Barberry (Berberis vulgaris) has been used in Indian folk medicine for centuries, and the Chinese have used berberine, a component of barberry, since ancient times. Barberry is also popular in Iran and is included in both British and Indian pharmacopoeias. The first documented use of berberine was in 1933 for trachoma (a bacterial eye infection).
Barberry is widely grown in North America and is found in 31 American states and four Canadian provinces, particularly those along the Eastern Seaboard and in the Midwest.
Historically, barberry was commonly used for its antidiarrheal and antibiotic properties. In traditional medicinal practices, it has been used to treat metabolic disorders, diabetes, cystitis, joint pain, and symptoms of menopause. It is used in the form of a liquid extract or consumed as component of spices (i.e., kotsakhuri). In general, a salt of the alkaloid berberine is administered.
Early studies have shown berberine to have promising anti-inflammatory and blood sugar-lowering effects, and future clinical research is warranted in these areas.
Many clinical trials have been conducted using berberine, but none have investigated the actions of barberry as a whole plant. There is strong evidence to support berberine's use in the treatment of trachoma (an eye infection), diarrhea, and leishmaniasis (a disease spread by the bite of the female sandfly), but there is a lack of evidence indicating that barberry itself has efficacy and safety equivalent to that of berberine.

Related Terms

Agracejo (Spanish), agrecejo, almindelig berberis (Danish), alvo (Spanish), anthocyanins, berbamine, Berberidaceae (family), Berberidis cortex, Berberidis radicis cortex, berberine, berberine bisulfate, berberine chloride, Berberis amurensis, Berberis aristata, Berberis asiatica, Berberis chitria, Berberis croatica, Berberis dumetorum, Berberis heterophylla, Berberis koreana, Berberis lycium, Berberis × ottawensis, Berberis thunbergii spp., Berberis vulgaris, berberitze, berberrubine, berberry, bervulcine, cannabisin G, columbamine, crespino (Italian), Croatian barberry, curcuma, Daruharidra, épine-vinette (French), European barberry, flavonols, green barberry, green hornet barberry, isotetrandine, Japanese barberry, jatorrhizine, jaundice berry, Korean barberry, kotsakhuri, Lebanon barberry, (+/-)-lyoniresinol, mountain grape, orange rocket barberry, oxyacanthine, oxycanthine, palmatine, pipperidge bush, piprage, -(p-trans-coumaroyl)tyramine, purple barberry, red barberry, Sauerdorn (German), sowberry, tannins, uva-espin (Portuguese), vinettier (French), vulcracine.
Note: For further information regarding barberry's constituent berberine, please see the Berberine monograph.

evidence table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Arthritis (Grade: C)
Results from high-quality studies are currently lacking to support to use of barberry (
Dental plaque and gingivitis (Grade: C)
Current preliminary research suggests a potentially beneficial effect of aqueous barberry extract on dental plaque and gingivitis. High-quality studies on the use of barberry for dental health are needed.
Metabolic disorders (metabolic syndrome) (Grade: C)
Preliminary research in humans suggests that barberry may improve the lipid profile (cholesterol levels, etc) in individuals with type 2 diabetes. High-quality studies are needed before a conclusion for the use of barberry on metabolic syndrome can be drawn.