Herb: Buffalo Berry

Latin name: Shepherdia argentea

Synonyms: Hippophae argentea

Family: Elaeagnaceae (Oleaster Family)

Medicinal use of Buffalo Berry:

The berries are febrifuge, laxative and stomachic. They have been eaten in the treatment of stomach complaints, constipation and fevers.

Description of the plant:


4 m
(13 feet)


Habitat of the herb:

Banks of streams and open wooded areas, often on limestone and on sandy soils.

Edible parts of Buffalo Berry:

Fruit - raw or cooked. It can also be dried and used like currants. A tart but pleasant flavour even before a frost, it becomes sweeter after frosts. The fruit is also used for making preserves, pies etc. The fruit should be used in moderation due to the saponin content. The fruit is produced singly or in clusters, it is up to 9mm long and contains a single seed.

Other uses of the herb:

The plants can be grown as a hedge and windbreak. A red dye is obtained from the fruit. Because it has a wide-ranging root system, forms thickets and is wind tolerant, it is sometimes planted for erosion control.

Propagation of Buffalo Berry:

Seed - it must not be allowed to dry out. It is best harvested in the autumn and sown immediately in a cold frame. Stored seed requires 2 - 3 months cold stratification. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots once they are large enough to handle. If sufficient growth is made it will be possible to plant them out in the summer, otherwise grow them on in a cold frame for their first winter and plant them out in the following spring or early summer. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame sometimes work.

Cultivation of the herb:

Banks of streams and open wooded areas, often on limestone and on sandy soils.

Known hazards of Shepherdia argentea:

The fruit contains low concentrations of saponins. Although toxic, these substances are very poorly absorbed by the body and so tend to pass through without causing harm. They are also broken down by thorough cooking. Saponins are found in many plants, including several that are often used for food, such as certain beans. It is advisable not to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.