What Is Oregon Grape Root?
Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium), also known as holly-leaved berberry, is a species of flowering plant in the family Berberidaceae, native to western North America. It is an evergreen shrub with dark-green spiny leaves, that forms dense clusters of yellow flowers in early spring, followed by dark bluish-black berries in the summer. These berries are edible but very tart. The root of the Oregon Grape plant is a popular herb that has commonly been used as a medicinal herb for various digestive issues.
What Is Oregon Grape Root Used For?
The root and root-like stem (rhizome) of Oregon grape are used to make medicine. Oregon grape root is used to treat a wide variety of digestive health issues, such as stomach ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), stomach upset and stomach infections. It is also used as a bitter tonic, a remedy for candidiasis, an internal treatment for various skin issues, and as a tonic to help cleanse the bowels.
Oregon grape root is a very bitter herb. Bitter herbs contain isoquinoline alkaloids that stimulate bile release from the liver and gallbladder, which in turn is supportive to the skin, gastrointestinal tract, and immune system. These bitter compounds are responsible for the cholagogue (promotes the discharge of bile), choleretic (increase the volume of secretion of bile), and alterative (helps to restore the proper function of the body) properties of Oregon grape root, as well as for its antimicrobial effects.
What are the Health Benefits of Oregon Grape Root?
Oregon Grape Root is Used for Treating Stomach Issues
Much of Oregon grape root’s medicinal activity is attributed to a bioactive chemical compound in the root called berberine. This compound has been extensively researched and has been shown to have many benefits for digestive health. The berberine in Oregon grape root may help to ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as well as other stomach issues like bloating, stomach aches, and gut inflammation.
Animal studies involving the berberine compound have suggested improvements not only in IBS symptoms but also in other stomach conditions like gut inflammation. Still, human research is lacking on the effects of Oregon grape root’s effect on gut inflammation. There is, however, promising human research on Oregon grape roots effect on IBS. In one 8-week study in 196 people with IBS, those who received a berberine treatment experienced reductions in diarrhea frequency, abdominal pain, and overall IBS symptoms, compared with those on a placebo.
Oregon Grape Root is Used as an Anti-microbial
Berberine, the active compound in Oregon grape, demonstrates strong antimicrobial activity. It is used mainly to treat diarrhea and for treating parasitic infections caused by bacteria. A test-tube study on Oregon grape root extract revealed that it exhibits antimicrobial activity against certain harmful bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. Multiple studies demonstrate similar results, indicating that berberine may combat MRSA and other bacterial infections, such as those caused by E. coli.
Oregon Grape Root is Used to Treat Candida
Oregon grape root may play an important role as an herbal remedy for treating candida infection (candidiasis). This is because compounds in Oregon grape root are strongly antifungal. Candidiasis is a fungal infection caused by a yeast (a type of fungus) called Candida. There are many different species of Candida, and not all of them cause fungal infections. The most common one that does, however, is Candida albicans.
Candida yeast normally lives on the skin and inside the body, in places such as the mouth, throat, gut, and vagina, without causing any problems. If it grows out of control, however, or if it enters deep into the body (for example, the bloodstream or internal organs like the kidney, heart, or brain), Candida can cause infections that lead to a wide range of health issues.
People who suffer from Candida infections typically experience candida symptoms like oral thrush (a rash in the mouth or throat), tiredness and fatigue, recurring genital or urinary tract infections, digestive issues, sinus infections, skin and nail fungal infections, and joint pain. In more serious cases, Candida can spread to the blood (a condition known as invasive candidiasis) and can cause serious, and potentially even fatal, health issues.
Candida infections are notoriously hard to treat and in order to treat a Candida infection, one needs to undergo a strict anti-candida diet to ensure that they are not feeding the yeast, and then one must consume antifungal agents that help to kill the Candida fungus and restore it back to normal levels.
Oregon grape root is one herb that is commonly used for Candida infections because it contains powerful antifungal agents like berberine. In numerous studies, berberine extract has been shown to have significant antimicrobial activity against bacteria, viruses, protozoa, fungi, and yeasts. Studies have also shown that berberine has a significant antifungal effect against the Candida albicans strains in particular, making it one of the best herbal remedies for treating Candidiasis. For this reason, Oregon Grape Root Extract is a key ingredient in our Candida Cleanse Tonic.
