Herb latin name: Mahonia nevinii

Synonyms: Berberis nevinii

Family: Berberidaceae (Barberry Family)

Medicinal use of Mahonia nevinii:

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:


2.4 m
(7 3/4 foot)

to May

Habitat of the herb:

Sandy and gravelly places in sage bush scrub or chaparral.

Edible parts of Mahonia nevinii:

Fruit - raw or cooked. The red fruit has an acid lemony flavour with a firm but juicy texture, 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 be up to about 6mm in diameter, though on specimens we have seen fruiting in Britain the fruit is only 3mm in diameter.

Other uses of the herb:

A green dye is obtained from the roots. Dark green, violet and dark blue-purple dyes are obtained from the fruit. A green dye is obtained from the leaves.

Propagation of Mahonia nevinii:

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:

Sandy and gravelly places in sage bush scrub or chaparral.

Known hazards of Mahonia nevinii:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.