Oregon Grapes: Benefits, Side Effects, Dosages, and Interactions


The Oregon grape ( Mahonia aquifolium or Berberis aquifolium ) is a medicinal plant in the Berberidaceae family of plants. Long before Europeans and other immigrants began arriving in the United States, Native tribes used Oregon grapes to treat many ailments, including fever , arthritis , jaundice , diarrhea , and other illnesses.

The herb has also been used in local cultures to stimulate the appetite. Today, Oregon grapes are commonly used as a substitute for yellow root (currently considered an endangered species due to overharvesting), offering similar antimicrobial properties.

The Oregon grape is a bushy perennial with shiny, holly-like leaves. When fully grown, the shrub is 2 to 6 feet tall. It produces edible blackish-blue berries with an unpleasant taste, similar to very small grapes.

In early spring, clusters of yellow flowers bloom on the plant, followed by bluish-black, grape-colored berries. After a few years of the life cycle, the leaves of the plant turn bright red. The golden yellow roots of the plant are used for their medicinal properties.

Also know as

Other names used for Oregon grapes include holly-leaf barberry, mountain grapes, Oregon holly, Oregon barberry, blue barberry, creeping barberry, holly barberry, holly berberis, Mahonia holly, Mahonia, Mahilingonia aquifolium , Mahoperie, climbing Ouva de Oregon, Vigne de l'Oregon and the water holly.

The name "Oregon Grape" is somewhat misleading because the fruit it produces is not actually a grape, and although it grows in the highlands of the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, including Oregon, it is known to thrive in many others. areas. countries too.

In fact, the Oregon grape is native to western North America to southeastern Alaska, northern California, and Alberta, Canada, to central New Mexico. It can often be seen in the Douglas fir forests and in the scrublands of the Rocky Mountains, Cascades and Northern Sierras.

Many herbalists and medical experts disagree with the Oregon grape's scientific name, some say the plant comes from the same plant as Berberis aquifolium , but others say there are slight differences between B. aquifolium and M. aquifolium.

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What are Oregon grapes used for?

Oregon grape root has been used in medicinal herbs to treat many ailments including colds, flu, herpes, hepatitis, syphilis, indigestion, cancer , skin conditions, yeast infections, and more. Herbalists have touted the use of Oregon grapes, stating that they are effective in stimulating liver function, treating infections, and maintaining a healthy digestive system.

It is important to note that there are limited results from clinical studies investigating the health and safety benefits of Oregon grapes.

In fact, most of the published clinical research results for Oregon grapes have focused on using the herb's root in a topical cream (applied to the skin) to treat a skin condition called psoriasis.

Oregon grapes are also used for their digestive stimulant properties (relieving spasms in the intestinal tract), antimicrobial properties (including antifungal, antibacterial and antiparasitic effects), immunostimulating and anti-inflammatory properties.

Medical use

Oregon grapes have been shown to help lower blood sugar levels in insulin resistant patients. It also has some cholesterol lowering effects .

The herb has traditionally been used for ailments including eye infections, acne, athlete's foot, gastrointestinal ailments, skin conditions, and more, although the amount of scientific research on these claims is limited.

Some studies have shown that Oregon grapes can be effective in treating giardia (a type of infectious diarrhea), eczema (an inflammatory skin condition), and as a herbal remedy for urinary tract infections.

The main medicinal component of Oregon grapes, berberine, has been shown to have antibacterial properties that are helpful in treating various infections, including throat, intestinal, and urinary tract infections.

However, more scientific evidence is needed to definitively confirm the claims that all Oregon grape grass (not just berberine) is safe and effective in treating these infections.

Extensive medical research has shown that Oregon grapes can be safe and effective in treating psoriasis (a common skin condition in which skin cells form scales and red, itchy, sometimes painful spots).

How does it work

Berberine, an alkaloid derived from many herbs, including yellow root, barberry, and other herbs in the Berberis L genus, is known to have antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Alkaloids are believed to help fight various types of infections and are used to alleviate conditions such as infectious diarrhea, chronic yeast infection (long-term yeast infection), and others.

Oregon grapes are also believed to slow the overproduction of immature skin cells and reduce inflammation in a skin condition called psoriasis.

Scientific investigation

Research has shown that the active ingredient, berberine, found in Oregon grapes, is used effectively to treat diarrhea caused by E. coli infections.

Berberine is believed to slow intestinal motility in people with diarrhea; it also inhibits bacterial growth and improves the properties of immune cells, helping to prevent infections (especially throat, bowel and urinary tract infections).

Another study found that Oregon grapes, used in ointment form, were effective in reducing itching, irritation, and inflammation in people with mild to moderate psoriasis. The study used whole Oregon grape extracts and was found to reduce inflammation (a common symptom of psoriasis) and stimulate white blood cell production.

In a 2006 double-blind study (the gold standard of clinical trials), 200 participants were divided into two groups. One group was given a cream containing 10% Oregon grape extract, the other group was given a placebo twice a day for three months.

