Today we are looking at a very special herb that can take care of your heart, cleanse the liver and maybe even prevent cancer and diabetes. I am talking about barberry root – an extremely health herb that you can take in extract form or use to make a healthy tea. If you would like to find out more about this herb, how to use it and exactly how it might benefit your health, read on.
What is Barberry?
Barberry is one of nearly 500 species of deciduous shrubs and thorny bushes in the genus – berberis belonging to the Berberidaceae family of plants. Barberry bushes can be found in many parts of the world and are common in North Africa, Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East.
Barberry is often known as berberis, European barberry and trailing mahonia. Many parts of the bush are used to make medicine including the roots, bark and the berries. The fruit itself is very sharp but edible and contains a variety of nutrients and is especially high in vitamin C.
Barberry has a long history of medicinal use. The ancient Egyptians were using the herb thousands of years ago to ward off disease and plague. It has also been used in India to treat dysentary while more recently, the Native Americans passed on its uses to the settlers. In Europe, barberry has been used by herbal practitioners to treat a range of illnesses including liver problems, gallbladder complaints, inflammation and hypertension.
Barberry root as well as the stem, bark and fruit all contain beneficial alkaloids most notably – berberine. Studies done in the laboratory and on animals have demonstrated that berberine has various medicinal properties including antimicrobial, anticonvulsant, anti-inflammatory, sedative and hypotensive actions. Studies also indicate that berberine can have a beneficial effect on a person’s immune system which makes the herb useful for a broad range of illnesses.
As well as berberine, barberry is an excellent source of antioxidant vitamin C and thiamine. It also contains carotenoids including lutein, beta-carotene and zeaxanthin and minerals like zinc and chromium.
Health Benefits of Barberry Root
The reason that barberry has proven so effective over such a long period is largely because of its berberine content. Barberry root is used for similar purposes to goldenseal because they have berberine in common. A number of studies have looked at the medicinal value of berberine and found that it can stimulate immune health, inhibit bacterial growth and relieve inflammation to name just some of its abilities.
1) Helps Fight Infection
According to various studies, barberry root can help fight off various infections because of its high berberine content. Researchers have demonstrated that berberine has very potent antibacterial, antiprotozoal and anti-fungal abilities. It works because it inhibits the ability of microbes and bacteria from attaching to human cells which gives it potential against a number of different infections. (1)
Barberry root extract can be used to treat various inflammatory conditions in the body, It is known to help with gastrointestinal infections, urinary tract infections and oral infection. Barberry is also used to relieve respiratory tract issues including sinus infections, nasal congestion, sore throat and bronchitis. Because of its anti-fungal properties, it may also be useful in keeping candida infections under control. (2)
2. Helps Digestion and Treats Stomach Issues
Barberry root and tea can also be used to treat a range of common stomach conditions. Berberine acts on those smooth muscles lining the intestinal wall and improves general digestion and relieves gastric pain and inflammation. Barberry is a good natural remedy for stomach bugs and bouts of diarrhea.
Several studies indicate that barberry can actually improve certain stomach conditions even more efficiently and quickly that a course of antibiotics. One study found that the berberine contained in barberry root helped to relieve bacterial diarrhea quickly without causing any harmful side effects. (3)
3. Prevents and Treats Diabetes
Another major benefit of barberry root is its impact on blood sugar levels which makes it a great choice for people with diabetes and those at risk of the disease.
In one study, the berberine present in barberry was compared to a common prescription drug for diabetics called metformin. The researchers found that 500mg a day of berberine taken twice or three times a day for three months was just as effective as the prescription medicine.
They found that it was able to control both lipid metabolism and blood sugar levels extremely well and the researchers described it as a powerful and effective hypoglycemic agent. (4) Other studies indicate that berberine improves insulin sensitivity through adjusting adipokine secretion. (5)
4. Improves Heart Health
Barberry root can also do a great deal to protect your heart from damage and stimulate the organ’s overall health. According to research, Berberis plants can have various beneficial effects on the heart including blood pressure benefits, preventing heart disease and arrhythmia. (6)
Studies including one published in 2015 have also demonstrated that the berberine found in the plant could help produce a biochemical reaction within the heart improving atrial fibrillation. (7)
Another study revealed that barberry could reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels which in turn reduced the risk of heart disease and heart attack. (8)
5. To Combat Metabolic Syndrome
Barberry root can also help to combat metabolic syndrome – a disorder involving a combination of high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
An Iranian study published in 2014 looked at the impact of barberry extract in patients diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. 106 patients were split into 2 groups and either given barberry extract or a placebo for a six week trial. The researchers noticed significant improvements in those taking the barberry compared to the placebo group.
The researchers noted that supplementing with barberry extract helped significantly reduce oxidative stress on people with metabolic syndrome because of its potent antioxidant properties. (9)
6. Liver Health
Barberry root and the berberine it contains can also do wonders for your liver and gallbladder. The liver is an extremely important organ helping detoxify the blood, producing bile necessary to digest fats and storing essential minerals and vitamins. The gallbladder stores the bile the liver secretes. Barberry helps to cleanse the liver and flush the gallbladder and according to studies, berberine can also help regulate digestion because of its actions on bile. (10)
The role of berberine in bile secretion is important since cholesterol and waste products get excreted almost entirely via bile secretion. By improving your secretion of bile, barberry root can improve liver and gallbladder health resulting in better overall health.
How to Use Barberry Root
Barberry root and barberry are available in several different forms including capsules and tinctures. You can use dried barberry root to make a healthy tea. Standardized extracts contain between 8 and 12 percent berberine.
Potential Side effects
- When taken at the recommended dose, barberry root does not cause any serious side effects in healthy people.
- In very high doses, certain side effects are possible including vomiting and nosebleeds.It is not recommended for young children as it may interfere with proper liver function in infants.
- Pregnant women should avoid taking barberry because it could stimulate uterine contractions and miscarriage.
- Nursing mothers should avoid barberry and barberry root.