What is Berberis aristata?
Berberis aristata goes by many names - Indian Barberry, Chutro, tree turmeric. By any name, it is a shrub that serves as an important medicinal herb, native to the Northern Himalayan region. It has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, and modern research has also confirmed many of its unique health benefits.
What is Berberis aristata Used For?
Berberis aristata is traditionally used in Ayurveda, India’s ancient system of medicine, as an antibacterial, antiperiodic (prevents the periodic return of attacks of disease), antidiarrheal, and is used in the treatment of ophthalmic infections. Its root, stem, and leaves are also used to treat various ailments, and are used extensively in Indian medicine.
What are the health benefits of Berberis aristata?
Berberis aristata, commonly known as Indian Barberry, has long been one of the foundational medicinal herbs in Indian medicine, and has many impressive health benefits:
Indian Barberry is used to reduce inflammation in the body
Inflammation is a natural process by which your body's white blood cells and the things they make protect you from infection from outside invaders, such as bacteria and viruses. Inflammation is one of the ways your body protects you from various illnesses. However, when the body experiences small amounts of inflammation over long periods of time as a result of dietary, lifestyle, and environmental factors, it becomes what is known as “chronic inflammation” which is very harmful to our health, and actually has been linked to most major illnesses.
Research has shown that Indian Barberry demonstrated analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities in various in vivo studies, and may be beneficial as an anti-inflammatory herb that can help reduce levels of inflammation in the body.
Indian Barberry contains powerful antioxidants
Free radicals are oxygen-containing molecules with an uneven number of electrons. The uneven number allows them to easily react with other molecules. Free radicals can cause large chain chemical reactions in your body because they react so easily with other molecules. These reactions are called oxidation and can be harmful to health.
Essentially, oxidation is any chemical reaction that involves the moving of electrons. Specifically, it means the substance that gives away electrons is oxidized. Oxidation is a normal and necessary process that takes place in your body. However, oxidative stress occurs when there’s an imbalance between free radical activity and antioxidant activity. This can result in damaged cells and ultimately ill health.
Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals in your body. Antioxidants can donate an electron to a free radical without making themselves unstable. This causes the free radical to stabilize and become less reactive.
As oxidation is a process that is constantly occurring due to numerous chemical reactions in the body, antioxidants must also regularly work to keep free radicals in balance. When there is an imbalance between free radical activity and antioxidant activity it leads to oxidative stress.
When there are more free radicals present than can be kept in balance by antioxidants, the free radicals can start doing damage to fatty tissue, DNA, and proteins in your body. Proteins, lipids, and DNA make up a large part of your body, so that damage can lead to a vast number of diseases over time.
The best way to reduce oxidative stress and to protect yourself from the diseases that it may cause is to increase the amount of antioxidants in your diet. Berberis aristata contains rich antioxidants that can help to eliminate free radicals in the body, and can protect the body from oxidative stress.
Indian Barberry may help reduce blood sugar levels in those with type 2 diabetes
Multiple studies have shown that berberine, the primary active compound in Indian Barberry, can significantly reduce blood sugar levels in those with type 2 diabetes.
Berberine decreases insulin resistance and increases glycolysis, helping the body break down sugars inside cells. At the same time, it decreases sugar production in the liver, slowing the breakdown of carbohydrates in the gut, and increasing the number of beneficial bacteria. In a review of 14 studies, berberine was shown to be as effective as oral diabetes drugs, including metformin, glipizide and rosiglitazone.
The plant, along with its extract, known as “rasot”, are regarded as an alternative treatment and a deobstruent (removes obstructions, clears or opens the natural ducts of the fluids and secretions of the body). They are used in the treatment of skin diseases, menorrhagia, diarrhea, jaundice and various eye affections. A decoction of the root bark is said to improve the appearance and promote the cicatrization of ulcers.
Indian Barberry may stimulate appetite, assist in digestion, and may help treat diarrhea
Berberis Aristata is also known for promoting appetite and assisting digestion, its astringent properties which help with detoxification, helping prevent and reduce fevers, antidiabetic, and for its diaphoretic properties (inducing perspiration. Studies also show that Berberis Aristata’s astringent properties can help to prevent diarrhea.
What are the active compounds in Berberis aristata?
There are numerous bioactive compounds in Indian Barberry, but by far the most notable is the compound berberine. Berberine is an alkaloid in plants that has been used in various traditional medicine practices for thousands of years. After being researched through hundreds of studies, berberine has been shown to have powerful effects on many different biological systems. Once berberine is ingested, it travels into your cells through your bloodstream. Once it’s inside the cells, it binds to several different “molecular targets,” and changes their function.
This is similar to how pharmaceutical drugs work. One of the main actions of berberine is to activate an enzyme called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), or the “metabolic master switch.” It’s found in the cells of various organs including the brain, muscle, kidney, heart and liver, and if you couldn’t tell from the name - plays a major role in regulating metabolism.
Phytochemical studies show that Berberis aristata also contains mainly yellow colored alkaloids oxyberberine, berbamine, aromoline, a protoberberine alkaloid karachine, palmatine, oxycanthine and taxilamine and tannins, sugar, starch.
Is Berberis aristata safe?
Berberis aristata has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, and its active compound berberine is one of the most researched plant compounds. Overall, it is considered to be a safe and effective medicinal herb with many health benefits. However, as with any herb, it is recommended to consult a health care professional before consuming, and also to consider some of the contraindications the herb may have. Some of the contraindications or general precautions for Indian barberry include:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Researchers believe berberine can cross the placenta and might cause harm to the fetus. Kernicterus, a type of brain damage, has developed in newborn infants exposed to berberine. Therefore, it is not advised to take Indian barberry, or any extract containing berberine, when pregnant. It's also likely unsafe to take Indian barberry if you are breast-feeding, because berberine can be transferred to the infant through breast milk, and it might cause harm.
Children: Indian barberry is also likely unsafe for newborn infants. Though berberine has many positive health benefits and is safe for adults, it can cause kernicterus, a rare type of brain damage that can occur in newborns who have severe jaundice. Jaundice is yellowing of the skin caused by too much bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is a chemical that is produced when the old red cells break down. Bilirubin is normally removed by the liver, but berberine may keep the liver from removing bilirubin fast enough for newborns.
High bilirubin levels in the blood in infants: Bilirubin is a chemical that is produced when the old red blood cells break down. It is normally removed by the liver. Indian barberry may keep the liver from removing bilirubin fast enough. This can cause brain problems, especially in infants with high levels of bilirubin in the blood. Avoid using this herb for infants.
Low blood pressure: Indian barberry can lower blood pressure. Theoretically, it might increase the risk of blood pressure becoming too low in people who already have low blood pressure. Therefore, it is advised to use this herb with caution if you have low blood pressure.
Berberis aristata, also known as Indian Barberry, Chutro, tree turmeric, and numerous other names, is a shrub that serves as an important medicinal herb, native to the Northern Himalayan region. It has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, and modern research has also confirmed many of its unique health benefits.
Berberis aristata is traditionally used in Ayurveda as an antibacterial, antiperiodic, antidiarrheal, and is used in the treatment of ophthalmic infections. Its root, stem, and leaves are also used to treat various ailments, and are used extensively in Indian medicine.
Indian barberry has many positive health benefits. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory herb, has numerous antioxidants, contains a unique compound called berberine which has been extensively researched for its medicinal uses, may reduce blood sugar levels in those who have type 2 diabetes, may stimulate appetite, assist in digestion, and has been used as a beneficial remedy for diarrhea due to its astringent properties.