Oregon Grape Root/Mountain Grape
Oregon Grape Root/Mountain Grape (Eleigang Putao)
Botanical Name: Western – Berberis (or Mahonia) nervosa, M. aquifolium, M. repens, M. fremontii. Eastern – B. sargentiana, B. thunbergii.
Oregon grape root is best known for treating infections and supporting the liver. These two particular strengths give this herb specific abilities with broad applications. The plant is well-known for its strong antibacterial, antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties. For example, it can treat infections that have become resistant to antibiotics (including urinary tract infections and mouth infections) and a wide range of conditions arising from a sluggish liver or liver congestion. It is a classically bitter, bitter herb. While the plant Barberry (Berberis vulgaris) has similar properties, it is in fact an entirely different plant. Oregon grape (Berberis nervosa) is considered the stronger of the two species.
Below is an overview of Oregon Grape Root/Mountain Grape (Eleigang Putao), combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Oregon Grape Root/Mountain Grape (Eleigang Putao).
Western Name: Oregon Grape Root/Mountain Grape
Also Known As: Oregon Grape, Holly-leaf Barberry, Mountain Grape, Oregon Grapeholly, Oregon Barberry, Creeping Barberry, Holly Mahonia, Mahonia
Organs/Systems: Digestive System, Liver, Skin, Lungs, Eyes
Key Western Actions & Medicinal Uses: Antibacterial, Antimicrobial, Hepatic, Detoxing, Antifungal, Antiviral, Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant, Cholagogue, Laxative, Antiparasitic, Antipyretic, Astringing. Liver stagnation, eczema, mouth infections, eye infections, skin infections, digestive tract infections, sore throats, acne, skin wounds, giardia, parasites, syphilis, toothaches.
Pin Yin: Eleigang Putao (translates as “Oregon Grape”)
Also Known As: San Kez Shen (B. sargentiana), Japanese Barberry (B. thunbergii)
Meridians: Liver, Stomach, Small and Large Intestines
Key TCM Actions & Medicinal Uses: Clears Heat/Drains Damp: stomach cramping, heartburn, diarrhea, bloating, constipation, bloody stools, abdominal pain, fever, restlessness, dry mouth, bleeding gums. Externally to treat Skin Disorders: psoriasis, skin infections, acne, douche for vaginal conditions with malodorous excretions and itching.
Parts Most Frequently Used: Roots, Rhizomes, Root Bark, Leaves, Berries
Flavors/Temps: Bitter, Cool, Sour, Dry, Astringing
Caution: Not recommended for long term daily use.
History/Folklore: The constituent berberine has had considerable attention paid to it and been the source of many studies. It is this bitter chemical that puts Oregon grape at the top of the list for many herbalists. Berberine is famous for decreasing bacterial resistance to antibiotics and aiding longevity. It is known for reducing blood glucose levels, stopping infections and moderating inflammation. Berberine alkaloids act on the DNA of cells to prevent amoebas from taking hold in the body. Berberine is what gives Oregon grape roots their yellowish color. Berberine is found in every part of the plant from the flowers to the roots. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, plants with berberine are often used to treat what are called Damp-Heat conditions.
Another constituent in Oregon grape is berbamine which helps strengthen bone marrow and aids the recovery from chemotherapy and radiation treatments. It is a calcium channel blocker that inhibits the growth of cancer cells. Traditional Chinese Medicine has made use of plants with this constituent for centuries to treat conditions caused by inflammation, including rheumatoid arthritis.
Oregon grape is a classic bitter herb. Bitter herbs are known for their ability to detox and for supporting the secretion of bile from the liver and gallbladder which helps to aid digestion, especially the digestion of fats.
Native Americans used a decoction of the root to treat loss of appetite and debility. They also used it to treat tuberculosis, rheumatism and jaundice. They also used the root to make a yellow dye for baskets and clothing. The berries were also used to make jelly.
In the Southwest, Spanish colonials used the species M. fremontii calling it “Palo Amarillo” or “Fremont’s barberry.” They used it to treat fevers, hepatitis and malaria.
Oregon grape is excellent for treating wounds as it will help keep the area free from infection and swelling. The plant’s antimicrobial properties also make it a wonderful herb for treating lung and sinus infections.
The herb was used as a cure against syphilis. Many physicians felt it worked best if the condition had become chronic.
Traditionally the herb is prepared by either using the roots to make teas or tinctures. Used externally, oregon grape helps fight psoriasis.
In China, the herb coptis is often substituted for oregon grape. Seventeen different varieties of Berberis are used, all containing the constituent berberine. They are primarily used to treat intestinal infections and to stimulate the uterus.
The herb Barberry (Berberis vulgaris), also known as Berberry, Pipperidge, Jaundice Berry or Sow Berry, is a member of the same Berberidaceae family of plants as Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium or Mahonia aquifolia), but it is in fact a different plant. Barberry is a thorny, deciduous shrub that can grow to be ten feet tall with leathery leaves, yellow flowers and red berries. These two plant species are often used interchangeably, though Oregon grape is considered the stronger and more restorative of the two species. It is also more focused on the liver than barberry.
Closely related to the herb barberry (Berberis vulgaris), Oregon grape (Berberis nervosa) adapts more easily to its environment, making it easier to grow in your garden.
Berberine, Alkaloids, Berbamine, Oxyberberine, Oxyacanthin berberine, Hydrastine, Vitamin C, Tannins, Resins.
Berries and Leaves
Oregon grape leaves and berries can be eaten, but be aware, they are quite sour tasting!
Similar to Goldenseal
Oregon grape has similar properties to goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) and is often used instead as goldenseal is close to extinction in the wild. Like goldenseal, Oregon grape is an herb used on an “as-needed” basis and not daily.
Oregon grape is the state flower of the state of Oregon in the United States.
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