Common barberry (Berberis vulgaris L.)

Common barberry – A shrub from the barberry family (Berberidaceae) Other names: Oxalis


Branched shrub, reaching 1.2-2.5 m in height. The stems are gray, ribbed, arcuate, bear 3-5-segmented spines (up to 2 cm). Young shoots are yellow or yellowish red. The leaves are alternate, thin, oval, ovoid or oblong, 1-4 cm long and 0.5-2 cm wide, rounded at the tip, with a wedge-shaped base, serrated along the edge, reticulate from below. Inflorescences are drooping brushes (up to 6 cm long), placed on the tops of shortened stems. The flowers are yellow (68 mm in diameter). The fruit is an oblong, bright red berry (5-12 mm long) with one to three brown matte seeds (4-6 mm long). It grows in coniferous and mixed forests, on rocky slopes. Frost-resistant, photophilous plant. It blooms in May – June, the fruits ripen in September. Barberry is distributed throughout Ukraine, in the Crimea and the Caucasus.

Contains active substances:

In all parts of the barberry there is a sum of isoquinoline alkaloids, the main one is berberine. In the leaves, in addition, there are vitamins C, E, carotenes, organic acids.


The bark, leaves and roots of barberry are used as medicinal raw materials. The leaves are harvested in the spring after flowering. Dry in the shade, in well-ventilated areas. Dried raw materials are packed in paper bags weighing 10 kg or in bales weighing 50 kg. Roots are harvested in spring or autumn, carefully digging them with a shovel so as not to damage the entire root system. No more than a fifth of it is taken away. The cut roots are washed, dried, cut into pieces 2 cm long. They are dried in attics or under a canopy, with sufficient ventilation, spreading them with a thin layer. Raw materials are packed in paper bags weighing up to 25 kg. The bark is harvested in early spring before the start of the growing season. It is removed by making annular cuts at a distance of 10-15 cm from one another and connecting them with longitudinal cuts. Dry the bark in the same way as the roots. Packed in bags weighing 20 kg, or in bales of 50 kg.

Medicinal use:

In scientific medicine, barberry leaves, bark and roots are used – Folia, Cortex, Radix Berberidis. The leaves are used in obstetric and gynecological practice as a hemostatic agent. The roots and bark of the barberry contain the alkaloid berberine, which is used in medicine as a means of reducing blood pressure and palpitations. They also have anthelmintic and hemostatic properties. In folk medicine, barberry berries are recommended to stimulate appetite, quench thirst, improve stomach function, and lower blood pressure. The roots are used in liver disease.

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