Oregon Grape / Mountain Grape
Oregon Grape / Mountain Grape (Gong Lao Mu)
Botanical Name: Western – Berberis (or Mahonia) aquifolium, M.nervosa, M. repens, M. fremontii. Eastern – Mahonia Bealei, M. Nutall, 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.
Watch a short video, from Ann Christensen, Founder and Creator of White Rabbit Institute of Healing™ – What is Oregon Grape Particularly Good at Treating?
Remember to check with your doctor before trying new medicines or herbal remedies, especially if you are taking other medication where drug interactions are possible.
Below is an overview of Oregon Grape / Mountain Grape, combining the best of Western Science, Oriental Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore, and a wide range of healing modalities. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Oregon Grape / Mountain Grape.
How to take FULL advantage of Oregon Grape / Mountain Grape's healing powers...
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Western Name: Oregon Grape / 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 Actions: Antibacterial, Antimicrobial, Hepatic, Detoxing, Antifungal, Antiviral, Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant, Cholagogue, Laxative, Antiparasitic, Antipyretic, Astringent, Disinfectant, Anticancer
Medicinal Uses: Liver stagnation, eczema, mouth infections, eye infections, skin infections, digestive tract infections, stomach ulcers, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux diseases), sore throats, yeast infections, hepatitis, jaundice, colds and flu, coughs, lowers cholesterol, regulates blood sugar, giardia, urinary tract infections, acne, skin wounds, psoriasis, parasites, syphilis, toothaches, inhibits lung and liver cancer.
Pin Yin: Gong Lao Mu (Radix Mahonia Bealei)
Also Known As: Chinese Mahonia, Shi Da Gong Lao, Mahonia Nutall, Eleigang Putao (translates as “Oregon Grape”), San Kez Shen (B. sargentiana), Japanese Barberry (B. thunbergii)
Meridians: Liver, Stomach, Small and Large Intestines, Lung
Key Actions: Clears Heat, Drains Damp, Calms Heart Fire, Tonifies Yin, Externally to treat Skin Disorders
Medicinal Uses: Stomach cramping, heartburn, diarrhea, bloating, constipation, bloody stools, abdominal pain, fever, restlessness, dry mouth, bleeding gums, psoriasis, skin infections, acne, lethargy, depression, herpes, hepatitis, yeast infections, douche for vaginal conditions with malodorous excretions and itching, tuberculosis, coughs, periodontitis, dysentery, eczema, and wounds.
There are over 450 species of Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium). It is a bushy, flowering, evergreen, perennial shrub that can grow between 2-6 feet tall. It’s holly-like leaves are shiny, dark green and prickly. They turn orange and eventually a bright red after a few years of aging. The plant’s flowers are yellow-green. It produces small blackish-blue berries in the autumn that look like tiny grapes. Mahonia Nutall is a genus of 70 species of evergreen shrubs in the family Berberidaceae, that includes Oregon grape.
Native to the Pacific Northwest in the United States. It is commonly found in mountainous regions, up to 7,000 feet and in woods from the state of Colorado to the Pacific Northwest, including Oregon, Northern California and as far north as British Columbia in Canada. Mahonia is a genus of 70 species of evergreen shrubs in the family Berberidaceae. Mahonia Nutall is native to eastern Asia, the Himalayas, and North and Central America.
Parts Most Frequently Used: Root, Rhizome, Root Bark, Leaf, Berry, Stem
Flavors/Temps: Bitter, Cool, Sour, Dry, Astringent
Caution: Considered safe but not recommended for long term daily use or during pregnancy.
Key Constituents: Berberine, Alkaloids, Berbamine, Oxyberberine, Hydrastine, Vitamin C, Tannins, Resins
History/Folklore: The constituent berberine has received considerable attention and has 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. It is found in every part of the plant from the flowers to the roots. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, plants containing 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 a variety of different plants with this constituent for centuries to treat conditions caused by inflammation, including rheumatoid arthritis.
The genus Mahonia Nutall, also in the family Berberidaceae, has a long history of use in TCM where the roots, stems, and leaves have all been used to treat a variety of ailments from tuberculosis, periodontitis, dysentery, eczema, to helping to heal wounds. It is also used to improve blood circulation, relieve coughs, ease pain, clear toxins, and eliminate Dampness.
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 plants are used, all containing the constituent berberine. They are primarily used to treat intestinal infections, to stimulate the uterus, and treat congested lungs.
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 aquifolium), 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.
Oregon grape is used as a flower essence to help overcome mistrust and paranoia associated with early childhood experiences that caused mistrust or left a person feeling starved for attention.
Berries and Leaves
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 recommended for common daily consumption.
How to use Oregon Grape / Mountain Grape (Gong Lao Mu) and take FULL advantage of it's healing powers!
Find out how to safely use this powerful herb and get specific recipes you can make use of immediately. Dive deep into Eastern and Western perspectives about HOW and WHY this herb works. Includes uses, benefits, essential oils, gardening tips, and much, much more.
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