Traditional Indications

Barberry is antibacterial, antipruritic, antirheumatic, antiseptic, appetiser, astringent, antimutagenic, cholagogue, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, hepatic, laxative, ophthalmic, purgative, refrigerant, stomachic and tonic. Barberry has been extensively used for many centuries and is traditionally indicated for correcting liver function and promoting the flow of bile. It ameliorates conditions such as gallbladder pain, gallstones and jaundice. It is indicated when there is cholecystis (inflammation of the gall-bladder) or in the presence of cholelithiasis (gallstones). As a bitter tonic with mild laxative effects, it is used with weak or debilitated people to strengthen and cleanse the system. An interesting action is its ability to reduce an enlarged spleen. (1)

In Traditional Chinese Medicine barberry is known as Fú Niú Huā. Fú Niú Huā enters the Liver, Spleen, Stomach, Large Intestine channels and smoothes Liver qi, tonifies Spleen Qi, removes stagnation, promotes urination, moves the bowel, clears Liver Heat & clears Toxins. (2)


Barberry contains a constituent called berberine which is strongly antibacterial, antimicrobial, antifungal & antiviral. (3) The active constituents, berberine in barberry acts against malaria and is also effective in the treatment of protozoal infection due to Leishmania spp. (4, 5) Berberine inhibits viral replication and berberines antiviral activity is comparative with the antiviral flu drug drug Oseltamivir. (6)

Berberine has shown anti-tumour activity in human ovarian and breast cancer cells. (7-9)

Barberry inhibits Phase I & induce Phase II liver detoxification pathways. Berberine inhibits Cytochrome P450 Phase I liver enzymes. (10) This is desirable in excess persistent organic pollutant bioaccumulation (toxicity) as toxins induce or speed up Phase I liver detox pathways leading to Phase II detox pathways being overburdened. Benzylisoquinoline alkaloid in Berberine, specifically increases endogenous antioxidants, glutathione peroxidase (GPx) & superoxide dismutase (SOD), both copper-zinc SOD (CuZn-SOD) & manganese SOD (Mn-SOD) to assist glutathione conjugation. (11)

1. PFAF. Berberis vulgaris 2019.
2. Healing WRIo. Barberry (Fu Niu) 2019.
3. Wu Y, Li JQ, Kim YJ, Wu J, Wang Q, Hao Y. In vivo and in vitro antiviral effects of berberine on influenza virus. Chinese journal of integrative medicine. 2011;17(6):444-52.
4. Ghiaee A, Naghibi F, Esmaeili S, Mosaddegh M. Herbal Remedies Connected to Malaria like Fever in Iranian Ancient Medicinal Books- Brief Review Article. Iranian journal of parasitology. 2014;9(4):553-9.
5. Saha P, Bhattacharjee S, Sarkar A, Manna A, Majumder S, Chatterjee M. Berberine chloride mediates its anti-leishmanial activity via differential regulation of the mitogen activated protein kinase pathway in macrophages. PloS one. 2011;6(4):e18467-e.
6. Enkhtaivan G, Muthuraman P, Kim DH, Mistry B. Discovery of berberine based derivatives as anti-influenza agent through blocking of neuraminidase. Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry. 2017;25(20):5185-93.
7. Jin P, Zhang C, Li N. Berberine exhibits antitumor effects in human ovarian cancer cells. Anti-cancer agents in medicinal chemistry. 2015;15(4):511-6.
8. Almeer RS, Aref AM, Hussein RA, Othman MS, Abdel Moneim AE. Antitumor Potential of Berberine and Cinnamic Acid against Solid Ehrlich Carcinoma in Mice. Anti-cancer agents in medicinal chemistry. 2018.
9. Pierpaoli E, Arcamone AG, Buzzetti F, Lombardi P, Salvatore C, Provinciali M. Antitumor effect of novel berberine derivatives in breast cancer cells. BioFactors (Oxford, England). 2013;39(6):672-9.
10. Guo Y, Chen Y, Tan ZR, Klaassen CD, Zhou HH. Repeated administration of berberine inhibits cytochromes P450 in humans. European journal of clinical pharmacology. 2012;68(2):213-7.
11. Lao-ong T, Chatuphonprasert W, Nemoto N, Jarukamjorn K. Alteration of hepatic glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase expression in streptozotocin-induced diabetic mice by berberine. Pharmaceutical biology. 2012;50(8):1007-12.