Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)

Published March 2, 1989.
List of German Commission E Monographs (Phytotherapy)

Berberitze

Name of Drug

Berberidis fructus, barberry.
Berberidis cortex, barberry bark.
Berberidis radicis cortex, barberry root bark.
Berberidis radix, barberry root.

Composition of Drug

Barberry consists of the fruits of Berberis vulgaris L. [Fam. Berberidaceae], as well as preparations thereof.

Barberry bark consists of the bark of the above-ground parts of B. vulgaris L., as well as preparations thereof.

Barberry root bark consists of the bark of the underground parts of B. vulgaris L., as well as preparations thereof.

Barberry root consists of the underground parts of B. vulgaris L., as well as preparations thereof.

Uses

Barberry is used for ailments and discomforts of the kidneys and urinary tract, the gastrointestinal tract, for liver diseases, bronchial discomforts, spleen ailments, spasms, and as a stimulant for the circulatory system.

The effectiveness for the claimed applications is not documented.

Barberry root, bark, and/or root bark are used for ailments and complaints of the gastrointestinal tract, liver, gallbladder, kidney and urinary tract, respiratory tract, and heart and circulatory system, also as a febrifuge and "blood purifier."

The effectiveness for the claimed applications is not documented.

Risks

Barberry fruit:

None known. Other parts of Berberis vulgaris:

Other parts of B. vulgaris contain alkaloids. The main alkaloid is berberine. Berberine is well tolerated up to 0.5 g. With accidental intake of more than 0.5 g of berberine, the following symptoms have been described:

Lethargy, nose bleed, dyspnea, skin and eye irritation. Also kidney irritation and nephritis have been reported. Even lethal poisonings have been observed from overdoses of berberine. Disturbances of the gastrointestinal tract with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea have been noted.

The LD50 for berberine sulfate in mice is 24.3 mg/kg in intraperitoneal application.

Berberine in small dosages stimulates the respiratory system, while high dosages lead to severe dyspnea and spasms ending in lethal primary paralysis of the respiratory system. Lethal dosages also cause hemorrhagic nephritis.

Death due to respiratory paralysis occurred in anesthetized cats and dogs at 25 mg/kg. In addition, a noticeable inhibition of the heart action was observed.

No reports of poisonings with this herb (i.e., the herb barberry) are known.

Evaluation

Since the effectiveness for the claimed applications is not documented, a therapeutic use of this herb cannot be recommended.

Ed. note: The risks listed above have been observed with the purified alkaloid berberine, not the parts of the herb barberry.]. -->