Oregon Grape

Botanical Name: Mahonia Aquifolium (a.k.a. Berberis Aquifolium) and related speciesFamily: Berberidaceae

Common name(s): Oregon Grape, Mountain Grape, holly leaved barberry


  • Evergreen shrub | Zones 4/5 – 8 | 6 feet tall, 3-5 feet wide | Leaves resemble holly.  Clusters of yellow flowers March – May. Small grapelike berries July – September.
  • Native to the Pacific Northeast.
  • Well-drained, humus-rich soil. Protect from sun in hotter climates, from wind in cooler climates.
  • May be grown from seed or propagated via suckers.


  • Harvest the root in late fall or early spring.


Decoction: Boil 1 – 3 teaspoons chopped roots to 2 cups water for 15 minutes. Strain and drink. 3 cups / day.

Tincture: 10-30 drops 3x/day.

Roots can also be dried and ground to a powder. Can also be be prepared as an oil infusion for external uses.


Constituents: berberine alkaloid, other alkaloids (berbamine, oxyacanthine, and herba-mine)

Actions: alterative, anti-inflamatory, cholagogue

Uses: liver and gallbladder problems, menstrual irregularities, skin diseases, arthritis, cancer

Combinations: grows near and combines well with pipsissewa. Also dandelion root. For menstrual issues, combines well with tang kuei, cramp bark, chaste berry, and ginger in a tea.

Cautions: It should not be taken over a long period of time for people that suffer from anemia and hypothyroidism.


  • Cool, bitter (while the berry is sour)


Since I live in the Northeast, as I do my herbal studies I am always looking for what herbs I can grow and use here, preferably native plants. Michael Tierra says in his book that Barberry is the equivalent of Oregon Grape in the Northeast. It is of the same family. I’m finding information on Barberry in most of my herbal reference books, and Oregon Grape in only one of them. According to Annie’s remedy, all the Mahonia species are medicinal.