By Jon Barron
There are many natural foods that help with digestion and colon cleansing, but few are like Barberry root. It can aid in the secretion of bile to support liver health, act as a mild purgative to disinfect and cleanse the colon, and help regulate the digestive processes all in one swoop. It has anti-microbial properties that are especially beneficial for the skin and intestinal tract.
Barberry is an evergreen shrub that grows throughout the temperate and subtropical regions of the world. It is a common ornamental, and you may have even seen this natural health ingredient in your local landscaping. Barberry has been used medicinally all over the world for at least the last 2,500 years. In fact, more than three dozen medicinal uses for barberry have been discovered.
Most similar to goldenseal, barberry contains the active substance berberine, a bitter alkaloid. Berberine extracts and decoctions have demonstrated significant antimicrobial activity against a variety of organisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoans, helminths, and chlamydia. The antibacterial properties of the alkaloid berbamine have shown activity against Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Salmonella, Shigella, and Escherichia Coli. It may also help the immune system function better.
Currently, the predominant clinical uses of berberine include treating bacterial diarrhea, intestinal parasite infections, and ocular trachoma infections. Some studies have found that barberry may ease the symptoms associated with diarrhea more quickly than with antibiotics alone. Berberine also aids in the secretion of bile and is good for liver health, acts as a mild purgative, and helps regulate the digestive processes.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the liquid extract of barberry has been shown to have beneficial effects on both the cardiovascular and neural system. As such, it may be useful in the treatment of hypertension (nit dilates blood vessels), tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), and some neuronal disorders, such as epilepsy and convulsions.
And that’s not all! In a study published in “Circulation Journal” in May 2012, it was reported that an active compound in barberry, berbamine, may also help protect your heart from ischemia/reperfusion injury. Another study shows that berbamine may also strengthen the heart, enhancing the contraction of heart muscles by increasing the sensitivity of cells to calcium, a mineral that regulates muscle contraction.
Along with its antibacterial, antifungal properties, barberry also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity that not only work internally, but externally as well. As such, it has been used to help treat skin conditions such as psoriasis, acne and eczema. In addition, it has been used to help ease inflammation and infections such as:
- Bladder and urinary tract infections
- Respiratory related issues such as sore throat, nasal congestion and sinusitis, and it can also reduce bronchial constriction
- Candida infections
In addition, recent research also supports the theory that barberry may offer some type of protection against Type 2 diabetes. The study involved participants consuming a preparation containing barberry and milk thistle for 90 days. The study found that barberry, when used along with milk thistle, helps stabilize blood sugar levels and treat diabetes.
Barberry is also rich in vitamin C but should not be used on a regular basis to provide nutrients. Other than exceptional circumstances, you should not use barberry for more than seven days at a time without the supervision of your doctor. Then wait at least a week before using barberry again. This gives the beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract a chance to recover. For this reason, it is also recommended to supplement with a good probiotic formula after using barberry to speed up the rebuilding process. Another caution is that barberry can decrease heart rate and depress the breathing, which can be benefits under certain conditions.
Barberry rootbark is available in many forms and the fruit, which is not generally considerd medicinal, can often be found in jams, jellies and juices. As a medicinal herb you can find barberry in the form of capsules, liquid extracts, tinctures and in topical ointments. You may even find the dried roots in tea form.