Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium, Berberis aquifolium) is native to the west coast of North America, from British Columbia to northern California. It has yellow flowers, purple berries, and leathery leaves that resemble holly. It is not related to grape; however, the name "Oregon grape" originated from its purple clusters of berries that resemble grapes. It is a close relative of barberry (Berberis vulgaris).
The rhizome (underground stem), root, and bark, which are odorless and bitter, are collected in autumn to be used medicinally. Native Americans have traditionally used Oregon grape to treat various ailments, including digestive problems and inflammatory skin conditions. Studies in humans have shown that it may be effective against atopic dermatitis and psoriasis. Substances found in Oregon grape have been studied for their anticancer and antibacterial effects, although these uses have not been well studied in humans.
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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.
Several studies suggest that extract of Oregon grape applied to the skin is safe and effective in the treatment of psoriasis. More research is needed to make a firm conclusion.
According to human research, ointment- and cream-based extracts of Oregon grape applied to the skin may help treat atopic dermatitis. Further research is needed to determine the effect of Oregon grape alone.