Beautiful but sour ‘Oregon Grape’

by Renee Lindstrom, GCFP

Mortartea kettleEdibleDyedeer

by Renee Lindstrom

Oregon Grape

Oregon Grape (Berberis aquifolium)

On any walk around our Greater Victoria Communities you will discover the Oregon Grape Plant.   It is used extensively in landscaping and grows wild along trails and in the underbrush of the forest canapes.  In the forest it’s blooms are less abundant possibly due to the lack of sun.  This one pictured above is one of two new plants to this garden that, with the wet spring, is heavy with flowers for it’s size.   These two plants will be the lower, spreading shrub type of Oregon Grape, while you can find taller bushes that grow to 6 to 10 feet high.  .

It is a good landscaping plant for our area as it is drought resistant, however, with lack of water over a long period does look thirsty!

Health & Wellness

The roots, leaves and berries are used for medicinal remedies and the flowers are edible. This plant is sour therefore one’s liver would love it!  Most bitter herbs are considered to have some effect on the liver and the gallbladder.  In Chinese medicine the Liver is considered to be the General of the body because it directs so many physiological functions.

Oregon grape contains isoquinoline alkaloids which includes berberine, berbamine, and hydrastine. These alkaloids are strong antiseptics and reduce the severity of infection and skin conditions such as psoriasis.  Berberine can lower blood glucose levels, stop infections and modulate inflammation.

Infections Oregon Grape have been used to treat and currently being researched  for:

  • sore throats,
  • eye infections,
  • vaginal infections,
  • wounds on the skin,
  • mouth infections,
  • inflammatory bowel conditions,
  • infectious diarrhea ,
  • infections in the upper digestive tract,
  • urinary tract infections

Other uses of Oregon Grape are for:

  • headaches,
  • poor digestion,
  • blood purifier
  • acne,
  • boils,
  • eczema,
  • herpes,
  • psoriasis,
  • colorectal cancer,
  • liver cancer

The Oregon Grape is being used as a substitute for Goldenseal by many herbalists as it is no longer abundant in North America.  Currently science is trying to patent the complex Oregon Grape that is resulting in over harvesting.  This is what caused Goldenseal to disappear.  If you are foraging and harvesting the roots try and  leave roots behind to regrow.  If you are harvesting the leaves, do not strip the plant.  Leave enough for it to be vital over winter and regrow the following spring.  If you are picking the berries, leave 1/3 of them.


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Traditional uses and properties of herbs are for educational purposes only.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.  Every attempt has been made for accuracy, but none is guaranteed. Any serious health concerns or if you are pregnant, you should always check with your health care practitioner before self-administering herbs.

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