Oregon Grape

Mahonia aquifolium

A hardy, quick growing, evergreen shrub, growing to 1.8m (6ft) in height. The shiny, alternate green leaves are spineless at the base. The yellow to green intensely aromatic flowers gather in clusters. The blue/black berries have up to 9 seeds. The root is odourless with a bitter taste.

Family: Berberidaceae

Which probiotic is it in?: Oregon Grape is a key herb in Detox

Habit and cultivation: This hardy shrub was native to British Columbia in Canada, traveling down to Oregon. It was introduced to the UK and many of the cooler temperate climates of the world in the early 18th century. Grown from seed or cutting, both frost and drought resistant, it needs very little attention.

Actions (known for): Anti-catarrhal (upper respiratory tract), anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, bitter tonic, cholagogue and tonic to the spleen.


Named in honour of Bernard McMahon, American horticulturalist, in 1816. Utilised by the native Americans as medicine and as a yellow dye to colour baskets and wool. Also eaten and dried, made into jelly and used in the making of local wines from the juice. Also used in flower arranging as ornamental foliage.

Parts used:

Rhizome and root.

Constituents (bio available chemicals):

Aporphine alkaloids, aquifoline, armoline, baluchistine, berbamine, berberine, bisbenzylisoquinoline alkaloids, columbamine, corytuberine, isocorydine, isothebaine, jatorrhizine, magnoflorine, obamegine, oxyacanthine, oxyberberine, protoberberine, alkaloids and tannins.

Nutritional constituents:

Minerals: manganese, silicon, sodium, copper and zinc.


Acne, boils, impaired digestion, gall stones and gallbladder disorders, bacterial overgrowth in the gut, gout, liver disease, rheumatic conditions, urticaria, psoriasis. Topically: acne and psoriasis.


Liquid extract (1:2): 20-50ml per week. Decoction: 1-2g 3 x daily.

British Herbal Pharmacopoeia

Psoriasis, eczema, catarrhal gastritis with cholecystitis.

Cautions for therapeutic doses

Avoid during first trimester of pregnancy.

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