Berberis vulgaris

A deciduous shrub growing 2-3m in height. Clusters of yellow-orange, fragrant flowers bloom late in spring and are followed by red fruits, ovoid in shape. The leaves are green, entire, small-toothed and occur in groups.

Family: Berberidaceae

Which probiotic is it in?: Barberry is a key herb in Detox

Habit and cultivation: The name Berberis is of unknown Latin origin. In Saxon the word means fence with thorns and the bush is used in fencing before the invention of fencing wire. European originally, introduced to England, Australia and New Zealand in the early 19 century. Grown from seed, cutting or layers, and can become a pest as self sowing. Frost resistant and drought tender.

Actions (known for): Alterative, aperient, cholagogue, digestive tonic, hepatotonic.


Berberis is the Arabic name of the fruit, signifying a shell. The Italians call it the Holy Thorn as it is thought to have formed part of the crown of thorns made for Jesus. It has also been used as a fine yellow dye for wool, leather and linen.

Parts used:

Root, root bark and stem bark.

Constituents (bio available chemicals):

Alkaloids: berberine, oxyacanthine, palmatine, berbamine. Chelidonic acid. Tannins. Wax. Resin.

Nutritional constituents:

Vitamin C. Minerals: Iron, copper, zinc and manganese.


Acne, arthritis, boils, cholecystitis, gastrointestinal catarrh, eczema, gallstones, gallbladder disorders, gout, jaundice, psoriasis, skin disorders topically, urticaria.


Liquid extract (1:2): 20-40ml per week. Decoction: 0.5-1gm 3 x daily.

British Herbal Pharmacopoeia


Cautions for therapeutic doses

Pregnancy, first trimester.

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