If you believe in nature’s apothecary to support your body and immunity, then may we introduce you to this under the radar botanical. Barberries are being heralded as one of nature’s most potent healing properties. The active ingredient in barberries — berberine — has been tested in hundreds of studies and has been found to have positive impacts on a number of biological systems. In fact, it has been proven by science to be equally as effective as a pharmaceutical; a fact that makes our hearts sing. Although it has been quietly gaining traction in science and wellness, barberries and berberine have also been backed by ancient wisdom for over 2,500 years.
Ancient Wisdom: What indigenous cultures knew about barberries before “wellness” was a thing
Valued by Native Americans for thousands of years, barberries were shared as a medicinal herb with early settlers. In Egypt, it was combined with fennel seed to ward off plagues (so, that’s kinda huge), and that same combo has also been said to help relieve fevers. More recently, European herbalists have used them to treat gallbladder and liver issues — and healers in Russia use them to combat inflammation and high blood pressure.
Study Notes: How barberries support healing — according to science
Barberry or Berberis vulgaris (since we’re about to get science-y) has been proven in clinical studies to support the body in a plethora of ways.
- High vitamin C content: If you know that vitamin C is good for you but were wondering exactly why, it’s because vitamin C is an antioxidant that may help protect against cellular damage, which can lead to heart disease and cancer. Barberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, like a quarter of a cup gives your 213% of your daily dose.
- Highly antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory: Test-tube studies have shown that barberry extract can fight inflammation. One of the better examples of this is in dental health trials. One study in 45 boys between the ages of 11 and 12 found that applying barberry dental gel for 21 days reduced plaque and gingivitis significantly more than a placebo. The study also indicated that barberry gel was more effective than traditional anti-plaque toothpaste.
- Helps improve digestion: Full of fiber and berberine, barberry can help with sensitive stomachs. Not to get too graphic here but this is likely due to their high concentration of berberine, which helps slow the transit of feces through your gut by inhibiting certain receptors, thus preventing diarrhea. In fact, one of the oldest human studies on berberine found that it treated diarrhea caused by infections from certain bacteria, including E. coli. Another study of 196 adults with irritable bowel syndrome found taking 800 mg of berberine hydrochloride per day significantly decreased the frequency and the urgent need to use the bathroom, compared with a placebo.
- Balances blood sugar: Berberine has been shown to improve how your cells respond to insulin by regulating the quantity of sugar in your blood. For some more context, one 3-month study in 36 adults with type 2 diabetes found that taking 1.5 grams of berberine per day led to a significant 2% reduction in hemoglobin A1c — compared with baseline values. In fact, researchers found that the beneficial effects of berberine on blood sugar and hemoglobin-A1c were comparable to those of the traditional diabetes drug, metformin.
Nature’s RX: Is this berry worth adding to your natural immunity arsenal?
If you’ve had any of the following issues and are looking for a natural remedy, barberry is definitely worth trying.
- Insulin or hormone imbalance
- IBS, bloating, digestive struggles
- Gum disease, excess plaque
- Metabolic issues
- Mild to moderate depression
- Bacterial or viral infections including fungi and parasites
Usage: How to add barberries into your wellness routine
Whether you’re looking to heal a certain condition or generally support your wellbeing, barberries are definitely a powerful tool to utilize. For more extreme conditions you may want to speak to a naturopath about higher berberine extract supplements. However, our favorite potent but accessible entry point has been via the Mindful Immunity™ Super Protection Syrup. It also includes other botanical powerhouses including elderberry, sea buckthorn berry, saffron, and Manuka honey — making it a more complex immunity syrup that can keep you on top of your health before issues arise. Making this simple tonic for yourself is also a beautiful healing ritual that feels as nourishing as it does special.