Berberis vulgaris

Berberis vulgaris[1]
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
Order: Ranunculales
Family: Berberidaceae
Genus: Berberis
Species: B. vulgaris
Binomial name
Berberis vulgaris
  • Berberis abortiva P.Renault
  • Berberis acida Gilib.
  • Berberis aethnensis Bourg. ex Willk. & Lange
  • Berberis alba Poit. & Turpin
  • Berberis angulizans G.Nicholson
  • Berberis apyrena K.Koch
  • Berberis arborescens K.Koch
  • Berberis articulata Loisel.
  • Berberis asperma Poit. & Turpin
  • Berberis aurea Tausch
  • Berberis bigelovii Schrad.
  • Berberis corallina G.Nicholson
  • Berberis dentata Tausch
  • Berberis dentata var. capitata Tausch
  • Berberis dulcis K.Koch
  • Berberis dumetorum Gouan
  • Berberis edulis K.Koch
  • Berberis elongata G.Nicholson
  • Berberis globularis G.Nicholson
  • Berberis hakodate Dippel
  • Berberis heterophylla K.Koch
  • Berberis iberica Sweet
  • Berberis innominata Kielm.
  • Berberis irritabilis Salisb.
  • Berberis jacquinii K.Koch
  • Berberis latifolia Poit. & Turpin
  • Berberis marginata K.Koch
  • Berberis maxima G.Nicholson
  • Berberis maximowiczii Regel
  • Berberis microphylla F.Dietr.
  • Berberis mitis Schrad.
  • Berberis nepalensis K.Koch
  • Berberis nitens Schrad.
  • Berberis obovata Schrad.
  • Berberis orientalis C.K.Schneid.
  • Berberis pangharengensis G.Nicholson
  • Berberis pauciflora Salisb.
  • Berberis racemosa Stokes
  • Berberis rubra Poit. & Turpin
  • Berberis sanguinea K.Koch
  • Berberis sanguinolenta K.Koch
  • Berberis sibirica Schult. & Schult.f.
  • Berberis sieboldii Dippel
  • Berberis sylvestris Poit. & Turpin
  • Berberis violacea Poit. & Turpin

Berberis vulgaris L., also known as common barberry,[3] European barberry or simply barberry, is a shrub in the genus Berberis. It produces edible but sharply acidic berries, which people in many countries eat as a tart and refreshing fruit.

The shrub is native to central and southern Europe, northwest Africa and western Asia;[4] it is also naturalised in northern Europe, including the British Isles and Scandinavia, and North America. In the United States and Canada, it has become established in the wild over an area from Nova Scotia to Nebraska, with additional populations in Colorado, Idaho, Washington State, Montana, and British Columbia.[5] Although not naturalised, in rural New Zealand it has been widely cultivated as a hedge on farms. It is cultivated for its fruits in many countries.

It is a deciduous shrub growing up to 4 m high. The leaves are small oval, 2–5 cm long and 1–2 cm broad, with a serrated margin; they are borne in clusters of 2-5 together, subtended by a three-branched spine 3–8 mm long. The flowers are yellow, 4–6 mm across, produced on 3–6 cm long panicles in late spring. The fruit is an oblong red berry 7–10 mm long and 3–5 mm broad, ripening in late summer or autumn; they are edible but very sour, and rich in Vitamin C.

Culinary uses

Dried barberries

The berries are edible and rich in vitamin C, though with a very sharp flavor; the thorny shrubs make harvesting them difficult, so in most places, they are not widely consumed. They are an important food for many small birds, which disperse the seeds in their droppings.

A widely available Russian candy called Барбарис (Barberis) is made using extract from the berries, which are pictured on the wrapper.

In Europe, the berries have been traditionally used as an ingredient in making jam. The berries are high in pectin which makes the jam congeal as it cools after having been boiled. In southwestern Asia, especially Iran, the berries are used for cooking, as well as for jam-making. In Iran, barberries are commonly used as a currant in rice pilaf.

Zereshk (زرشک) or sereshk is the Persian name for the dried fruit of Berberis spp., specially that of Berberis integerrima 'Bidaneh',[6] which is widely cultivated in Iran. Iran is the largest producer of zereshk and saffron in the world. Zereshk and saffron are produced on the same land and the harvest is at the same time.

The South Khorasan province in Iran is the main area of zereshk and saffron production in the world, especially around Birjand and Qaen. About 85% of production is in Qaen and about 15% in Birjand. There is evidence of cultivation of seedless barberry in South Khorasan two hundred years ago.[7]

A garden of zereshk is called zereshk-estan.

Zereshk is widely used in cooking, imparting a tart flavor to chicken dishes. It is usually cooked with rice, called zereshk polo, and provides a nice meal with chicken. Zereshk jam, zereshk juice, and zereshk fruit rolls are also produced in Iran.

