Berberis aquifolium

As a purely bitter herb, Oregon grape root is used easily with Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Oregon grape root is a useful substitute for goldenseal. Among its many properties, Oregon grape root contains berberine, phytochemicals and tannins.

Oregon Grape Root as an Herb for Medicinal Uses

Among the “damp heat” conditions it’s been known to treat are:

  • Abdominal fullness and distention
  • Constipation alternating with diarrhea
  • Foul-smelling loose stools
  • General feeling of heaviness
  • Nausea
  • Reduced appetite
  • Reduced thirst although with the sensation of dry mouth
  • Sticky, thick, and yellow or green mucous discharges
  • Watery, oozing skin eruptions
  • “Red” symptoms: red tongue, hot flushes, bad temper, rapid pulse

Oregon Grape Root is also used as a treatment for skin diseases, as a treatment for prostate infection, as a blood cleanser, to stimulate the liver and gall bladder, and as a mild laxative.

Externally, a decoction of the root bark can be used as a liniment for arthritis.

Oregon grape root’s best-researched application in modern herbal medicine is in the treatment of chronic inflammatory skin conditions, such as psoriasis.

Traditional herbal medicine also uses Oregon grape root to stop diarrhea. It slows the passage of the stool through the small intestine, while keeping bacteria from implanting themselves in the lining.

Oregon grape root is used as tea, tincture and it may be administered in capsule form. Proper dosage is important:

  • Tea: 1 to 2 grams (1/2 to 1 teaspoon) of dried root steeped in 150 ml (approximately 2/3 of a cup) of hot water for 10 to 15 minutes three times daily.
  • Tincture: 3 to 6 ml. (1/2 to 1-1/2 teaspoon) three times daily (but no more than three doses of any kind of Oregon grape root product per day).
  • For skin disorders: 10 percent tincture in ointment, applied to the skin three times daily.

Culinary Uses of Oregon Grape Root

Unknown; not recommended.


Limit use to 7 consecutive days at a time, waiting at least a week before using the herb again. (This gives the natural, helpful bacteria of the intestine a chance to recover.) Do not use during pregnancy.

Taking vitamin B6 supplements can give infectious bacteria resistance to the antibacterial toxins in the herb. Don’t take vitamin B supplements while you are taking Oregon grape root.

Do not take Oregon grape root if you are taking antibiotics for diarrhea.

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