Oregon Grape Root is Used to Treat Skin Conditions
Oregon grape root has also been used to reduce the severity of symptoms associated with psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and several other skin conditions. Inflammatory skin conditions can be chronic and can occur anywhere on your body. Psoriasis and atopic dermatitis are both different inflammatory skin conditions. Psoriasis is characterized by reddish, scaly patches of skin, and atopic dermatitis is a severe form of eczema characterized by itchy, dry skin.
In one 6-month study in 32 people with psoriasis who applied an Oregon grape root topical cream, 63% reported that the Oregon grape root cream was equal or superior to the standard pharmaceutical treatment. Similarly, in another 12-week study, 39 people who used an Oregon grape root cream experienced significantly improved psoriasis symptoms, which remained stable and didn’t require any follow-up treatment for 1 month.
Oregon grape root cream exhibited similar effects on people suffering from atopic dermatitis. A 3-month study in 42 people with atopic dermatitis experienced significant improvements in symptoms after having them apply a skin cream containing Oregon grape root 3 times daily.
More research is needed on the effects of Oregon grape root on skin conditions, but current research shows great promise in its potential as a topical skin treatment.
Oregon grape root also works on skin conditions internally. Many skin conditions have a deeper underlying cause of inflammation, poor gut health, or fungal infection. Oregon grape root works on all three of these issues, making it a wonderful treatment for skin conditions both internally and topically.
Some of the numerous bioactive compounds in Oregon grape root have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can help to reduce inflammation in the body. It’s bitter alkaloids stimulate bile production which helps to cleanse the liver and aid in digestion, and its high berberine content helps to kill the Candida albicans fungus, assisting in the treatment of candidiasis. Oregon grape root is truly a powerful plant for helping to reset the digestive system, and therefore, helping to bring the body back into balance.
Oregon Grape Root is Used to Help Improve Your Mood
Several interesting studies have indicated that berberine, one of the primary active compounds in Oregon grape root, may alleviate symptoms of depression and chronic stress. The brain releases key hormones associated with feelings of happiness and well-being. Two of the primary hormones associated with our feelings of happiness are serotonin and dopamine.
Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. This hormone impacts your entire body and enables brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate with each other. Serotonin also helps with sleeping, eating, and digestion.
Dopamine is another key hormone made by the body. Your nervous system uses dopamine to send messages between nerve cells, which is why it is sometimes called a chemical messenger. Dopamine plays an essential role in how we feel pleasure. It's also big part of our unique human ability to think and plan.
In a 15-day study in mice, a berberine treatment increased levels of serotonin and dopamine by 19% and 52%, respectively. As these hormones help regulate your mood, there is evidence that berberine may be useful as a supplement for improving and stabilizing your mood.
Oregon Grape Root is Used to Help Ease Heartburn
Berberine has potent anti-inflammatory effects that may help prevent heartburn and related esophageal damage. Heartburn is a common symptom of acid reflux, which occurs when stomach acid rises into your esophagus. Heartburn triggers a painful, burning sensation in your throat or chest. In a study in rats with acid reflux, those treated with berberine had less esophageal damage than those treated with omeprazole, a common pharmaceutical heartburn treatment. While research of Oregon grape root’s use for heartburn is limited, the fact that one study showed berberine was more effective than a common pharmaceutical is promising for use of this herb as a natural heartburn supplement and alternative to a pharmaceutical drug.
What are the Active Compounds in Oregon Grape Root?
The more researchers learn about the health benefits of medicinal plants, the more clear it becomes that the medicinal benefit of these plants lies largely in the unique bioactive compounds that they contain. These compounds exhibit different effects on the human body and can provide unique medicinal value.
Oregon grape root is a plant with very unique chemical constituents. Its primary bioactive compounds include a variety of alkaloids, including berberine, berbamine, berberastine, hydrastine, canadine, corypalmine, meconine, xanthopucine, hydrastidine, and oxyacanthine.
Of these active chemical compounds berberine, berbamine and oxyacanthine stand out the most for their medicinal value.
Berberine: already mentioned extensively in this article, is a chemical compound found in many plants. It is defined as a “quaternary ammonium salt from the protoberberine group of benzylisoquinoline alkaloids.” It has been researched extensively for its numerous health benefits, primarily for its actions on the digestive system.
