Herb latin name: Mahonia x media

Family: Berberidaceae (Barberry Family)

Medicinal use of Mahonia x media:

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 m
(6 1/2 foot)

to April


Habitat of the herb:

Not found in the wild.

Edible parts of Mahonia x media:

Fruit - raw or cooked. An acid flavour but the fruit is rather nice raw, especially when added to muesli or porridge. Unfortunately, there is relatively little flesh and a lot of seeds. The fruit ripens in early spring and good crops have often been seen on plants growing in sheltered positions. The fruit is produced in large clusters and so is easy to harvest.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - this is a hybrid species and seed will not come true, though some interesting plants might be produced. The seed is 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. 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. Stems will often root if they are stuck in the ground with most of their leaves removed.

Cultivation of Mahonia x media:

Not found in the wild.

Known hazards of Mahonia x media:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.