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Health Benefits of Barberry

15 Impressive Health Benefits of Barberry

These berries might just be your new favorite fruit. They’re small, red, sweet, tart, and extremely healthy; what’s not to love about them!

How often do we head to the market and find a fruit or vegetable that we’ve never seen before, let alone tasted? What are the chances that these fruits and vegetables that you’re essentially missing out on are the ones that are extremely beneficial to you?!

Barberries might just be one of those fruits! Although this plant is native to parts of Asia, Africa, and Europe, it is now cultivated all over the world. Barberries have been used for their medicinal properties for centuries now; it offers various benefits, some of which we will discuss!

Barberry- is it just another berry?

The barberry plant, scientifically known as Berberis vulgaris, is a shrub that grows these delicious berries. These little berries that look like small red buds are known to have a slightly sweet but tart flavor. They can be consumed in the form of jams, can be juiced, used to make teas, used as a component of rice dishes and salads, or eaten raw. The barberries essentially taste like unsweetened dried cranberries, and since they are incredibly tiny in comparison to other berries, they can easily be incorporated into various dishes. You can, however, soak them in hot water to plump them up if you prefer; however, they might lose some of their flavors in the process.

These berries are rich in carbs, fibers, several vitamins and minerals, and several beneficial plant compounds, one of them being berberine. This antioxidant can help fight dental infections, manage diabetes, and treat acne. It is also used to treat digestive issues, diseases, and skin conditions.

There are various species of this berry, some of which have become invasive and others banned due to their effect on vegetation; some barberry species can infect wheat with stem rust, a fungal disease of wheat and related grains. 

However, in this article, we will cover the various health benefits it offers, how much of it is safe to consume, how to consume it, and if there are any side effects.

Health Benefits of Barberry

Barberries are incredibly nutritious; they consist of zinc, manganese, and copper, all of which are trace minerals that can help prevent the onset of diseases and improve your immunity. They are also loaded with various plant compounds like anthocyanins that help boost your brain and heart health and berberine that is associated with several health benefits, among various others.

The following are health benefits that you can reap from consuming barberries;

May help manage diabetes

The compound berberine is said to improve how cells respond to insulin, the hormone that helps regulate your blood sugar levels. It is therefore believed that barberries can help manage your blood sugar levels and hence manage your diabetes as well. 

However, more studies and research needs to be conducted to ensure fresh barberries have the same effect as supplemental berberine or barberry extract [1].

Can help treat diarrhea symptoms

Diarrhea is a common problem that is characterized by loose, watery, and possibly more-frequent bowel movements. This condition can be present alone or with other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. However, the good news with diarrhea is that it is short-lived and will not last longer than a few days [2].

Barberries are said to be effective when it comes to diarrhea. Berberine can help slow the transit of feces through the gut by inhibiting specific receptors. This could result in a reduction of diarrhea symptoms. One study concluded that berberine found in barberries was effective in treating diarrhea caused by infections from certain bacteria.

More human research is required to understand the relation between berberine and diarrhea and how it can be beneficial [3].

Might protect against metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors that can increase the chance of developing diabetes or heart disease. Obesity, high blood sugar, cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood pressure levels are all potential risks for this syndrome; barberries are said to offer the benefit of preventing the onset of these conditions. They are also said to decrease oxidative stress in individuals who might already be experiencing metabolic syndrome since oxidative stress can result in a shortage of antioxidants which could lead to the onset of heart diseases and other health issues [4].

Good for dental and oral health

According to certain test-tube studies, barberry extract is said to help fight inflammation, a result of its property as an anti-inflammatory. Since barberry is an anti-inflammatory, it might help prevent inflammatory dental diseases like gingivitis, which comes with symptoms like plaque buildup, swelling, and irritation of the gums. Although more research is required, some studies suggest that barberry gel can be more effective than traditional anti-plaque toothpaste. With that said, we can conclude that barberries, to some extent, can help maintain good oral health [5].

May help fight acne

Acne is caused due to various reasons like hormonal changes, medication, diet, stress, etc.; it is often characterized by inflamed bumps or pimples and, in some cases, redness. Barberries can help manage or fight acne due to the plant compound berberine, which can act as an anti-inflammatory; these berries can also help fight other infections associated with acne.

Although further research is required, it can be concluded that barberry can be an effective treatment option for teenagers with acne [6].

May have anticancer effects

Barberries are loaded with the plant compound berberine, which acts as an antioxidant, and might help prevent and fight oxidative damage that is associated with cancer development. Berberine also might prevent cancer cell replication, inhibit the enzymes involved in the life cycle of cancer cells, and even cause cancer cells’ death. 

Although more research is required, certain test-tube studies suggest that berberine can slow cancer progression; it can prevent tumor growth and can initiate cell death in the liver, breast, bone, and human prostate cancer cells [7].

Might help with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

The food we eat is always extremely important. The diet you consume when diagnosed with PCOS, might look a little different from your regular diet; it is often constructed to suit your body and medical needs.

Individuals diagnosed with PCOS are often prescribed a drug by the name of metformin that prevents the development of diabetes. However, studies have suggested that barberries might be more effective since they can lower blood sugar levels and improve cholesterol levels better than the drug. It is also said to reduce testosterone levels, improve triglyceride levels and lower the waist-to-hip ratio in individuals with PCOS. Some studies suggest that it could also help improve fertility, but further research is required [8].

