria
Extracts obtained from the roots of barberry species have been used in Eastern and Bulgarian folk medicine in rheumatic and other chronic inflammatory disorders. The investigations of the chemical composition and immunological properties show that their activity is mainly due to the alkaloid constituents, berberine and oxyacanthine.

Barberry herb research studies, benefit for heart rhythm and blood pressure
A pharmacological study on Berberis vulgaris fruit extract.
J Ethnopharmacol. 2005.
Berberis vulgaris fruit (barberry) is known for its anti-arrhythmic and sedative effects in Iranian traditional medicine. The effects of crude aqueous extract of barberry on rat arterial blood pressure and the contractile responses of isolated rat aortic rings and mesenteric bed to phenylephrine were investigated. The present data support the hypothesis that the aqueous extract of barberry has beneficial effects on both cardiovascular and neural system suggesting a potential use for treatment of hypertension, tachycardia and some neuronal disorders, such as epilepsy and convulsion.

Hypertension treatment
The antihypertensive and vasodilator effects of aqueous extract from Berberis vulgaris fruit on hypertensive rats.
Phytother Res. 2005.
The aqueous extract from Berberis vulgaris fruit - barberry - was tested to evaluate its antihypertensive effects on DOCA-induced hypertension in the rats. The present results suggest that the antihypertensive and vasodilatory effects of barberry fruit extract are mainly endothelial-independent and it may be used to treat hypertension, a status with endothelial dysfunction.

Determination of four alkaloids in Berberis plants by HPLC
Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2003.
By applying HPLC with gradiation elution, this method was developed for determination of four kinds of alkaloids including berbamine, Jatrorrhizine, berberine and palmatine in methanolic extracts from root bark, root, stem bark and stem of Berberis. The alkaloids berbamine, jatrorrhizine, berberine and palmatine shown good linear correlations. The optimized HPLC method was applied to analyze various samples, and the results shown that the content of alkaloids were obvious difference in Berberis from different area, different species and different parts.

Immune system and antibacterial
Antimicrobial activity of aqueous extracts and of berberine isolated from Berberis heterophylla.
Fitoterapia. 2003.
The antimicrobial activity of Berberis heterophylla leaves, stems and root aqueous extracts was studied in vitro on Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria and fungi. The in vitro antifungal activity of berberine isolated from the same source against different Candida species was also investigated.

Berberis aetnensis C. Presl. extracts: antimicrobial properties and interaction with ciprofloxacin.
Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2003.
Previous research showed that berberine-containing Berberis species synthesise the substances 5'-methoxyhydnocarpin-D (5'-MHC-D) and pheophorbide a, which have no antimicrobial activity but inhibit the expression of multidrug resistant efflux pumps (MDRs) in Staphylococcus aureus and potentiate the action of berberine. The MDR pumps extrude synthetic and natural antimicrobials from bacterial cells. We searched for these compounds in Berberis aetnensis C. Presl. (Berberidaceae), an endemic plant of the volcano Mount Etna. This work confirms the presence of pheophorbide a and permits us to hypothesise the presence of 5'-MHC-D in leaf extracts. In fact, the activity of ciprofloxacin was improved when two chromatographic fractions isolated from leaf extracts were added. These results are indicative of the presence of MDR pump inhibitors. Moreover, crude extracts were tested on several micro-organisms and showed antimicrobial activity mainly against Gram-positive bacteria and yeasts.

A comparative study on the anti-inflammatory, antinociceptive and antipyretic effects of isoquinoline alkaloids from the roots of Turkish Berberis species.
Life Sci. 2002.
Roots and barks of various Berberis species are used as folk remedy for the treatment of various inflammatory diseases such as lumbago, rheumatism and to reduce fever. Six isoquinoline alkaloids namely berberine, berbamine, palmatine, oxyacanthine, magnoflorine, and columbamine were isolated as the main components of alkaloidal fraction from the roots of Turkish Berberis species and effects were studied using various in vivo models in mice. All alkaloids inhibited inflammations in varying degrees, among them berberine, berbamine and palmatine were shown to possess significant and dose-dependent inhibitory activity against serotonin-induced hind paw oedema both on oral and topical applications and acetic acid-induced increase in vascular permeability on oral administration. Moreover, these three alkaloids were also shown to possess dose-dependent antinociceptive activity, which assessed by using the model based on the inhibition of p-benzoquinone-induced writhing movements as well as antipyretic activity on FCA-induced increased rectal temperature on subacute administration. However, all alkaloids induced gastric lesions in varying degrees.

Antihistaminic and anticholinergic activity of barberry fruit (Berberis vulgaris) in the guinea-pig ileum.
J Ethnopharmacol. 1999.
The antihistaminic and anticholinergic activity of aqueous extract of barberry fruits were investigated on isolated guinea-pig ileum, and dose response curves of histamine and acetylcholine with and without extract were plotted. The results indicated antihistaminic and anticholinergic activity of extract that seems to be of the competitive type.

Review article
Pharmacogn Rev. 2014. Phytochemistry and pharmacology of berberis species. The genus Berberis (Berberidaceae) includes about 500 species worldwide, some of which are widely cultivated in the north-eastern regions of Iran. This genus consists of spiny deciduous evergreen shrubs, characterized by yellow wood and flowers. The cultivation of seedless barberry in South Khorasan goes back to two hundred years ago. Medicinal properties for all parts of these plants have been reported, including: Antimicrobial, antiemetic, antipyretic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-arrhythmic, sedative, anti-cholinergic, cholagogic, anti-leishmaniasis, and anti-malaria. The main compounds found in various species of Berberis, are berberine and berbamine. Phytochemical analysis of various species of this genus revealed the presence of alkaloids, tannins, phenolic compounds, sterols and triterpenes.

Q. I have come across an herb from the Amazon called Agracelo (berberis vulgaris). Is Agracelo the same as barberry herb?
   A. This is a good question. We tried to find Agracelo on Medline but there was no mention of it. At this time I just don't know whether Agracelo and barberry are the same plant.

Q. I surfed your Internet site, I found new, wonderful information about berries and their medicinal benefits. I was wondering if you know or any reference you know about the famous berry that grows in Iran and used as food by the name of Zereshk. Most likely it is seedless barberry Bulgaris. Does the juice of this berry contain wonderful stuff such as berbamine and herberine, does the juice have the medicinal effects?
   A. I have not studied barberry herb or barberry juice to any great extent, but it appears to have some medicinal properties.

I read with interest your comments about berberis. I have in the past had high cholesterol readings but suffered severe joint problems with the statin medications, I had leg cramps at night and as a sufferer of arthritis these statins made me worse. When I read that muscle damage is a major side effect I spoke to my doctor. She had recently had a conversation with another doctor who suffered like me with joint pain and was also using statins. He had successfully tried a natural cholesterol lowering product called ARMOLIPID by Rottapharm which contains along with other things red yeast rice and spoke very highly of it. She suggested that I might like to try it as I had nothing to lose. I took her advice and have taken it for just over three months. I had a blood test a week ago and the results received today showed an amazing drop in my overall readings. I was overjoyed and so was the doctor. I really did not want to return to the statin meds. I noticed in your article that you needed to find a higher dose of berberis and this is in ARMOLIPID PLUS containing 588 mgs of berberis followed by red yeast rice. It also includes Coenzyme Q10, Folic Acid along with other things. I have purchased this one today to try to decrease my cholesterol levels further and protect the heart of course.

Barberry - red sour berries - is known as Zereshk in Iran and the Middle East.
Agracejo (Berberis thunbergii)