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Oregon Grape Root

Veterinarian Reviewed on June 14, 2012 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Uncategorized

Oregon Grape Root (Mahonia aquifolium)

Contrary to popular belief, the Oregon Grape root (Mahonia aquifolium) is related to the barberry and is not directly related to true grapes at all. The Oregon Grape is actually an evergreen shrub that can grow between 3 feet and 16 feet tall. The plant has leathery leaves with bright yellow flowers. The Oregon Grapes are small clusters of purplish black fruits.

It is native to the Pacific Northwest where it is a staple diet of native tribes. The Oregon Grape Roots can now be cultivated almost anywhere since this plant is resistant to changes in weather and even in poor soil. It is also used in wine making in Europe and can be also used as foliage in flower arrangements as well.

The Oregon Grape root has a well known bitter taste because of the presence of alkaloids called berberine. This makes the Oregon Grape one of the most notable bitter herb that is essential in the treatment of various digestive tract disorders. This herbal remedy is also being studied as a possible cancer treatment as well as a cure for many bacterial infections of the gastro intestinal tract.

History and Origin

The Oregon Grape is a native plant found in the west coast of North America. Its flower’s beauty and many medicinal properties earn it the position of the state flower of Oregon. The Oregon Grape root is used as a medicinal herb and a staple diet of aboriginal people of the American Pacific Northwest, curing many diseases and ailments of the gastro intestinal system.

Ancient Uses

In ancient times, the native tribes of the Pacific Northwest islands have used the Oregon Grape plant as a staple diet. These berries were picked in clusters and were even made into wine or drink. They were mostly mixed with sweeter fruit to eat since they have a bitter after taste. The Oregon Grape root cured diseases like diarrhea, vomiting, stomach upsets and dyspepsia.

Modern Uses

Due to the high alkaloid berberine content of the Oregon Grape it is used to stimulate the flow of bile to loosen compact stools to relieve constipation, hemorrhoids and other gall bladder diseases. The anti-cancer properties of this herbal remedy are also being researched on, especially cancer that occurs in a person’s gastro intestinal tract.

There were studies in China linking the Oregon Grape to the speedy recovery of patients that underwent chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These studies concluded that Oregon Grape may help protect the bone marrow from these aggressive cancer treatments.
The Oregon Grape extract is usually taken orally as a tea or tincture. To make Oregon Grape tea you will need to simmer 2 teaspoons of dried Oregon-tea preparation in a cup of water for 15 minutes. Strain the mixture and drink after every meal to relieve digestive tract disorders.

Side Effects

There are no notable side effects related to the use of Oregon Grape, but it is contraindicated in pregnant and breastfeeding women. If you would like to take Oregon Grape preparations for any ailment, first talk to your naturopathic doctor or herbalist regarding its use and any adverse effects on your current medications as well.

Nausea is one of the common side effects of Oregon Grape and this is because of its bitter taste. This is however overcome by taking it in regular doses.

Read also: Cold Sore

Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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