Berberis. Berberis aquifolium.

Botanical name: 

Synonyms—Mahonia aquifolia, Oregon grape, mountain grape.


Berberine, oxyacanthine, berbamine, tannin, fat, resin.


Extractum Berberidis Aquifolii Fluidum. Fluid extract of berberis aquifolium. Dose, from five to twenty minims.

Administration—The active principle of the agent is apt to precipitate if a combination is made with the iodide of potassium, as is often done with other vegetable alteratives. To avoid this the iodide solution should be rendered slightly alkaline by adding a few drops of the liquor potassae before the combination is made.

Physiological Action—In overdoses, in some cases the agent produces tremor of the limbs, lack of muscular power, dullness of the mind, drowsiness and active diuresis. It is not a poisonous agent.

Its influence upon the secretion of the entire glandular structure of the digestive and intestinal tract is steady, sure, and permanent, although not always as immediately marked as some other agents.

It stimulates all the glandular organs of the body. It stimulates digestion and absorption. and thus improves general nutrition. It materially stimulates waste and repair.

John Aulde in 1911 advised this remedy for its immediate influence upon the digestive apparatus, the blood, and the secretions. He said constipation is relieved and the bowel movements become regular and natural. The complexion clears, the muscular strength increases, and the skin and urinary organs become more active. I have found it indeed serviceable in syphilis and in scrofula, the general indications being peculiar to indigestion such as coated tongue, fetid breath, and a. general feeling of malaise from blood disorders. This is strictly in line with our own teachings.

Specific Symptomatology—The specific action of this agent is in scaly, pustular and other skin diseases due to the disordered condition of the blood. It is the most reliable alterative when the influence of the dyscrasia is apparent in the skin. It is given freely during the treatment of skin diseases where an alterative is considered an essential part of the treatment.

Therapy—It has cured persistent acne for the writer, when no local treatment was used. It contributes to the removal of pimples and roughness and promotes a clear complexion, a soft, smooth and naturally moist skin in sensitive young ladies , when the cause is not a reflex one from ovarian or uterine irritation, or menstrual irregularity.

It seems of especial value in scaly skin diseases and in disorders of a non-inflammatory type, and yet it works nicely in some cases of the moist variety.

It has cured very many cases of salt rheum even when the symptoms were chronic in character and greatly exaggerated.

In moist eczema it has acted most satisfactorily, but has usually been given in conjunction with other treatment. Dr. Soper, in 1884, reported in the Therapeutic Gazette a most intractable case of moist eczema of an acute character covering the entire body. No other alterative was given. The case was cured in four weeks. In eczema capitis, eczema genitalis, with pruritus and in scaly eczema of all kinds, it has been given alone and has acted promptly and surely.

It has cured cases of scald head, so called, in a few weeks, restoring tone and vigor to the hair.

It has been often used in acne, and has worked nicely when local or reflex irritation was not the cause.

In psoriasis and in pityriasis it has won the praise of many doctors. For dandruff it has been given internally and has produced cures in a number of cases,

In many instances various forms of chronic dermatosis have yielded to its influence when other treatment has failed.

It should be prescribed in glandular indurations and chronic ulcerations, both of a scrofulous and syphilitic type, giving excellent results in these cases. It is lauded highly in syphilis, though it has seldom been given alone in this condition, but usually with other vegetable alteratives, the value of which, however, it has seemed to greatly enhance. Of this fact, I am positively convinced because of the rapid disappearance of the characteristic eruption, and the marvelously smooth condition of the skin which has followed with my patients when this agent is given in this disease.

When first introduced it was recommended in chronic malarial conditions, in intermittent fevers, and in the stomach, liver, intestinal and general glandular disorders of these fevers. It was claimed that its tonic influence was conspicuous in these conditions and that in certain cases it exercised marked antiperiodic properties. It certainly acts as a tonic and corrective to disorders of the liver, an influence that has been often remarked when given for skin diseases.

The American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy, 1919, was written by Finley Ellingwood, M.D.
It was scanned by Michael Moore for the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine.