Scientific name: Berberis vulgaris

Common names: European Barberry, Common Barberry, Jaundice Berry, Pepperridge Bush, Sowberry

Ayurvedic names: Daruharidra

Chinese names:

Bangladesh names: Daruharidra

Arabic names:    البرباريس (al barbarees)

Rain Forest names:

Family: Berberidaceae

Approximate number of species known: 500+

Common parts used: Root, bark of the root or stem, fruit

Collection: August to September

Annual/Perennial: Perennial

Height: 0.75-1.15 metres

Actions:  Anti-bilious, anti-emetic, anti-fungal, anti-microbial, anti-septic, cholagogue, choleretic,  hepatic, purgative, tonic

Known Constituents:  Alkaloids (up to 13%) including berberine,  oxyancanthine, cheliodnic acid; tannins, Vitamin C   berries: citric acid, malic acid

Constituents Explained:


A deciduous shrub with thorny branches.

Native to Northwest Africa, west Asia, central, southern and northern Europe, Britain, Scandinavia and North America.

Roots are thick and creeping. 

Stem is grey. 

Leaves are small and oval, 2-5cm long and 1-2cm wide with very small serrations down the side tending to grow in clusters of 2-5.

Flowers are yellow, 4-6mm wide and grow on panicles that are 3-6mm long.

The edible berries are red with a very sour taste.

Traditional Use:

Primarily a liver and gallbladder herb once used for malaria, fever and diarrhea.

The root bark contains bitter alkaloid berberine.

Sometimes used in tonic form for gastro-intestinal infections and for enlarged spleen.

Lowers blood pressure by dilating the arteries.

Used as a purgative.

The fruit has been used in jams.  

Taken as a blood purifier, mouth and eyewash.

It is also believed to alleviate fever, diarrhea, upset stomach, cardiovascular diseases, epilepsy and vitality.

Clinical Studies:

Antioxidant activities of the ethanolic extracts of roots, twigs and leaves of common barberry (Berberis vulgaris L.) and Croatian barberry (Berberis croatica Horvat) were studied. All the extracts were found to possess some radical-scavenging and antioxidant activities, as determined by scavenging effect on the DPPH free radical, reducing power and beta-carotene-linoleic acid model system.

With the exception of the beta-carotene-linoleic acid test, antioxidant activity correlated well with the content of main plant antioxidants, phenols and flavonols, which suggests an important role of these compounds in overall antioxidant activity of investigated plant organs. 

Extracts obtained from the roots of Berberidaceae 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. 

In the present study the anti-inflammatory properties of total ethanol extract (TEE), three alkaloid fractions, a major alkaloid berberine and oxyacanthine isolated from Berberis vulgaris roots were compared. All these were applied in acute inflammation, as the TEE showed the highest reducing effect. Also, the TEE was most effective in a chronic inflammatory model of adjuvant arthritis. 


Zoyco Koncic M, Kremer D, Karlovic K, Kosalec I. “Evaluation of Anti-Oxidant Activities And Phenolic Content Of Berberis Vulgaris L. And Berberis Croatica Horvat.” 2010 August.

Ivanovska N, Philipov S. “Study On The Anti-Inflammatory Action Of Berberis Vulgaris Root Extract, Alkaloid Fractions, And Pure Alkaloids.” 1996 October

Source material:

Herb Name: Barberry

Others names: Berberis, Berberry, Common barberry, and Jaundice berry 

Latin name: Berberis vulgaris

Family: Berberidaceae

Common part used: Fruits, Bark, Root

Description: Barberry is a plant with a yellow-gray grooved stem, yellow roots, toothed leaves, and yellow flowers that turn into oval red fruits.

Properties: Barberry is an herb that is used in herbal medicine to assist in liver detoxification, to fight cancer, to reduce inflammation, to promote anti-aging, and to control blood pressure. This bitter herb helps to detoxify the body, is a digestive tonic and liver stimulant.

Contents: It contains protoberberine alkaloids (berberine, jatrorrhizine, columbamine, and palmitine) and isoquinoline. 

Internal use: Barberry is remarkable for its infection and disease fighting properties. This herb helps to kill the microorganisms that cause wound infection, diarrhea, dysentery, giardiasis, urinary tract infections, and vaginal yeast infections. Berberine stimulates the microbe-devouring white blood cells (macrophages), and boosts the immune system. Barberry is a good liver tonic and detoxifier. The root bark possesses some excellent liver stimulant properties, and can boost liver functioning and help to treat gallstones. Herbalists use Barberry to treat diarrhea and dysentery, gallstones, and high blood pressure. It is also used as supportive therapy for the treatment of cancer.

External use: Externally, Barberry ointment is very helpful for reducing psoriatic skin eruptions (proved by a study that was conducted in Germany). Berberine is commonly used in eye ointments to treat sensitive eyes and conjunctivitis. Barberry may also help to enlarge blood vessels, and thereby reduce blood pressure.

Essential oil and aromatherapy use: Not noted.

Safety precautions: Barberry in excess may cause vomiting, nausea, convulsions, low heartbeat, and low blood pressure. Barberry is contraindicated for pregnant women, and couples who are trying to conceive. Taken internally, Barberry may counteract blood thinners.