Study results showed that those who received the Oregon grape cream benefited more from skin conditions than those who took the placebo.

Possible side effects.

There are several reported side effects from consuming Oregon grapes, including:

  • Itching, burning, and irritation (where topical cream is applied)
  • Rash (especially when applied topically)
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Inflammation and irritation of the kidneys.
  • Allergic reactions
  • Liver toxicity

Possible drug interactions

Some medications can interact with Oregon grapes and interfere with the body's ability to break down certain types of medications in the liver. Anyone taking prescription medication should consult a doctor before taking Oregon grapes.

Some examples of medications that should not be taken with Oregon grapes include:

  • Cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune)
  • Tetracycline
  • Doxycycline
  • Any medicine that is substituted by the liver.

Some medications that are broken down in the liver can be broken down differently (causing increased side effects of some medications).

Before consuming Oregon grapes, be sure to check with your healthcare professional to make sure they are safe, especially with any medications. This includes other herbal supplements, over-the-counter medications, and dietary / drug supplements.

Safety measures

Oregon grapes are not recommended for pregnant women (they are believed to cross the placental barrier and may harm the fetus). Oregon grapes are not safe for breastfeeding; Brain damage has been reported in newborns exposed to berberine, which can be passed to the baby through breast milk.

The safety of Oregon grapes for children (especially newborns) has not been established.

A condition called kernicterus that affects the brain. Harm to newborns has been reported from the use of berberine and it should not be used in premature babies with jaundice (studies have shown that berberine worsens jaundice).

Safety for people with severe liver or kidney problems has not been established, and people allergic to other herbs in the Berberidaceae family should not consume Oregon grapes.

It is recommended to consume Oregon grapes (taken internally) no more than two to three weeks before taking a break. Long-term internal use is not recommended; Long-term use has been found to cause adverse reactions such as damage to natural probiotics in the gastrointestinal system and liver toxicity.

Some medical experts report that there is not enough medical research to show that Oregon grapes are safe to eat.

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Dosage and preparation

Oregon grapes are commonly used as tea by boiling a few teaspoons (5 to 15 grams) of crushed roots in 2 cups (500 ml) of water for 15 minutes, then cooling and filtering the mixture.

While more research is needed to ensure the safety of consuming Oregon grapes, herbalists recommend no more than 3 cups of tea (750 milliliters) per day.

Oregon grapes are used as a tincture, which is a mixture of herbs and alcohol taken at a dose of 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon (3 ml) three times a day.

As a topical (on the skin) cream for psoriasis, a company called Relieva, Apollo Pharmaceutical, commercially produces a special blend of 10% cream with Oregon grape bark extract that is applied two to three times a day to the area. affected (for eight people). ). weeks) skin. Creams containing 10% Oregon grape root tincture are also available.

What to look for

Make sure the Oregon grape product is wild (harvested from wild plants in Oregon). For the tincture, make sure the processing method includes a cold processing method as it extracts the maximum concentration of nutrients and herbal ingredients from the herb.

Get the word of drug information

Although Oregon grapes are used as a medicinal herb taken internally, some experts warn against the safety of using an herbal supplement internally. This is because clinical studies lack sufficient evidence for the safety and efficacy of oral Oregon grape root (by mouth).

Some people have been known to ingest "grapes" from plants, but research does not support the safety of this form of use either. As with all herbal supplements, always consult with a trusted healthcare provider before using Oregon grapes in any form, but especially before consuming them.

Frequently asked questions

  • Oregon grape root is used as a medicinal agent to treat conditions like colds, flu, herpes, hepatitis, syphilis, indigestion, etc. However, there is limited scientific evidence of its health and safety benefits. Talk to your doctor before trying it for any medical condition.

  • Depending on the desired health benefits, Oregon grapes can be eaten, applied topically as a cream, or used in a tincture. A tincture is a solution that is made by dissolving or infusing an herb in alcohol.

  • Yes, Oregon grapes are available over the counter as a topical cream. It can be used to treat psoriasis, an autoimmune disease in which the skin becomes scaly and irritated. If you suspect you have psoriasis, consult your doctor before self-medicating with Oregon grapes or other remedies.

  • No. Berberine is a chemical derived from Oregon grapes. It is also found in yellow corn ( Hydrastis canadensis ) and barberry ( Berberis vulgaris ). Berberine is an ingredient in Oregon grapes that is believed to impart antibacterial and antifungal properties to the herb.

  • Yes. Berries (not grapes) are edible, but they don't taste like grapes at all. They are actually very tart, but they are rich in vitamin C. Note that there is limited scientific evidence on the safety of Oregon grapes when consumed internally. Unlike the root of the Oregon grape, the berries do not have medicinal properties.

  • No. Although clinical studies have shown that berberine lowers blood sugar levels, Oregon grapes are not a herbal supplement that should be taken for a long time.

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