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Barberry, also known by its Latin name, Berberis vulgaris, is a thorny shrub native to Europe. The bark of the stem, bark of the root, and the berries are often used in homeopathic medicine as an antibiotic and to treat or reduce the symptoms of gallstones, jaundice, and gallbladder pain. The plant can grow to 10 feet (3.05 m) and has small leaves that are leathery in texture, yellow flowers, and red berries in the fall.
For thousands of years, barberry has been used as a home remedy. For example, in ancient Egypt, the berries were squashed and mixed with the seeds from fennel. The Egyptians believed that the concoction would cure fevers. In addition, the berries, although sour, have also been used in preserves.
Because the berries of the barberry plant are so sour, the plant components are primary used for medicinal purposes. It may aid the gallbladder because it is believed to improve the flow of bile. Many homeopathic medicine practitioners believe that since it may improve bile flow, it may also reduce the symptoms associated with gallstones and jaundice. In addition, many practitioners tout its antiseptic and antibacterial value. As a result, it is often used to treat medical conditions such as cholera, dysentery, Giardia, salmonella, Shigella, E. coli, and other gastrointestinal conditions.
Many people believe that barberry helps liver function as well. Consequently, it is sometimes recommended for people affected by hepatitis and other liver diseases. Other medical uses include its purported ability to help people suffering from digestive problems. Specifically, many people believe it may heal the intestinal wall and stop diarrhea.
Although less common, some people use barberry for skin and eye conditions. For example, it may be used to treat psoriasis, eczema, and other chronic skin ailments. When it is diluted, a decoction made from barberry can be used to gently washout the eyes.
There are several different ways that barberry can be consumed for medical purposes. The dried root or the berries can be seeped in water to create a tea. People can also use it as a tincture or as a capsule. If it is used on the skin, barberry extract ointment can be applied to the affected area.
People using barberry should do so under the supervision of an expert, as it may decrease the effectiveness of some pharmaceuticals and medicines. Women who are pregnant should avoid it since it may cause miscarriages. In additions, it should not be given to infants or children because it may cause problems with the liver. In some cases, vomiting and nosebleeds have been reported.