Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium, Berberis aquifolium) is a perennial plant native to the west coast of North America. It is indigenous to the temperate rain forests of the Pacific Northwest. The lovely shrub displays bright yellow flowers in the spring and spreads by underground stems known as rhizomes. The tree produces deep purple berries, and its dark green leaves turn bronze, crimson, or purple in the fall.
Healing Properties of Oregon Grape Root
Oregon grape root has a distinctly bitter taste due to the presence of alkaloids; berberine being the most notable. These alkaloid substances have a beneficial effect on the digestive tract. They stimulate the flow of bile, which loosens the stools and helps prevent and sometimes relieves constipation, diverticulosis, gallbladder disease, and hemorrhoids. They may also help people with constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Oregon grape also has antibiotic and anticancer properties that are receiving more and more attention by researchers and clinicians. Berberine and other alkaloids have been shown to kill a wide range of microbes and have been effective in human studies for speeding recovery from giardia, candida, viral diarrhea, and cholera.
The anticancer properties of berberine have been the subject of continued research. In animal and in vitro study, berbamine, an alkaloid constituent of Oregon grape, has shown antiproliferative activity against leukemia cancer cells and decreased numbers of bone marrow stem cells, and thus may help protect bone marrow and promote recovery from chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer.