The berberis officially recorded in the Pharmacopeia of the United States, (Berberis aquifolium, or mahonia), was introduced to medicine by Dr. Bundy, an Eclectic physician of California, who brought it to the attention of physicians (467) through the manufacturing establishment of Parke, Davis and Company, of Detroit, Michigan. This variety had previously been used throughout the Western States as a domestic remedy in the direction commended by Dr. Bundy, and in many respects it paralleled the domestic and official uses of its near relatives in the Orient and elsewhere.
The Pharmacopeia of India recognizes three species of barberry under the common name berberis. These species of barberry have domestic records as tonics dating from the earliest times, being used in decoction or infusion in inflammatory discharges, as well as in applications for various forms of ophthalmic inflammation. The Arabian physicians employed this plant. Dioscorides (194), Pliny (514), Celsus (136), Galen (254a), and others recognized it. It was one of the Indian drugs on which the Alexandrians levied duty, A. D. 176-180. Among Greek antiquities are preserved small vases of barberry, showing its value in ancient times. A certain Heraclides of Tarentum is mentioned by Celsus as having a reputation for treating diseases of the eye, and among the vases of barberry above referred to, is one bearing the label of this person. In formulas for eye diseases given by Galen (254a), barberry is authoritatively recognized. The natives of India use an extract made from various species growing in Northern India, this extract being sold in the bazaars under the name Rusot, and used not only in affections of the eye, but as a tonic and febrifuge. The qualities of both the official drug and its foreign relatives are similar and were introduced by the common people.
The History of the Vegetable Drugs of the U.S.P., 1911, was written by John Uri Lloyd.