Herb: Mexican Barberry
Latin name: Mahonia haematocarpa
Synonyms: Berberis haematocarpa
Family: Berberidaceae (Barberry Family)
Medicinal use of Mexican Barberry:Inner wood shavings can be soaked in water to make an eyewash. 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:
Habitat of the herb:Slopes and flats in desert shrubland, desert grassland, and dry oak woodland, 900-2300 m, Arizona., California., Colorado., Nevada., New Mexico, Tex., Mexico.
Edible parts of Mexican Barberry:Fruit - raw or cooked. Juicy and acidic, it is used mainly for making jams and jellies in N. America. It makes an acceptable raw fruit and is especially nice when added to porridges or muesli. Unfortunately, there is relatively little flesh and a lot of seeds.
Other uses of the herb:A green dye is obtained from the roots. Yellow according to another report. A green dye is obtained from the leaves. Dark green, violet and dark blue-purple dyes are obtained from the fruit.
Propagation of Mexican Barberry: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 10°C. 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:Slopes and flats in desert shrubland, desert grassland, and dry oak woodland, 900-2300 m, Arizona., California., Colorado., Nevada., New Mexico, Tex., Mexico.
Known hazards of Mahonia haematocarpa:None known
Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.