European Barberry

Reviewed on 6/11/2021
Other Name(s):

Agracejo, Barberry, Berberidis Cortex, Berberidis Fructus, Berberidis Radicis Cortex, Berberidis Radix, Berbéris Commun, Berberis jacquinii, Berberis sanguinea, Berbéris Vulgaire, Berberis vulgaris, Berberitze, Berberry, Berbis, Common Barberry, Épine-Vinette, Espino Cambrón, Jaundice Berry, Mountain Grape, Oregon Grape, Pipperidge, Piprage, Sauerdorn, Sow Berry, Vinettier.


European barberry is an herb. The fruit, bark, and roots are used to make medicine.

The fruit of European barberry is used for kidney, urinary tract, and gastrointestinal (GI) tract discomforts such as heartburn, stomach cramps, constipation, lack of appetite, liver and spleen disease; for bronchial and lung discomforts; for spasms; to increase circulation; to boost the immune system; and as a supplemental source of vitamin C.

The bark, root, and root bark of European barberry are also used for disorders of the GI tract, liver, gallbladder, kidney and urinary tract, respiratory tract, and heart and circulatory system; to reduce fever; as a "blood purifier;" and for narcotic withdrawal.

European barberry root bark is also used for liver problems, gallbladder disease, jaundice, spleen disorders, diarrhea, indigestion, hemorrhoids, kidney and urinary tract diseases, gout, joint pain (rheumatism), arthritis, mid- and low-back pain, malaria, and a parasitic infection called leishmaniasis.

In foods, European barberry fruit is used in making jam, jellies, and wine.

In manufacturing, the fruit syrup is used for masking tastes in medicines.

How does it work?

European barberry contains chemicals that might cause stronger heartbeat. It also might help fight inflammation.


Next to red peppers, you can get the most vitamin C from ________________. See Answer

Uses & Effectiveness

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Dental plaque. Early research suggests that brushing teeth with a European barberry extract gel containing 1% berberine for 3 weeks reduces dental plaque. The effects appear to be similar to the anti-plaque effects of a commercial toothpaste (Colgate).
  • Diabetes. Early research suggests that taking European barberry by mouth for 8 weeks does not improve blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes.
  • Gum swelling (gingivitis). Early research suggests that brushing teeth with a European barberry extract gel containing 1% berberine for 3 weeks reduces gingivitis.
  • Kidney problems.
  • Bladder problems.
  • Heartburn.
  • Stomach cramps.
  • Constipation.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Liver problems.
  • Spleen problems.
  • Lung problems.
  • Heart and circulation problems.
  • Fever.
  • Gout.
  • Arthritis.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of European barberry for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

Side Effects

The fruit of European barberry is LIKELY SAFE when consumed in food amounts. There is not enough information to know if European barberry is safe in medicinal amounts.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Children: European barberry is LIKELY UNSAFE for newborn infants when taken by mouth. It contains a chemical called berberine, which can cause brain damage, especially in premature babies who are jaundiced. Jaundice is a condition caused by too much bilirubin in the baby's system. Bilirubin is produced by the normal breakdown of red blood cells. Jaundice makes the skin and eyes of affected infants look yellow. Don't expose children to European barberry.

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Don't use European barberry by mouth if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. It is LIKELY UNSAFE for your baby. The berberine in European barberry can pass from a mother's body into her unborn child through the placenta. Brain damage has developed in newborns exposed to berberine. Similarly, berberine, as well as other harmful chemicals in European barberry, can be transferred to an infant through breast milk, and might cause brain damage.

Bleeding disorder: European barberry contains a chemical called berberine. Berberine might slow blood clotting and increase the risk of bleeding. In theory, European barberry might make bleeding disorders worse.

Diabetes: European barberry contains a chemical called berberine. Berberine might lower blood sugar levels. Watch for signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and monitor your blood sugar carefully if you have diabetes and use European barberry in amounts larger than the amounts normally found in food.

Low blood pressure: European barberry contains a chemical called berberine. Berberine might lower blood pressure. In theory, taking European barberry might make blood pressure become too low in people with low blood pressure.

Surgery: European barberry contains a chemical called berberine. There is concern that berberine from European barberry might prolong bleeding, slow down the nervous system, and interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. Stop taking European barberry at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.


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Cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune)Interaction Rating: Major Do not take this combination.

The body breaks down cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune) to get rid of it. European barberry might decrease how fast the body breaks down cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune). This might cause there to be too much cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune) in the body and potentially cause side effects.

Drying medications (Anticholinergic drugs)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

European barberry might increase levels of certain chemicals in the body that work in the brain, heart, and elsewhere. Some drying medications called "anticholinergic drugs" can also affect these same chemicals, but in a different way. These drying medications might decrease the effects of European barberry and European barberry might decrease the effects of drying medications.

Some of these drying medications include atropine, scopolamine, some medications used for allergies (antihistamines), and some medications used for depression (antidepressants).

Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) substrates)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. European barberry might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking European barberry along with some medications that are broken down by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Before taking European barberry, talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking any medications that are changed by the liver.

Some medications changed by the liver include cyclosporin (Neoral, Sandimmune), lovastatin (Mevacor), clarithromycin (Biaxin), indinavir (Crixivan), sildenafil (Viagra), triazolam (Halcion), and many others.

Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

European barberry might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking European barberry along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.

Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, metformin (Glucophage), pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.

Medications for high blood pressure (Antihypertensive drugs)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

European barberry might decrease blood pressure in some people. Taking European barberry along with medications used for lowering high blood pressure might cause your blood pressure to go too low. Do not take too much European barberry if you are taking medications for high blood pressure.

Some medications for high blood pressure include nifedipine (Adalat, Procardia), verapamil (Calan, Isoptin, Verelan), diltiazem (Cardizem), isradipine (DynaCirc), felodipine (Plendil), amlodipine (Norvasc), and others.

Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

European barberry might slow blood clotting. Taking European barberry along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.

Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.

Sedative medications (CNS depressants)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

European barberry might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Medications that cause sleepiness are called sedatives. Taking European barberry along with sedative medications might cause too much sleepiness. Taking European barberry along with sedative medications used in surgery might cause prolonged sedation.

Some sedative medications include pentobarbital (Nembutal), phenobarbital (Luminal), secobarbital (Seconal), thiopental (Pentothal), fentanyl (Duragesic, Sublimaze), morphine, propofol (Diprivan), and others.

Various medications used for glaucoma, Alzheimer's disease, and other conditions (Cholinergic drugs)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

European barberry might increase certain chemicals in the brain, heart, and elsewhere in the body. Some medications used for glaucoma, Alzheimer's disease, and other conditions also affect these chemicals. Taking European barberry with these medications might increase the chance of side effects.

Some of these medications used for glaucoma, Alzheimer's disease, and other conditions include pilocarpine (Pilocar and others), donepezil (Aricept), tacrine (Cognex), and others.


The appropriate dose of European barberry depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for European barberry. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

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