Herb: Mexican Barberry


Latin name: Mahonia trifoliolata


Synonyms: Berberis trifoliolata


Family: Berberidaceae (Barberry Family)



Medicinal use of Mexican Barberry:

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 m
(6 1/2 foot)

Flovering:
April
to May

Habitat of the herb:

Dry calcareous soils. Slopes and flats in grassland, shrubland, and sometimes open woodland at elevations of 0 - 2000 metres.

Edible parts of Mexican Barberry:

Fruit - raw or cooked. An acid flavour but nice, especially when added to porridges or muesli. A subtle tart flavour, it is pleasant to eat raw. Unfortunately there is relatively little flesh and a lot of seeds. The fruit is also used to make preserves. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute.

Other uses of the herb:

A yellow dye is obtained from the inner bark of the stem and roots. It is green according to another report. An ink is made from the wood. Dark green, violet and dark blue-purple dyes are obtained from the fruit. A green dye is obtained from the leaves. Makes a good hedge. The wood is a source of tannin.

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 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 calcareous soils. Slopes and flats in grassland, shrubland, and sometimes open woodland at elevations of 0 - 2000 metres.

Known hazards of Mahonia trifoliolata:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.