November 5

The Most Important Herbal Remedy: Oregon Grape Root


Oregon Grape (Berberis aquiflium, aka Mahonia aquifolium)
Oregon Grape (Berberis aquiflium, aka Mahonia aquifolium)

Now that I have your full attention, truth be told, it would be impossible to pick just one “most important” herbal remedy. However, if I had to limit myself to a handful of herbal medicines for SHTF, Oregon Grape Root (Berberis aquifolium, aka Mahonia aquifolium) would be at the top of my list. 

Oregon grape root does two things spectacularly well: it supports proper liver function by stimulating bile flow, and it acts as a potent anti-microbial agent. Translation: this one plant medicine covers a stunning number of conditions, such as:

  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Bladder infections
  • Chlamydia
  • Cholera
  • Chronic candidiasis
  • Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)
  • Dental abcess (early and temporary measure only)
  • E. coli
  • Ear infections
  • Eczema
  • Endometriosis
  • Fatty Liver Disease
  • Giardia
  • Herpes sores
  • Infectious Diarrhea
  • Inflammation
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Methicillin-resistant staphyloccus aureus (MRSA)
  • Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
  • Psoriasis
  • Staph infections
  • Strep infections (like strep throat)
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
  • Wound treatment

Oregon Grape, aka Mountain Grape, isn’t a grape at all. However, it is one of several plants high in berberine, which is responsible for it’s potent anti-microbial action. Pubmed has over 3000 studies on berberine in it’s database. Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) is another high-berberine plant. Unfortunately, it had largely been overharvested. Herbalists are now turning to Oregon grape root as a substitute, since the two plants are very similar in berberine content .


Berberine, while being a powerhouse antimicrobial, also possesses a very unique and important property: it shuts down the ability of bacteria to develop resistance to it. Berberine contains an MDR Inhibitor (Multidrug Resistance Pump Inhibitor), essentially shutting down the “pump” that pushes antibiotics out of the bacteria, creating antibiotic resistance. Considering the danger of ineffective antibiotics and highly resistant bacteria, this natural ability of Oregan grape to prevent bacteria from becoming resistant to it’s medicine, is of enormous benefit. For a more information on antibiotic resistance, see my earlier article, Drug Resistant Infections During SHTF.

While it is accurate to describe Oregon grape root as an herbal antibiotic, it would also be a limited and myopic view of the remedy. It is also antiviral, antifungal, antiparasitic, anti-inflammatory, helps preserve bone marrow in cancer patients, and lowers blood glucose levels.

Be aware that Oregon grape root is bitter, as is common with liver remedies. It also has yellow flowers and 800px-Mahonia_aquifolium_NRMthe inner root is also yellow, which tends to be very common for liver remedies as well. The flowers eventually turn into dark blue berries which are very, very sour. The leaves are bright and shiny, but caution must be taken as the leaves have sharp, thorny spikes on their tips.

I strongly encourage you to grow your own supply if these grow in your area. If not, try looking at other high-berberine plants, like barberry or yellow root. These are valuable plant medicines, and you do not want to be without them in an emergency. Remedies made from them would also make a great barter item.

Oregon grape may be taken internally and externally. Tincture of Oregon grape can be applied directly to psoriasis or other skin eruption or rash. Internally, it may be taken in either tea or tincture. Herbalist Michael Moore gives specific instructions for either tea or tincture to be administered 3x daily. 1-3 ounces of tea, or 10-60 drops of 1:5 strength tincture in a 50% alcohol. Maud Grieves, however, recommends dosage through tincture of 10-30 drops, but does not give precise instructions on making the tincture.

In sorting out the proper dosage, I would take body size and severity of illness into account when figuring the dosage. Tending towards the minimum dosage of 10 drops for a smaller person and/or weaker infection, and over 30 for a larger person and/or more severe infections. For a child with a small cut that is starting to look infected, in addition to using the tincture topically, I would give the child 10 drops of tincture in water, 3x/day, plus plenty of yogurt to keep the intestinal flora happy. In an adult with a dental abscess, which always has the potential to turn life threatening, I would give the full 60 drops 3x/day, and seek out a dentist ASAP!


  • Do not take while pregnant.
  • Use caution in diabetics as Oregon grape root can lower blood glucose.

Bottom line: this is seriously, my number one, must-have, item in an emergency herbal medicine kit.


antibacterial, Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria, antifungal, antimicrobial, Berberis aquifolium, herbal antibiotic, Herbal First Aid Kit, Mahonia aquifolium, MRSA, Oregon Grape Root

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  1. Hello, can I take this interchangeably for berberine capsules which are a lot more expensive… it would seem the benefits of oregon grape are the same if not better…

    1. Hi Newby,

      Outside of one on one consults, I cannot comment about your individual situation specifically. I also cannot say that berberine capsules should be used interchangeably, because that would make the FDA quite upset. What I can tell you is that in a 3-month trial, 500 mg of berberine was shown to be as effective as 500mg of metformin in regulating post-prandial blood glucose. The berberine had additional, positive side effects that were not observed with metformin. These side effects include lower triglycerides, lower overall cholesterol, and a better HDL to LDL ratio. Since this study, berberine is used in China as an anti=diabetic agent. Here is a link to the study.

