Scientific name : Berberis vulgaris L.
Vernacular name : Barberry
Botanics and ecology
This multi-ramified shrub, fluted, with trifucarted thorns, used to be very common, and often used as hedgerows, but later was systematically torn up when it was discovered that it harboured the wheat stem rust Puccinia graminis. It has small, oval, dentate leaves, flowers with 6 sepals and 6 petals, arranged in dangling clusters; its fruit are small, bright red oblong berries, which are edible. Barberry grows on sunny limestone slopes and the rocky fields of temperate Europe.
The bark of the root, yellow in colour, was known in popular medicine to treat jaundice, applied in the form of herbal tea. This use demonstrated the principle of the theory of signatures. The plant was also used to dye leather, and to manufacture a bitter medicinal tonic wine used to stimulate the digestive functions.
Protoberberines : berberine, palmatine, magnoflorine, jatrorrhizine, columbamine and bisbenzyltetrahydroisoquinoline: oxyancanthine, berbamine.
Drug: the bark of the dried root
Berberine, the plant’s main alkaloid, gives its yellow colour to the root, and has been exhaustively studied in pharmacology.
Hepatoprotective effects in vitro and in vivo in trial models of intoxication by chemical pollutants (Carbon tetrachloride, Atrazine, Glyphosate, Bisphenol A, Mitomycin C) or medicines (Paracetamol). (Gasnier et al. 2010 et 2011 ; Di Giorgio et al. 2015 ; Janbaz et Gilani, 2000).
Anti-inflammatory effects (Kuo et al. 2004)
Anti-hypertensive effects (Fatehi et al. 2005)
Berberine et berbamine have an antibacterial activity on different cell lines (Candida albicans…) (Freile et al. 2003; Stermitz et al. 2000 ; Park et al. 1999).
The drug is choleretic.
Drops, granule or trituration in low homeopathic dilutions, herbal tea.
The plant is registered in the French pharmacopeia, and has a control monograph. It is not an over the counter medication.
No embryofoetal toxicity (Jahnke et al. 200)
No subacute toxicity (Wong et al. 1991)
DL50 in mice by i.p. 24,3 mg/kg way (Sax, 1979)
Current therapeutic uses
Herbalists recommend barberry in herbal tea in cases of hepatic disorders. Used more often in homeopathy, this plant is referenced in the Materia Medica for its tropism of action on the kidneys, the major organs for the excretion of toxic elements via the urinary function, and also facilitates the elimination of metabolic waste. Berberis is indicated in cases of toxic overload as well as digestive problems (acid reflux, bad breath, joint pains (pains of the small joints, attacks of gout), skin problems (redness, itching) or urinary symptoms (kidney stones or repeated infections.) It stimulates diuresis.
Demarque D et al.
Pharmacologie & matière médicale homéopathique.
CEDH  2007
Di Giorgio C et al.
In vitro and in vivo antimutagenic effects of DIG, a herbal preparation of Berberis vulgaris, Taraxacum officinale and Arctium lappa, against mitomycin C. »
J Nat Med. DOI 10.1007/s11418-015-0886-8. Published on line: 10 February 2015
Freile ML et al.
Antimicrobial activity of aqueous extracts and of berberine isolated from Berberis heterophylla. Fitoterapia. 2003;74(7-8)702-5
Gasnier C et al.
-Dig1 protects against cell death provoked by glyphosate-based herbicides in human liver cell lines.
J of Occupational Medecine and Toxicology. 2010; 5:29
-Defined plant extracts can Protect human cells against combined xenobiotic effets.
J of Occupational Medecine and Toxicology. 2011; 6 :3
Guermonprez M et al.
Matière médicale homéopathique.
CEDH  2005
Jahnke GD et al.
Developmental Toxicity Evaluation of Berberine in Rats and Mice.
Birth Defect Research. 2006(77)195-206
Janbaz KH, Gilani AH.
Studies on preventive and curative effects of berberine on chemical-induced hepatotoxicity in rodents.
Kuo CL et al.
The anti-inflammatory potential of berberine in vitro and in vivo.
Cancer Lett. 2004;203(2)127-37
Le Livre des Arbres, Arbustes & Arbrisseaux.
Actes Sud  2004
Park KS et al.
Differential inhibitory effects of protoberberines on sterol and chitin biosyntheses in Candida albicans.
J Antimicrob Chemother. 1999;43(5)667-74
Dangerous properties of industrial materials. Fith edition.
Ed: Van Nostrand Reinhold Compagny. 1979
Stermitz FR et al.
Synergy in a medicinal plant: antimicrobial action of berberine potentiated by 5′-methoxyhydnocarpin, a multidrug pump inhibitor.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000;97(4)1433-7
Tsai PL, Tsai TH.
Hepatobiliary excretion of berberine.
Drug Metab Dispos. 2004;32(4)405-12
Wong CW et al.
Related Articles, Links.
Comparative immunopharmacology and toxicology of the bisbenzylisoquinoline alkaloids tetrandrine and berbamine.
Int J Immunopharmacol. 1991;13(5)579-85