Every Herb Has a Story: Oregon Grape

By Staff
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Randy Buresh (Registered Nurse and Herbalist), is the co-owner and founder of Oregon’s Wild Harvest. Oregon’s Wild Harvest grows, harvests and produces their own medicinal herbal products, many of which use the herbs grown on their certified Biodynamic® and Organic farm in Sandy, Oregon. www.oregonswildharvest.com

Since Oregon grape (Mahonia spp.) is the state flower of Oregon, we thought it would be nice to spend a little time telling you about the Pacific Northwest’s best kept secret.

As we have mentioned before, specific plants grow in the areas that people and animals live–not only to provide them with a food supply, but also to protect them from the stressors of living in such areas. Oregon grape is no exception.

This evergreen thrives here in the Great Northwest and grows deep in the coniferous forest. It likes shade and gets very little sun. Growing close to the ground, the conditions are very damp, where bacteria and fungus thrive. The leaves are sharp and very bitter. So, you would not find the deer eating them.  The bark is yellow to yellow-green, and the roots are almost orange. Right under the bark, you will find a very yellow alkaloid, the primary bioactive agent of Oregon grape, called berberine. Berberine is the same alkaloid found in goldenseal, which is what also gives goldenseal its yellow color. Berberine has been traditionally used as an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory.

Oregon grape also contains the alkaloids oxyacanthine and oxyberberine, which function similarly to berberine. It has a long history of traditional use as a bitter, and helps to flush out the liver by stimulating the production of digestive enzymes and bile. 

Oregon grape is considered the northwest’s goldenseal, having very similar qualities but at 25 percent the price. And, since goldenseal is an endangered species, Oregon grape is a great choice, as it can be found in good supply in the wild.

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