Oregon grape (Mahonia aquafolium) is famous as a powerful antimicrobial herb. It is often featured in the same list with other unrelated herbs such as goldenthread (Coptis chinensis), barberry (Berberis vulgaris), Senegal prickly-ash (Zanthoxylum zanthoxyloide) and goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis). How can so many herbs from so many parts of the world have a similar effect? The answer is a bitter tasting alkaloid that they all produce called berberine. Alkaloids are nitrogen based compounds most commonly produced by plants. Humans are very reactive to alkaloids such as caffeine or nicotine. We are just as reactive to berberine as an antimicrobial agent against a broad spectrum of pathogenic microorganisms, such as S. epidermidis, C. albicans, Salmonella Typhimurium, and S. aureus.

berberineBerberine is bacteriostatic in low doses. It prevents bacteria from reproducing. This is helpful medicine in cases where a person may want to control but not eliminate bacteria. It interferes with the metabolism of the bacteria’s ability to produce protein, DNA and other cellular functions. Using a bacteriostatic allows the patient to fight the bacteria with their own internal defenses thus strengthening their immunity against the bacteria. The dose that serves as bacteriostatic agent is less than 8 μg/mL (8,000 parts berberine/billion parts base). In higher doses, berberine is used as bacteriocide. The dose that is noted in research is between within the concentration ranging from higher than 8 μg/mL (8,000 parts berberine/billion parts base. Research is underway to verify berberine’s use as baceriocide against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

New research is coming out for using herbs containing berberine for diabetic patients. This alkaloid can be good partner with other medication and supplements. Berberine activates an enzyme called Adenosine Monophosphate-Activated Protein Kinase (AMPK) while it inhibits Protein-Tyrosine Phosphatase 1B (PTP1B). Some diabetic patients have trouble taking metformin for AMPK activation but suffer from gastric distress. As berberine-rich plants like Oregon grape are easy to grow, it is tempting to discard other therapies for this herbal supplement. Keep in mind that diabetes is not a disease to be trifled with. As with all herbal supplements, we can not stress enough how important it is to work with your qualified healthcare provider before making any changes to your health protocols.

The berberine within Oregon grape’s woody cell walls are also bitter tasting which is a boon to the digestive system as a whole. the typically sweet American diet of the last few decades has had devastating effect on the rate of diabetes. According to the CDC, age-related diabetic rates have soared from 4.8% of the population in 1995–1997 to 9.4% in 2015. Diabetes is just one of the many health conditions that Oregon grape can help. As a bitter, it stimulates the flow of bile, relieves constipation, diverticulitis, sluggish gallbladders,  decrease inflammation of existing hemorrhoids. After reviewing this list of conditions this herb can moderate, it is clear that Oregon grape’s time has come.