top of page

Herb Spotlight - Oregon Grape

Oregon Grape

Welcome to the third installment of our Herb Spotlight series! Today, we are shedding some light on a little plant that is prolific in any woodsy area and often overlooked. I have Oregon Grape growing in my garden and all around our property.  When I first encountered it, I almost removed it because I didn’t realize that it had any value. Today, I know better, and if you keep reading, you’ll soon know its value as a plant partner, too! 

What is Oregon Grape?

Oregon Grape (Berberis aquifolium or Mahonia aquifolium) isn’t technically a grape at all. It is a bush in the Berberidaceae or barberry plant family that has edible berries and medicinal properties. This bushy perennial has shiny leaves that closely resemble holly. It produces blackish-blue, edible (but unpleasant-tasting berries) that closely resemble tiny grapes. 

Combine that with the fact that it is native to Oregon, and you can see where the name comes from. Other common names include Oregon Hollygrape, Tall Oregon Grape, Holly Leaved Barberry, and Creeping Barberry. 

Foraging and Storing Oregon Grape

Though native to Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, Oregon grape can be found in most of the western United States. As with any foraged plant, always practice ethical and sustainable harvesting. This is doubly so with Oregon Grape, which is on the United Plant Savers plants to watch list. Never decimate a single area, and always be mindful that you are leaving enough for it to reproduce naturally. Since the medicinal value of the plant lies in its golden yellow roots, always be cautious not to disturb neighboring plants. 

To store Oregon Grape roots, you will first need to dry them. To do this, you can place them on a screen or hang them to dry. You can also dry them in a dehydrator or oven on the lowest setting. Once dried, they can be stored in an airtight container for 12-24 months or until they begin to lose color.

History and Folklore

Oregon Grape’s history as a medicinal plant, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, is clear and undisputed. First Nation Tribes and later European colonists and settlers used it for a wide variety of ailments, including stomach problems, hemorrhages, tuberculosis, and arthritis. Oregon Grape was also used by Native tribes to make a yellow dye for coloring baskets, wool, cordage, or porcupine quills. This usage is still practiced today as a natural dye for wool.

Folklore about Oregon Grapes attributes protective qualities to the plant, suggesting that three branches of Oregon Grape placed on one’s threshold will keep enemies at bay.

Constituents, Actions and Energies

Constituents of Oregon Grape

Alkaloids, including berberine, berbamine, columbamine, jatrorrhizine, palmatine, and magnoflorine.

Herbal Actions of Oregon Grape

Anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, alterative, antimicrobial, antiviral, antifungal, bitters, and cholagogue, hepatic.

Herbal Energies of Oregon Grape

Cooling and bitter. 

Precautions, Contradictions, and Interactions

Although severe side effects from Oregon Grape are rare, an allergy to Oregon Grapes’ constituents could cause anaphylaxis. Additionally, consuming high quantities of berberine (a constituent of Oregon grape, may have severe effects, including jaundice (yellowing of the skin).

Oregon Grape is not safe for pregnant or nursing women and is not recommended for children under 12. There are also some drug interactions to be aware of. Oregon Grape can interfere with the liver's ability to break down certain medications. Anyone taking prescription medication should consult their healthcare provider before taking Oregon Grape.

Typical Usage of Oregon Grape

Oregon Grape makes a powerful partner when issues of the liver, gallbladder, and gastrointestinal tract arise. As a hepatic herb for the liver and gall bladder, it works to cool, drain, and detoxify the body. As an alterative herb, it purifies the blood and lymph system by supporting the elimination processes at a cellular level while working to transport vital nutrients into cells. It can also boost the immune system and relieve congestion. 

In Summary

Now that you know how useful Oregon Grape can be, hopefully, you’ll never overlook this powerful plant again. Just remember to harvest with care so that the plant can keep coming back for generations to come. 

If you already use Oregon Grape, what is your favorite way to use it? Tell us all about it in the comments below, and we would love to see your recipes as well! Until Next time,

Sign Off


Content from is meant to be informational in nature and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. Remember that just because something is “natural” does not always mean it is safe for every person. When it comes to herbal medicine, many plants should be avoided when pregnant or nursing and some can cause extreme interactions with prescription and over-the-counter medicine. 

While we strive to be 100% accurate, utilizing information from scientific studies, trusted sources, and verified publications, we are not health professionals, medical doctors, or nutritionists. It is solely up to the reader to verify nutritional information and health benefits with qualified professionals for all edible plants listed on this website and to ensure proper plant identification. 

The information provided by this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Before using herbal preparations, always research, speak to a professional regarding any significant concerns, and never fail to seek medical advice when needed.

Oregon Grape

bottom of page