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Health Benefits and Uses of Mahonia

Digestive Health Support


Mahonia Background and Benefits

mahoniaMahonia is a genus of evergreen shrubs in the barberry family, known scientifically as Berberidaceae. This genus contains about 70 species, with M. aquifolium being the type species for Mahonia. M. aquifolium is commonly known as Oregon grape, although it isn’t closely related to true grapes.

Mahonia can grow to a height of three feet with a spread of five feet. The spiny, leathery leaves look like holly, and the twisted branches have a rough surface. Its yellow flowers bloom in early spring and the berries are blue or black when fully ripe.

Mahonia originates from western North America, from New Mexico to Alberta. It is most often found in the understory of evergreen forests, especially Douglas fir. Mahonia may also be found in mountainous brushlands. Mahonia is hardy in a range of conditions, so it has a tendency to become an invasive species outside its normal range.

The berries of Mahonia are edible, although they have large seeds and a very tart flavor. These berries are often combined with sweeter native fruits such as salal when making jelly. Mahonia berries are also made into wine, although this process requires a large amount of additional sugar.

One of the most common uses of Mahonia berries in traditional herbal medicine is the relief of abdominal discomfort. Mahonia contains a number of alkaloids with significant biological activity, including berbamine, berberine, hydrastine and canadine. The primary benefit of these alkaloids is believed to be the inhibition of bacterial growth in the digestive tract.

Uses of Mahonia

The most common uses of Mahonia in modern herbal medicine generally deal with the digestive tract. It may also support a healthy liver and skin.

Skin health support


Topical preparations of Mahonia are often used to help the skin maintain a healthy appearance.

Liver health support


Mahonia can maintain normal blood flow to the liver and may also stimulate the secretion of bile by the gall bladder.

Body Diagram

Digestive health support


Mahonia may help to manage a range of digestive conditions, depending on the dose. Small doses are used for diarrhea and larger doses are used for constipation.

Gut flora management

Mahonia extract may be able to manage the population gut flora of E. coli in the intestines. The amount and types of intestinal bacteria and gut flora should remain within a relatively narrow range to maintain overall digestive health.

Signs You May Need Mahonia

Digestive conditions such as constipation or diarrhea are usually the strongest signs that you may need Mahonia. Additional signs that you need Mahonia include chronic itching or rashes on your skin, especially when they are caused by bacterial or fungal infections. Intestinal infections caused by E. coli and eye infections may indicate that Mahonia could benefit you. Liver conditions could also mean that you need Mahonia.

Products containing Mahonia


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Other Ingredients That May Be Of Interest

Myrrh extract - Myrrh is the resin from several species of plants in the Commiphora genus, especially C. myrrha. Myrrh extract is often used as an oral antiseptic and a liniment.

Olive leaf extract - Olive leaf extract comes from the European Olive, known scientifically as Olea europaea. The primary benefits of this extract are its anti-oxidant properties, especially when combined with other antioxidants.

Synonyms and Similar Forms of Mahonia

Berberidaceae, M. aquifolium, Oregon grape