Herb latin name: Mahonia napaulensis

Synonyms: Berberis napalensis, Mahonia acanthifolia

Family: Berberidaceae (Barberry Family)

Medicinal use of Mahonia napaulensis:

The fruits are said to be diuretic and demulcent. They are used in the treatment of dysentery. A decoction of the bark is used as eye drops to treat inflammations of the eyes. 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:


2.5 m
(8 1/4 foot)

to April


Habitat of the herb:

Dense wet oak and rhododendron forests to 2900 metres.

Edible parts of Mahonia napaulensis:

Fruit - raw or 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. The fruit can also be dried and used as raisins. The ovoid fruit is about 12mm long.

Other uses of the herb:

A yellow dye is obtained from the stem and leaves.

Propagation of Mahonia napaulensis:

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 10C. 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. Cuttings of half ripe wood 15cm long, July in individual pots in a frame. 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:

Dense wet oak and rhododendron forests to 2900 metres.

Known hazards of Mahonia napaulensis:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.