    1. To be clear, I am not making specific recommendations of herbs for individuals in this or any other blog post. In regard to berberine and endometriosis, it is sometimes included as part of an overall protocol that is tailored for the individual.

  2. I’m T2 diabetic and I’ve been taking Golden seal for a week and my blood sugar is improving greatly, but I guess there is a trade off with everything. So it is recommended to not take it for too long? Anyhow I’ve been feeling back to my old self since I’ve been taking it, and that is a bummer that I can’t take it all of the time.

    1. Hi John,

      Since writing this article, a study was done in China on coptis (which contains berberine) for weight loss. It was also shown during this study that berberine does not effect the healthy bacteria in the gut afterall. In fact, it was shown to actually keep candida at bay. In addition to that, there was 3 month long study done demonstrating berberine’s effectiveness against metformin, showing it to be as effective mg to mg. No one in the trial experienced any discomfort during the three months from taking berberine. I have since removed the caution against taking it for longer periods.

      I use Phellodendron amurense (amur cork tree) or coptis chinensis for mine. They both contain plenty of berberine. I’ve been taking it now regularly for over a year. No complaints. Only healthy blood glucose readings.

  3. My doc recommended berberine to help reduce my cholesterol level. I’ve been using it for years and it surely works as well as chemical alternatives which my body truly dislikes. Now you’ve taught me about all these basic benefits. Wow, thanks for the information…..

    1. Hi HLW, I don’t think I’ve ever seen oregon grape root as an essential oil. It’s best used as a tincture, made with alcohol and a small amount of vinegar, or as a powder. You can also make an infused oil from it. Is there a reason you’re looking for the essential oil?

  4. I found your website because I was researching berberine for ear infections. I came across a recipe for a DIY remedy which called for 1 oz of berberine plant, but it sounds like there are several plants I could choose from. There are also alot of berberine capsules I can buy online but they all have amounts in milligrams, not ounces, so the whole thing gets very confusing. Do you have any suggestions? I would be making this for my granddaughter, 2 1/2 yrs old, who gets frequent ear infections.

    Thanks for your time.

    1. Hi Gail, yes, berberine is found in several plants. It is a yellow, bitter chemical typically found in the roots of certain plants (and sometimes in the inner bark, if applicable). Some plants include Oregon grape root, Amur cork tree, goldenseal, and coptis, just to name a few.

      As for its use in infections, berberine’s actions are local, not systemic. It needs to come in contact with the infected tissue. I’m not sure what the DIY remedy was, or how they were using it. So, I can’t really advise on that. If you are looking for herbs by the ounce, you should try either a local herb shop or order online. Jeans Greens does orders with 1 ounce amounts.

      However, I can tell you that my go to for ear infections has been lavender essential oil mixed in olive oil. I mix the two in equal amounts. I mix them together in a 1/2 ounce bottle with an eye dropper. Then, I take a cotton ball, tear off a small piece to make an ear plug, and then saturate the cotton ear plug with the lavender/olive oil blend.

  5. I just read that this shouldn’t be taken for long periods of time in that it can mess with the gut microbiome. I have taken this daily for two months. I realize each individual – along with their situation- is different, but is there a general suggestion?
    Thank you

  6. Do you have an actual recipe for Oregon grape root tincture? I was told to put some in a jar with 70 proof flavored vodka. Screw the lid on and put the jar and a dark cupboard. Do this on a new moon for the highest extraction rate. Each day take the jar out and shake it. Do this for 14 days. That will happen to fall on a full moon. Strain the root out of the tincture.

    The only thing I don’t know is how much Oregon grape root to put in the jar.

    Does anyone have any tips?

    1. Hi Carla, are you making it from fresh root? Dried? Just as a general rule, I might go with a higher percentage vodka, but also add about 10% vinegar to it also. A little acid helps to extract the berberine.

  7. Hi!
    I’d like to make some capsules. Is there any specific place that has good quality OGR ? I’ve been using some that was hand made for intimate purposes and found it is a great herb. I would like to make my own.

  8. It’s obvious patient with HERPES OR some Hepatitis b are been enslaved to the antiviral and other supplementary Orthodox medicine just to help suppress the virus and not a cure. I have been with the virus for 7 years when i was introduced by a blogger who also narrated Her story online on how she was cured of Herpes after using Dr Felix Herbal Medicine. I took the same step to also get cure of HERPES, I made an order for DR Felix Herbal Medicine and after taken for 3 weeks with a test result i was confirmed Herpes FREE I have promise to keep telling good about this. You can Write him via his call/
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  9. I reside in Mysore, Karnataka state in India, have psoriasis from many years. During resent google search i found using any moisturizing/maintenance cream with 10% Oregano grape is good. But i am not able buy related product. Pls help

  10. Hello! How can one use this in treating bacterial vaginosis? Make a suppository or take it orally? Is this safe to do while breastfeeding? Thank you!

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