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Oregon Grape – (Berberis acquifolium, Mahonia acquifolium)

Oregon Grape

Native to the northwest coast of North America, Oregon Grape is a bushy plant with leaves that resemble holly. In the spring, it blooms with clusters of yellow flowers that develop through the summer into small dark blue-purple berries that can be used in cooking. This is the state flower of Oregon. Transplanted outside its native area, it has been declared a noxious weed in some areas. It spreads easily by rhizome growth beneath the soil. The grape contains berberine, like goldenseal. This makes it a good substitute for the endangered goldenseal.

Key Medicinal Uses

Internally – Oregon Grape is used in Chinese medicine as a bitter herb. It is used to treat abdominal distention and fullness, loose stools, diarrhea and constipation, a feeling of general heaviness, nausea, reduced appetite, reduced thirst with a dry mouth and sticky, thick mucous discharges. It will prevent bacteria from implanting themselves in the intestinal lining. It will boost the immune system by encouraging action by the white blood cells. Berberine protects against viruses, fungi, worms, Chlamydia and protozoans as well as the bacteria. It can increase the blood platelet count and stop the multiplication of cancerous cells in the colon and bladder. It also works as a sedative on the digestive tract to relieve stomach cramps and pain.

Externally – Oregon Grape can be made into a topical cream that contains 10% herb. It can be applied to watery or oozing skin eruptions. It can also be used for inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.

Parts Used

Roots – The root of the grape is the portion used for herbal preparations.


If you suffer from chronic diarrhea, excessive stomach acid or a duodenal ulcer, do not take this herb. Avoid during pregnancy although it is safe during nursing unless the baby suffers from jaundice. It may prevent your intestines from absorbing tetracycline or other antibiotics.

Oregon Grape is bitter, and may cause nausea the first few doses. This normally passes after the first few tries. You should only take this herb, or any herb that contains berberine, for seven consecutive days at a time, then take a break of at least a week before taking it again. Don't take B vitamin supplements while taking the grape, as the B vitamins may help make the infectious bacteria resistant to the herb. This herb may be used for children, but no more than three doses in a row. They then need a full day off of the herb.

Preparation and Dosage

The herb can be used as a topical cream, as an herbal tea, a tincture or in capsules.

For Oregon grape herbal tea, add ½ to 1 teaspoon of dried root to 2/3 cup hot water and steep for 10 to 15 minutes. This tea can be taken up to three times per day. This is not the same if you are using the chopped herb rather than the dried root. For tincture, take 3 to 6 ml three times per day, but do not take more than three doses of any kind of the grape root preparation per day. So if you take a cup of herbal tea, only take two doses of the tincture within the same 24 hour period.

For skin problems, use 10% tincture in an ointment. Apply to the skin only three times per day.

Oregon Grape Herbal Remedies Top