Herb: Mahonia


Latin name: Mahonia fremontii


Family: Berberidaceae (Barberry Family)



Medicinal use of Mahonia:

The plant has been used as an aid for the gums. The roots are bitter tonic, hepatic and laxative. An infusion has been used to promote digestion. 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 antitumour activity. The root and root bark are best harvested in the autumn.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Evergreen
Shrub

Height:
2.5 m
(8 1/4 foot)

Flovering:
April
to May


Scent:
Scented
Shrub

Habitat of the herb:

Dry rocky places, especially in pi?on-juniper woods, often in gravelly soils, 900 - 1500 metres in California.

Edible parts of Mahonia:

Fruit - raw or cooked. It is usually cooked. An acid flavour but it is rather nice raw, especially when added to muesli or porridge. Unfortunately, there is relatively little flesh and a lot of seeds. A beverage has been made from the fruit. The ovoid fruit is about 15mm long.

Other uses of the herb:

A yellow dye has been obtained from the roots. A purple dye has been obtained from the fruit.

Propagation of Mahonia:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a greenhouse. 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 10C. Prick out the seedlings when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out in late spring or early summer and consider giving them some protection from the cold for their next winter. 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.

Cultivation of the herb:

Dry rocky places, especially in pi?on-juniper woods, often in gravelly soils, 900 - 1500 metres in California.

Known hazards of Mahonia fremontii:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.