What is Oregon Grape?
Oregon grape also known as Mahonia Aquifolium is a flowering plant which derives from the family of berberidaceae (barberry). Oregon grape is most notably found in western North America. It’s primarily found in the Rocky Mountains from British Columbia to California. In terms of appearance it’s a shrub like plant which can grow up to 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide with prickly leaves, a bundle of yellow flowers and green berries that ripen to blue / black berries. The reason Mahonia Aquifolium is referred to as Oregon Grape is because in the 1800’s the Mahonia Aquifolium was a food source and medicine along the Oregon trail, hence the popularity of the name. It was so popular that it’s widespread use almost led to its extinction in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The part of the Oregon Grape that is used is typically the bark, and to most people it is unpalatable as it has an intense bitterness to it. Some common names of Oregon Grape Root are Oregon Mountain Grape, California Barberry, Mountain Holly and Mahonia.
Oregon Grape Root Benefits and Uses
Extracts and Alkaloids that were sequestered from Oregon Grape Root displayed antimicrobial activity against fungi and bacteria. The reason Oregon Grape Root seems to be effective against bacteria is because of its alkaloids.
During an open label study over the course of 1 month, Oregon Grape Root (OGR) showed it was safe to use and showed a statistical improvement using the PASI score for dermatology for people who had Psoriasis. A further study was done after these positive results over a longer period of time. This study was for 6 months and was to evaluate the viability for OGR as a treatment for mild to moderate bilateral psoriasis. It compared the standard treatments of Psoriasis against OGR, an overwhelming majority of the patients (84%) in the study rated OGR as good as or better than the standard treatments. Over half (64%) rated OGR better than the standard treatment. The promising results of these studies have led researches across multiple countries to conclude that OGR is a safe, effective and recommended alternative treatment for people with mild to moderate Psoriasis.
Oregon Grape is sometimes used as a natural treatment for Candida. Its antifungal properties enable it to fight off fungus. Although not as effective as conventional drugs for Candida treatments it can be used for those who want a natural alternative treatment or find the other treatments hard to stomach. If you’re looking for another herbal, Berberine has better results when treating Candida or other fungal infections.
As we touched upon in the Candida portion of this article while Oregon Grape does have antifungal properties and does get results it is not the chosen herb to use for fungal infections like athletes foot, E.coli, ringworm or candida. The closely related Berberine is the superior choice but Oregon Grape will get the job done.
It is widely regarded that the closely related Berberine can be used as a treatment for diarrhea. The same is true for Oregon Grape. They have both been used to treat diarrhea for centuries, primarily in East Asian countries. Although there are no studies to back this up, Oregon Grape is considered just as effective as Berberine for diarrhea treatment because it shares the same characteristics, has a lot of anecdotal evidence and historical use.
Oregon Grape elevates liver function because it metabolizes toxins and waste. This has been shown in vitro, so the results although preliminary, are encouraging.
Again, there no long form clinical studies to evaluate Oregon Grape as an effective treatment for skin conditions but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest it is. Not only that but dermatologists are starting to recognize that herbal supplements are effective, natural treatments with few side effects. Oregon Grape has been used to treat acne, psoriasis, eczema and rosacea.
Berberine has been confirmed in several studies to have positive benefits for patients with diabetes. In a controlled study of 36 adults who were newly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, half were treated with berberine while the other half were treated with the common diabetes drug metformin during a three-month period. Those treated with berberine had similar hypoglycemic levels as the patients treated with metformin, and the researchers concluded that berberine may have beneficial effects on fat metabolism. Thus is can be concluded that Oregon Grape Root has at least some positive effect on diabetes.
Oregon Grape has been used for centuries as a skin treatment, particularly as it relates to acne, and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence supporting its use for this purpose. Its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties can clean and heal the skin and aids the immune system so that persistent acne may heal. Although research in this area is preliminary, experimental studies show that the Oregon Grape contains alkaloids that are known to be effective in treating acne.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Due to its antimicrobial properties, the Oregon Grape is a great natural remedy to treat UTIs, and it works by preventing bacteria from adhering to the bladder tissues. While studies have not proven its use directly for UTIs, the component berberine has been shown in experiments to fight bacteria like those that develop from UTIs. Many people anecdotally report that Oregon Grape treatments are effective in treating their UTIs and seldom have adverse effects or complications.
Oregon Grape is a trusted antibiotic due to the berberine in its tissues. It also contains compounds that prevent bacteria from becoming resistant to certain drugs, as shown in several studies. Berberine can also enhance the antibacterial properties of other antibiotics. So, while the Oregon Grape is a good antibiotic on its own, it works even better when used in combination with other treatments.