Berbamine: is a bisbenzylisoquinoline alkaloid that has shown anti-arrhythmic (used to suppress abnormal rhythms of the heart), anti-hypertensive (used to treat hypertension/high blood pressure) and immunosuppressive activities. It has also been investigated for its in vitro anti-inflammatory action by hindering the gene expression of inflammatory mediators.
Oxyacanthine: is a bitter crystalline alkaloid that has shown strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Research shows it is effective for inhibiting lipid peroxidation, the process in which free radicals "steal" electrons from the lipids in cell membranes, resulting in cell damage.
Is Oregon Grape Root Safe?
Oregon grape root has been used medicinally for centuries, and modern research also verifies that it is a safe and effective herbal medicine for most people. Due to its strong antimicrobial activities, however, it is not recommended to consume Oregon grape root long term, as over time it may disturb the gut microbiome’s delicate balance of gut bacteria.
It is more intended for us in treating stomach conditions and fungal infections, but not as a daily medicine for preventative use. Furthermore, children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are recommended to avoid using Oregon grape root due to lack of safety information for these groups. Notably, berberine, an active compound in Oregon grape, can cross the placenta and cause contractions.
Oregon Grape Root Bioavailability
Bioavailability is a measure of how much a substance is able to access the circulation after digestion, and it depends on absorption (how much we get it) and secretion (how much we get out). In other words, just because we consume something, it doesn’t mean we are actually getting anything from what we consumed or receiving the benefits from it. It all depends on how well we digest and absorb the nutrients in what we consume. The more bioavailable something is, the better able we are to absorb the nutrients from it.
Research shows that the berberine compound, the primary active compound in Oregon grape root, has a very low rate of absorption. One study showed that the typical oral bioavailability of berberine is below 1%. The study noted that “some factors such as first-pass effect in the intestine, interaction with P-glycoprotein (P-gp) pumps and high extraction and distribution in the liver are involved to its poor oral bioavailability.”
This poses an issue with using berberine for medicinal use. It has incredible properties and has been shown to exhibit numerous health benefits, but its bioavailability is quite low. Due to this, it is important that when consuming Oregon grape root, that one find a product that has an effective extraction method that optimizes its bioavailability.
Our Candida Cleanse tonic, for example, features Oregon grape root as one of its primary ingredients due to its antifungal properties, and we use a therapeutic dose extraction method, extracting our herbs in organic cane alcohol. Through our formulation process, we significantly increase the rate of absorption, as well as the effectiveness of the dosage, of Oregon grape root along with the beneficial effects of the berberine compound.
Moreover, our Oregon grape root is sustainably wild harvested, and all of the herbs that we use in our products are of the highest quality we can source, being either wild harvested or grown organically and biodynamically on our own farms. When it comes to herbal products, you want to be sure that you are getting the highest quality herbs you can find and that they are extracted and formulated properly. Truly, quality and formulation make all the difference when it comes to the effectiveness and potency of an herbal supplement.
Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium), also known as holly-leaved berberry, is a species of flowering plant in the family Berberidaceae, native to western North America. The root and root-like stem (rhizome) of Oregon grape are used to make medicine. Oregon grape root is used to treat a wide variety of digestive health issues, such as stomach ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), stomach upset and stomach infections. It is also used as a bitter tonic, a remedy for candidiasis, an internal treatment for various skin issues, and as a tonic to help cleanse the bowels.
Oregon grape root is a very bitter herb, containing isoquinoline alkaloids that stimulate bile release from the liver and gallbladder, which in turn is supportive to the skin, gastrointestinal tract, and immune system.
Oregon grape root has numerous health benefits. Research shows that Oregon grape root may help treat stomach issues, is used as an antimicrobial and antifungal agent, may help to treat candida and parasite infections, is helpful for treating skin conditions, may help to improve your mood by enhancing the production of serotonin and dopamine, and may help to ease heartburn.
The medicinal benefits of Oregon grape root are largely attributed to its content of bitter alkaloids and bioactive compounds, namely berberine, as well as berbamine and oxyacanthine. Oregon grape root has been used medicinally for hundreds of years and is generally considered to be a safe herb, though it is not recommended for long term use due to its strong antimicrobial properties. It also not recommended for use for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Native to Western North America, this spiky evergreen shrub is truly an incredible plant with a lot to offer. Its chemical constituents show great medicinal value, and it has a long history of use in traditional herbalism. Modern research is also revealing its therapeutic potential and use as an alternative to harsher pharmaceutical medications.