Oregon Grape

Oregon_Grape,Mahonia_aquifolium
By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL (https://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Mahonia aquifolium-Oregon Grape

Family: Berberidaceae

Other names: Oregan Mountain Grape,Oregon Grape Root, Mountain Grape, Berberis aquifolium, Berberis fascicularis, Odostemon aquifolium, 

Habitat: Oregon, Western N. America. Naturalized in Britain. Mixed coniferous woods to 2000 metres. It is found in woods and hedgerows in Britain.

Barberry, goldenseal, oregon grape and other plants containing Berberine should be avoided during hazardsmallpregnancy and breastfeeding. Avoid if over active thyroid gland. High doses cause vomiting, lowered blood pressure, reduced heart rate, lethargy, nose bleed, skin & eye irritation and kidney infection. Liquorice as Glycyrrhiza species nullify berberine effects.

Oregon grape was often used by several native North American Indian tribes as a medicinal herb to treat loss of appetite and debility. It’s use has been recognised by being adopted by Oregon State as it’s state flower. Its current herbal use is mainly in the treatment of gastritis and general digestive weakness, to stimulate the kidney and gallbladder function and to reduce catarrhal problems. The root and root bark is alterative, blood tonic, cholagogue, diuretic, laxative and tonic. It improves the digestion and absorption and is taken internally in the treatment of psoriasis, syphilis, hemorrhages , stomach complaints and impure blood conditions. Externally, it has been used as a gargle for sore throats and as a wash for blurry or bloodshot eyes. The fruit is an excellent gentle and safe laxative. Berberine, universally present in rhizomes of Mahonia species, has marked antibacterial effects and is used as a bitter tonic. Since it is not appreciably absorbed by the body, it is used orally in the treatment of various enteric infections, especially bacterial dysentery. It should not be used with Glycyrrhiza species (Liquorice) because this nullifies the effects of the berberine. Berberine has also shown anti-tumour activity

Oregon_grape,Mahonia_aquifolium
I, Hugo.arg [GFDL (https://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Description of Oregon Grape:

Evergreen, upright or spreading, to 2-10 ft. Inner bark and roots bright Yellow. Pinnately compund leaves with 5-11 shiny, green, hollylike leaflets. Leathery, oblong leaflets flat to strongly wavy with sharp, spine-tipped teeth. Yellow flowers in dense racemes at branch tips. Sour Dark bluish berries covered with white film.

Mahonia aquifolium; Oregon Grape, is an evergreen Shrub growing to 2 m (6ft) by 1.5 m (5ft). 

It is hardy to zone 5. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Jan to May, and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects, self.The plant is self-fertile. 

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

Cultivation of Oregon Grape:

A very easy plant to grow, thriving in any good garden soil and tolerating dense shade under trees. It grows well in heavy clay soils and also succeeds in dry soils if it is given a good mulch annually. It dislikes exposure to strong winds. Plants are hardy to about -20°c. Very tolerant of pruning, plants can be cut back into old wood if they grow too large and straggly. Spring is the best time to do this. Suckers are fairly freely produced, with established plants forming dense thicket. Most plants grown under this name are casual hybrids with M. repens. This species is easily confused with M. pinnata, with which it also hybridizes. The flowers are delicately scented. A number of named forms have been developed for their ornamental value. This species is notably resistant to honey fungus. 

Oregon_Grape,Mahonia_aquifolium
By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL (https://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Oregon Grape Flower

Propagation of Oregon Mtn Grape:

Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. It usually germinates in the spring. ‘Green’ seed (harvested when the embryo has fully developed but before the seed case has dried) should be sown as soon as it is harvested and germinates within 6 weeks. Stored seed should be sown as soon as possible in late winter or spring. 3 weeks cold stratification will improve its germination, which should take place in 3 – 6 months at 10°c. Prick out the seedlings when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a cold frame for at least their first winter. Plant them out in late spring or early summer. Division of suckers in spring. Whilst they can be placed direct into their permanent positions, better results are achieved if they are potted up and placed in a frame until established. Leaf cuttings in the autumn.

Collection: The underground parts are collected in the autumn,carefully cleaned, cut into slices and dried. The bark is also gathered in the autumn and dried for later use. 

Culinary uses of Oregon Grape:

Edible Parts: Flowers, Fruit.
Edible Uses: Drink.

Fruit – raw or cooked. The fruit is almost as large as a blackcurrant and is produced in large bunches so it is easy to harvest. It has an acid flavour, but it is rather nice raw and is especially good when added to a porridge or muesli. Unfortunately, there is relatively little flesh and a lot of seeds, though some plants have larger and juicier fruits. The cooked fruit tastes somewhat like blackcurrants. The fruit can also be dried and stored for later use. Flowers – raw. They can also be used to make a lemonade-like drink.

Oregon_Grape,Mahonia_aquifoliumMedicinal uses of Oregon Grape:

Actions: Alterative, cholagogue, laxative, anti-emetic, anti-catarrhal,tonic.

Part Used: Rhizome and root.

Indications: Oregon Grape is similar in action to both Golden Seal and Barberry. If finds its main use in the treatment of chronic and scaly skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. As skin problems of the sort are due to systemic causes within the body, the tonic activity of Oregon Grape on the liver and gall-bladder may explain its potency. It can be used in stomach and gall-bladder conditions, especially where there is associated nausea and vomiting. As a laxative it may safely be used in chronic constipation.

Priest & Priest tell us that it is a “mildly stimulating tonic hepatic and alterative: influences alimentary mucous membrane, stimulates glandular elements and improves nutrition. Promotes the elimination of catabolic residues and stimulates recuperation” They give the following specific indications: catarrhal disorders of stomach,intestines and urinary organs. Hepatic torpor, bilious headacheEczemaherpespsoriasisacne,facial blotches and pimples.

Ellingwood specific for “scaly, pustular and other skin diseasedue to the disordered conditions of the blood. It is the most reliable alterative when the influences of the dyscrasia is apparent in the skin. It is given freely during the treatment of skin diseases where an alterative is considered an essential part of the treatment.” In addition he recommends it for the following patholgies: pimples, roughness, eczema capitis, eczemagenitalis, puritis, scaly eczema, psoriasis, pityriasis, chronic dermatosis, glandular indurations, ulcerations, syphilis.

Preparations & Dosage of Oregon Grape:

Decoction: put 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the root in a cup of water, bring to boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.

Tincture: 1-4 ml of the tincture three times a day.

Combinations: For skin problems it will combine well with Burdock Root, Yellow Dock and Cleavers. For gall-bladder problems it may be used with Black Root and Fringe Tree Bark.

Liquorice as Glycyrrhiza species nullify berberine effects so do not use in combination with each other.

Other uses of Oregon Grape:

Dye,  Hedge,  

A yellow dye is obtained from the inner bark of the stem and roots. It is green according to another report. Dark green, violet and dark blue-purple dyes are obtained from the fruit. A green dye is obtained from the leaves. This species can be grown as a low hedge and does not need trimming. Because of its suckering habit, it also makes a good dense ground cover plant though it can be slow to become established.

Esoteric uses of Oregon Grape:

None known but if you use this plant for any purpose please let us know!

The Chemistry:

Constituents: Alkaloids of the isoquinoline type; berberine, berbamine,hydrastine, oxycanthine.

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