Oregon Grape: Benefits, Dosage, Side Effects, & More

Written by Krista Bugden
Medically Reviewed by Felicia Newell, M.S., RDN

November 6, 2023

The Oregon grape is a medicinal herb from the Berberidaceae plant family.  It has a long history of use for skin irritations, indigestion, arthritis, and more. Keep reading to learn about the health benefits of this native Oregon plant, its recommended dosage, and potential side effects.

In this article, we'll answer all your questions about Oregon Grape. You'll learn the health benefits, potential side effects, proper dosage, and much more.

What Is Oregon Grape?

Oregon grape is a North American plant native to the Pacific Northwest, particularly Oregon—hence the name. This evergreen shrub grows bright yellow flowers in the spring, and as summer transitions into fall, the flowers turn into small, round, blue-black berries that resemble grapes. While these berries are entirely edible, they are seedy and sour in taste.

Close up of the yellow flowers of the Oregon Grape plant

The Oregon grape also has various species, with two of the most well-known ones being Mahonia aquifolium and Mahonia repens. The Mahonia aquifolium is the Oregon state flower and can grow to an impressive 10 feet tall. Mahonia repens, on the other hand, is a relatively low-growing shrub that doesn’t typically exceed 1-3 feet in height.

Interestingly, the indigenous people of North America have long used the Oregon grape, particularly the Mahonia aquifolium species, for treating indigestion, arthritis, tuberculosis, skin conditions, and even hemorrhages (1). In fact, when early settlers of the Americas arrived, they adapted these treatment methods, using them as a substitute for European Barberry.

Oregon grape and European Barberry share a very important bioactive compound called berberine. This natural plant extract is what gives the Oregon grape its yellow color and anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. That said, let’s take a closer look at all the benefits of Oregon grape and its famous co-star, berberine.

What Are the Benefits of Oregon Grape?

Due to its impressive track record in treating an array of health conditions, Oregon grape is found in several products, both topical and oral. In fact, we love this herb so much that we decided to add it to our Native Berberine supplement. Hundreds of our customers take it to help with metabolic support and blood sugar management! Yet that’s not all Oregon grape is good for. Here’s a detailed list of its benefits.

1. Reduces Skin Disorder Symptoms

Oregon grape can help reduce symptoms associated with psoriasis and atopic dermatitis (2, 3). After a few months of use, participants in such studies saw a reduction in dry and itchy skin. This is primarily attributed to berberine’s anti-inflammatory properties (since inflammation often plays a major role in psoriasis flare-ups and atopic dermatitis).

A hand pouring out two capsules of NativePath Berberine from the bottle into her hand

Give Your Health a Botanical Boost

Native Berberine has 900 milligrams of Barberry Root, plus Goldenseal & Oregon Grape Extract for blood sugar management and metabolic support.

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2. Treats & Reduces Infections

The active component, berberine, in Oregon grape has significant antimicrobial properties. Research even shows its effectiveness in treating methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria infections, Streptococcus agalactiae bacteria infections, and even infections caused by E. coli (4, 5, 6).

It’s often recommended for immune support for these very reasons. However, it’s worth noting that it shouldn’t be used as an end-all, be-all for immune support. Overall diet, lifestyle, and stress management matter just as much.

3. Improves Digestive Issues

For those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other ongoing digestive issues, Oregon grape may help ease symptoms by reducing inflammation. 

The main bioactive compound in Oregon grape—berberine—is shown to reduce diarrhea frequency, abdominal pain, and other symptoms for those suffering from IBS (7). While more research is needed, initial studies show promise in using this plant for gut inflammation.

4. Reduces Stress & Improves Mood

Berberine has also been shown to decrease stress, enhance mood, and improve depression symptoms by increasing serotonin and dopamine (8, 9). Serotonin and dopamine are two hormones that are associated with a good mood and feeling relaxed.

5. Regulates Blood Glucose

Some studies suggest that berberine (the primary compound in Oregon grape) can help regulate blood glucose levels, making it potentially useful for individuals with type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance (10). 

It does this by increasing insulin sensitivity, increasing insulin secretion, and activating AMPK, which inhibits the liver’s production of glucose (11). In fact, this is a major reason why Oregon grape has become more popular in recent years.

How Much Oregon Grape Should You Take?

Finding the right dosage of Oregon grape depends on a few different factors:

  • Purpose of consumption
  • Form of Oregon grape (capsule, tincture, topical cream, or tea)
  • Age, weight, and overall health

Generally, for adults, a common dosage recommendation for Oregon grape root tincture is one to three milliliters taken up to three times daily. However, you’ll often find Oregon grape supplements come in 400 to 500 milligram tablets or capsules. (Our supplement at NativePath has 200 mg of Oregon grape per 2-capsule serving.)

Kelsey Costa, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant for Consumer Health Digest adds, “The appropriate dose of any supplement can vary based on various factors like age, health status, and medical conditions. However, as the FDA does not regulate herbal supplements and human research is lacking, there are no standard or approved oral doses of Oregon grape. Those considering the use of Oregon grape might want to begin with applying it externally, such as through a skin cream. If you're thinking about taking it orally, like in the form of a supplement, it's crucial to discuss it with your healthcare provider first.”

Are There Any Side Effects of Oregon Grape?

It’s recommended for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding to avoid Oregon grape due to a lack of evidence regarding its safety. It has further been shown that berberine may lead to uterine contractions, also indicating that pregnant women should avoid it (12).

Side effects are rare, but they can occur. Some potential side effects include itchy, burning, irritated skin and gastrointestinal upset (13). 

Interactions may also occur when taking Oregon grape alongside certain medications, including those used for diabetes, high blood pressure, blood thinning, and some sedatives. Always discuss your options with your doctor before consuming a new supplement.

A hand pouring out two capsules of NativePath Berberine from the bottle into her hand

Balance Your Blood Sugar, Naturally

Native Berberine has 900 milligrams of Barberry Root, plus Goldenseal & Oregon Grape Extract for blood sugar management and metabolic support.

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Krista Bugden
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Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden is a freelance writer with a BS in Human Kinetics from the University of Ottawa. She spent 5 years working as a kinesiologist, giving her the first-hand experience she needed to write well-researched, scientific, and informative blogs.

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    Medical Disclaimer

    This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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