How much Barberry to consume

Barberries are tiny red berries with a slightly sweet but tart flavor and are therefore easy to incorporate into your diet. You can eat them raw, add them to a jam, as a side dish or component to other meals like rice and salads, or even use them to make juices or teas. Since these berries are so easy to incorporate into your diet, often you might lose track of how much you have consumed or should be consuming altogether!

Although there is no established dosage of how much to consume, the recommended dosage would range from around 2 grams to 6 grams. This would also apply to other forms as well– extracts, for example. 

Side effects of Barberry

Like every other food item or ingredient, consuming too many barberries might result in unwanted side effects. Some of the side effects that you might experience are,

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Convulsions
  • Dangerous drops in blood pressure
  • Trouble breathing
  • Slowed heart rate

It is important to keep in mind to discuss with your physician before you start consuming barberries. You should be extra cautious if you take anticoagulants, antibiotics, antihistamines, diuretics, diabetes medication, and blood pressure medication. These medications might interact with barberries, and this might, in turn, affect their efficacy.

An overdose of these berries can cause kidney irritation. It can result in bloody urine, pain when urinating, low back or stomach pain, and fever; you might have to seek immediate medical attention. Although barberries might have antibacterial properties, you should not use them as a substitute for conventional treatment.

If you are pregnant, then you should avoid barberries or consume them only if prescribed since they can stimulate uterine contractions and might cause a miscarriage. Pregnant women, lactating women, and children should consume this berry cautiously and always keep their doctor in the loop.

If you are using supplements or extracts of this berry, then you should be all the more cautious since they might consist of other ingredients as well. Consult a professional, and buy your extracts and supplements only from trusted sources.

Berberine vs. Barberry

Berberine is just the plant compound that is found in barberries. When one talks about the benefits of barberries, they are essentially talking about the benefits of berberine since it is the most prominent compound in this berry. 

Berberine is an antioxidant and may help treat diarrhea, fight dental inflammation and infection, and help improve blood sugar level control. This compound is actually present in many other plants as well, and not just in barberries.


Are barberries healthy?

Yes, barberries are actually extremely healthy. They can help control your blood sugar level, fight acne, diarrhea, diabetes, PCOS, and manage metabolic symptoms. They are also good for your dental health since their anti-inflammatory property can prevent and treat the onset of dental conditions like gingivitis, which are often a cause of inflammation.

Is barberry a blood thinner?

While there is no definite answer to that question, you must be careful while consuming these berries if you are on blood thinning medication. Barberries can alter the effectiveness of the blood-thinning medication. These berries can also affect blood clotting and may increase your risk of bleeding. Always consult a doctor before consuming these berries to prevent any health complications.

Is barberry good for kidneys?

Barberries are technically good for your kidney; they can be used for the treatment of renal calculi or kidney stones. It can also be used to provide relief from pains that are caused due to kidney stones. However, you must be careful about how much you consume since too much can result in harmful side effects on your kidney. It can cause kidney irritation, blood in your urine, urinating pain, and abdominal pain.

Is barberry good for high blood pressure?

Barberry can help lower your blood pressure due to its vasodilatory properties that come from its plant compound, berberine. This compound directly affects the central nervous system and helps control your blood pressure. Therefore, yes, barberries are good for high blood pressure since they can help control it.

Wrapping Up

You must’ve heard of the phrase “Don’t knock it till you try it” at least once in your lifetime; this phrase essentially sums up this article about barberries. With their bright red color and slightly sweet and tart taste, these berries bring more to the plate than you think.

They might even be considered the underdogs of the fruit world since they have so many health benefits to offer but aren’t brought up in discussions enough. They can help control your blood sugar levels, manage diabetes, inflammation, PCOS, diarrhea, and even help maintain good oral health!

While you’re taking a look at barberries and everything they have to offer, why don’t you also head over to take a look at the health benefits of kiwi!


  1. Zhang, Hao et al. “Berberine lowers blood glucose in type 2 diabetes mellitus patients through increasing insulin receptor expression.” Metabolism: clinical and experimental vol. 59,2 (2010): 285-92.
  2.  “Diarrhea.” MedlinePlus, 20 July 2016.
  3. Chen, Chunqiu et al. “Berberine Improves Intestinal Motility and Visceral Pain in the Mouse Models Mimicking Diarrhea-Predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS-D) Symptoms in an Opioid-Receptor Dependent Manner.” PloS one vol. 10,12 e0145556. 23 Dec. 2015.
  4. Firouzi, Safieh et al. “Barberry in the treatment of obesity and metabolic syndrome: possible mechanisms of action.” Diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity : targets and therapy vol. 11 699-705. 8 Nov. 2018.
  5. Kumar, Gunjan et al. “Emerging trends of herbal care in dentistry.” Journal of clinical and diagnostic research : JCDR vol. 7,8 (2013): 1827-9.
  6. Fouladi, Rohollah F. “Aqueous extract of dried fruit of Berberis vulgaris L. in acne vulgaris, a clinical trial.” Journal of dietary supplements vol. 9,4 (2012): 253-61.
  7. Sun, Yiyi et al. “A systematic review of the anticancer properties of berberine, a natural product from Chinese herbs.” Anti-cancer drugs vol. 20,9 (2009): 757-69.
  8. Ashkar, Fatemeh et al. “Effect of hydroalcoholic extract of Berberis integerrima and resveratrol on ovarian morphology and biochemical parameters in Letrozole-induced polycystic ovary syndrome rat model: An experimental study.” International journal of reproductive biomedicine vol. 18,8 637-650. 19 Aug. 2020.