Oregon Grape Root (Mahonia aquifolium) is an evergreen shrub native to western North America. It measures approximately 3’ in height and 5’ in width, has pinnate leaves consisting of spiny leaflets. In early spring Oregon Grape has dense clusters of yellow flowers followed by dark bluish-black berries in late summer. It is not a member of the grape family, despite the name. The small purplish-black fruits, which look like tiny grapes are quite tart and contain large seeds.
Some equate Oregon Grape with the Holly plant because its leathery leaves and shape look very similar to holly leaves. The leaves resist wilting and the foliage is sometimes used by florists for greenery in arrangements.
Oregon grape root is known for its ability to stimulate liver function, improve the flow of bile, and for overall blood cleansing. Traditionally this herb has been used to treat liver congestion, IBS, and infections in the stomach and digestive tract. It is also an antimicrobial and used for eye infections, bacterial diarrhea, ulcers, and acid reflux.
The main reason why Oregon grape root works is because it contains berberine, which gives it, its immune-stimulating, infection-fighting, antiseptic qualities. Many herbalists use this herb as a substitute for Goldenseal as the two are quite similar from a chemistry standpoint.
Oregon grape root is also used to treat eczema, psoriasis, acne, boils, herpes, and skin conditions linked to poor gallbladder function. Its natural antiseptic properties make it useful for most external applications; killing parasites, bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms.
How to Use
There are two ways you can use this herb. You can make a tea by steeping the root in hot water for at least 15 minutes or make a tincture. Remember that tinctures require an investment in time and usually contain alcohol as a preservative, yet they do last for a very long time and can be considered “at the ready” for whenever symptoms occur.
Avoid using this herb during pregnancy as it may cause unexpected contractions of the uterus.