Other uses

The plant is both poisonous and used in folk medicine.[8][9][10][11]

It has been widely cultivated for hedges in New Zealand.[12] Berberis vulgaris (European barberry) is the alternate host species of the wheat rust fungus (Puccinia graminis), a grass-infecting rust fungus that is a serious fungal disease of wheat and related grains. For this reason, cultivation of B. vulgaris is prohibited in Canada[13] and some areas of the United States (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire[3]).

Salishan elders have used M. aquifolium to treat acne[14] and native American Indians utilized barberries to treat scurvy.[15] A decoction of the plant has been used to treat gastrointestinal ailments and coughs.[16]

The edible fruits have been used to prepare jams, jellies, and juices. The use of the plant in traditional medicine has been limited by the bitter taste of the bark and root. However, numerous folk medicinal uses for barberry exist.[17][18] Other reported uses of M. aquifolium include the treatment of fever, gout, renal and biliary diseases, rheumatic symptoms, diarrhea, gastric indigestion, and dermatosis.[19][20]

Berberine, the active ingredient in barberry, inhibits the growth of bacteria and has antioxidant properties in vitro.[9][10] Barberry extract may also improve symptoms of certain skin conditions, although more research is needed to confirm these findings.[9][10]

Barberry fruits have been used in the traditional Austrian medicine internally as tea, jelly or syrup for treatment of disorders of the respiratory tract, fever, infections, cold, and flu.[8]

See also


  1. 1885 illustration from Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany
  2. The Plant List
  3. 1 2 "Berberis vulgaris". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  4. Altervista Flora Italiana, Crespino comune, Sowberry, Common Barberry, vinettier, espino cambrón, Sauerdorn, Berberis vulgaris L. includes photos, drawings, and European distribution map
  5. Flora of North America vol 3
  6. Alemardan, Ali; Asadi, Wahab; Rezaei, Mehdi; Tabrizi, Leila; Mohammadi, Siavash (2013). "Cultivation of Iranian seedless barberry (Berberis integerrima 'Bidaneh'): A medicinal shrub". Industrial Crops and Products. 50: 276–87. doi:10.1016/j.indcrop.2013.07.061.
  7. Tehranifar, A. (2003). "Barberry Growing in Iran". In Lee, J-M.; Zhang, D. XXVI International Horticultural Congress: Asian Plants with Unique Horticultural Potential: Genetic Resources, Cultural Practices, and Utilization. ISHS Acta Horticulturae 620. pp. 193–5. ISBN 978-90-66054-00-4.
  8. 1 2 Vogl, Sylvia; Picker, Paolo; Mihaly-Bison, Judit; Fakhrudin, Nanang; Atanasov, Atanas G.; Heiss, Elke H.; Wawrosch, Christoph; Reznicek, Gottfried; Dirsch, Verena M.; Saukel, Johannes; Kopp, Brigitte (2013). "Ethnopharmacological in vitro studies on Austria's folk medicine—An unexplored lore in vitro anti-inflammatory activities of 71 Austrian traditional herbal drugs". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 149 (3): 750–71. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2013.06.007. PMC 3791396Freely accessible. PMID 23770053.
  9. 1 2 3 Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD (22 June 2016). "Barberry". University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). VeriMed Healthcare Network. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  10. 1 2 3 "Barberry". Wolters Kluwer Health. 2009. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  11. "Berberis vulgaris". The Plant Encyclopedia. 29 May 2011. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  12. Popay, Ian; Champion, Paul; James, Trevor, eds. (2010). "Berberis glaucocarpa barberry". An Illustrated Guide to Common Weeds of New Zealand (3rd ed.). Christchurch: New Zealand Plant Protection Society. ISBN 978-0-473-16285-6.
  13. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. Retrieved 2015-03-07.
  14. Turner, NJ; Hebda, RJ (1990). "Contemporary use of bark for medicine by two Salishan native elders of southeast Vancouver Island, Canada". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 29 (1): 59–72. doi:10.1016/0378-8741(90)90098-e. PMID 2345461.
  15. Foster, S; Tyler, VE (1999). Tyler's Honest Herbal (4th ed.). Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press.
  16. Schauenberg, P; Paris, F (1977). Guide to Medicinal Plants. New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing, Inc.
  17. Duke, JA (1985). Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
  18. Hartwell, JL (1971). "Plants used against cancer. A survey.". Lloydia. 34 (4): 386–425. PMID 5173435.
  19. Gieler, U.; Weth, A von der; Heger, M. (1995). "Psoriasis vulgaris - gute Erfolge mit Homoeopathika". Ars Med. 14: 1018–1019.
  20. Gieler, U.; Weth, A von der; Heger, M. (1995). "Mahonia aquifolium -a new type of topical treatment for psoriasis". Journal of Dermatology Treatment. 6 (1): 31–34. doi:10.3109/09546639509080587.

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