Bacterial Infections Berberis Has Known and Loved

The Question:

While I sympathize with the effect that the increased consumption of Hydrastis is causing, and I certainly feel the financial pressure of using it. I find clinically that it is hard to beat, especially as a mucous membrane trophorestorative. For its use as an antibacterial agent then the Berberis spp. are fine, especially Indian barberry, Berberis aristata, which is very high in berberine. I was interested in hearing of the Berberis plants being used for systemic bacterial infections. For GUT infections it certainly works well but I have not used it for other sites such as chest, bladder etc.

Does anyone want to elaborate on infections treated with berberine containing herbs.

David McLeod
President National Herbalist Association of Australia
Wed, 5 Jun 1996

The Reply:

I have personally used Berberis nervosa for over a decade for numerous bacterial infections other than those in the gastrointestinal tract. Today, as I was sitting next to a waterfall watching the rippling water and feeling the cool spray, I mused on this question from the other side of the globe.

  • Antibiotic resistant otitis media – every case has cleared up, that is hundreds of uncomfortable little people don’t need to drink that artificial cherry flavored sugar crap I grew up with. Usually adjunct with mullein flower oil externally in ear.
  • Any external bacterial infection moving inward, excellent results
  • Staph, excellent results
  • Abscessed tooth .. personal experience on me, excellent results
  • General colds and flus of bacterial origin – much better than Echinacea for the general cold, in my opinion. If Echinacea is the light cavalry, then Berberis is the heavy artillery.
  • Bronchitis – good results
  • Some types of pneumonia – some respond, some don’t.
  • Cystitis, urethritis – mixed results, I generally go with other herbs first and move to Berberis in more stubborn cases.
  • I have not used Berberis for infections in the reproductive system, but I would not hesitate to try it.

Basically, if you were going to use Berberis as a “little drug,” it would be appropriate for times when a broad spectrum antibiotic is indicated. Though the actual physiological effects are very different, the results are similar. Some other antibacterial herbs may work better for certain microbes, but if you are not sure which herb to use, than Berberis is a good starting place.

I am speaking about internal dosages of “root” rhizome tincture (not root shavings) at 45 – 60 drops 3 – 4x a day. If it is going to work, there should be marked improvement immediately (or within 24 hrs).

Of course, this is a simplified view of a complex whole plant. It does effect other organs and systems besides, and may have a marked alterative effect also. Look at the whole picture blah blah blah (pages of off topic stuff you already know cut out).

Somewhere in the back closet of my mind, I can see a page of research on Berberis for AIDS. It had a list of bacteria, including staph, that Berberis was effective at eliminating. Final results showed no effect on the AIDS itself, but good results with the treatment and management of many of the secondary infections. I’ve been thinking about that reference for a week, but cannot find it. Guess I’ll go back to that waterfall, and muse some more. Wake me up when another good internet post comes in.

Slightly modified from a post to Herbal Hall written by Howie Brounstein on Sun, 9 Jun 1996.

From the C & W Herbal Apprenticeship © 1994, by Howie Brounstein.
You can use it, just don’t change it, sell it, or publish it.

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