Berberis vulgaris. Barberry.
Nat. Ord. — Berberidaceae. Sex. Syst. — Hexandria Monogynia.
Bark and Berries.
Description. — Berberis Vulgaris is an erect, deciduous shrub, from three to eight feet high, with long, bending branches which are dotted with triple spines. The leaves are obovate-oval, simple, closely serrulate, crowded, forming fan-like groups, alternate, from one and a half to two inches long, and about one-third as wide, tapering at their base into the petioles, with small thorns at their base, which are a transformation of the primary leaves. The flowers are many, on slender and pendulous racemes, yellow, small, and succeeded by loose branches of bright-red berries, of an oblong form, of a pleasant acidulous taste.
History. — This shrub is found from Canada to Virginia, on hills, mountains, and among rocks ; it is rare in the west and in rich soils. It flowers in April and May, and ripens its fruit in June. Berberine is its active alkaline principle.
Properties and Uses. — Tonic and laxative. Used extensively by practitioners in the New England States, in all cases where tonics are indicated, also in jaundice, and chronic diarrhea and dysentery. The berries form an agreeable acidulous draught, useful as a refrigerant in fevers, also beneficial in dysentery, cholera-infantum, diarrhea, etc. The bark is bitter and astringent, and has been used with advantage as a tonic, and has proved efficacious in the treatment of jaundice. The bark of the root is the most active ; a teaspoonful of the powder will act as a purgative. A decoction of the bark or berries, has been found of service as a wash or gargle in aphthous sore-mouth, and in chronic ophthalmia.