Because the herb has been known to improve liver function and increase the flow of bile, some people report weight loss after using Oregon Grape. Although it is not designated as a weight loss herb, testimonial evidence suggests that there may be some merit to its use for weight loss, however there are no studies yet testing its effectiveness in this area.
As briefly mentioned above, the herb has been used for centuries to improve the flow of bile, and as such it is useful in cleansing the gallbladder and other digestive organs. Small studies suggest that Oregon Grape Root is an effective herbal treatment to reduce inflammation in the gallbladder as well as liver congestion. Because it improves the flow of bile, it can also be used to treat and prevent gallstones. Oregon Grape is most effective in this use when used in a tea also made with milk thistle and dandelion.
Oregon Grape has antiseptic properties that make it effective in killing the herpes virus when sores appear. Either a tea or a tincture can be made with the herb, and then it can be applied directly to the affected area. Although the Oregon Grape Root itself has not been studied for this purpose, berberine has shown to have antiviral effects in several studies that may aid in the treatment of herpes.
As touched upon in the Candida section, the common Candida fungus which causes yeast infections can be effectively treated with Oregon Grape, although other over-the-counter methods may still be more effective. What makes Oregon Grape unique though it that the berberine it contains is effective at killing strains of fungus that are drug resistant. Berberine not only inhibits the growth of yeast cells, but it kills the cells as well.
There is some minor anecdotal evidence that Oregon Grape Root can be used to treat some of the symptoms of Lyme Disease due to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Some even suggest using it to treat the characteristic rash that is symptomatic of the disease as well. However, many also suggest using it in combination with other drugs and herbal remedies to most effectively fight Lyme Disease.
In addition to killing bacteria, viruses, and fungi, the berberine in the Oregon Grape Root is also effective in killing parasites. The effects of berberine on various parasitic creatures has been studied several times successfully and often killed the targeted parasite, supporting its use by herbalists and holistic practitioners.
Oregon Grape Root Side Effects, Safety, Dangers, Interactions and Warnings
During clinical trials, some patients reported negative but transient gastrointestinal effects. When taken in high dosages, some people may experience numbness, tingling, low blood pressure, shortness of breath, and upset stomach, and as such is it not recommended for people with Raynaud’s Disease. The herb can also affect blood glucose levels, so those with diabetes should take precautions and consult with a doctor before using. Some people have reported an allergic reaction to the plant.
Oregon Grape Root can have a mild sedative effect, so it is not recommended to ingest it if you are already taking sedatives or drugs that have sedative side effects. It has also shown to have negative interactions with the antibiotic drugs doxycycline and tetracycline.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use the herb because the berberine present has been known to cause jaundice and brain damage in infants, and it can cause uterine contractions and miscarriage.
Oregon Grape Root Dosage
Studies confirm its use as a topical cream to treat psoriasis, and in this case a 10% Oregon Grape Root cream can be applied to the affected area 2-3 times daily.
For other uses, herbal specialists suggest taking 1-3 ounces of tea, and tea can be made by steeping a teaspoon of dried herb in 2/3 cup water. 10-60 drops of a tincture can be taken daily, depending on the strength of the tincture itself. A tincture with a higher alcohol content requires fewer drops to be taken per day. Depending on the size of the person or the severity of the issue being treated, dosages differ as well. A smaller person or a lesser issue can be treated with as few as 10 drops daily, while a larger person or a more severe condition may require a stronger dose.
Oregon Grape Root Tincture, Extract or Tea?
Oregon Grape Root is available in many forms and can be consumed in several different ways. Teas can be made from the dried leaves, although the plant can be very bitter which does not translate well to drinking. However, teas are very useful for topical treatments, and the process of brewing allows for heat to release the medicinal properties of the plant.
Tinctures and extracts can be made by soaking the leaves in alcohol, and many recommend using a drink with a lower alcohol content, like wine, instead of something stronger like grain alcohol.
Is Oregon Grape Edible or Poisonous?
Many think the berries themselves are poisonous due to their tart taste, however they are safe to eat. The leaves and bark are also safe and are typically the parts of the plant used for medicinal purposes.
Where does Oregon Grape Root Grow?
The Oregon Grape is native to western portions of North America.
When is the best time to Harvest Oregon Grape Root?
The berries are ripe and good to harvest from July to September. The bark can be stripped and harvested when it is fresh, as dried bark can be difficult to scrape with a knife.
Is Oregon Grape Root safe for Dogs and Cats?
Yes, the herb is non-toxic for dogs and cats.
How much Berberine is in Oregon Grape Root?
There is no definitive data on how much berberine is in the plant, however other plants in the barberry family have a berberine content ranging from 2.5-13%. Because of this, many assume the berberine content of Oregon Grape Root is within this range.