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A tree of the Berberidaceae family, the barberry is scientifically called Berberis vulgaris and its name derives from the Greek language in which it means shell; in fact, its petals form a basin. The tree can reach a height of almost three meters and has both internal and external roots: the external roots have a very dark color while the internal roots are yellow. Its branches are covered with thorns and the leaves, with a shiny surface, have an elliptical shape. The fruits of the barberry are red berries, about one centimeter large. The ideal environment for the growth of the tree is an arid mountain environment, bordering on the woods. Its growth is spontaneous and in Italy it is widespread especially in the Apennines and on the Alps. Of the whole tree, not only the leaves are used but also the fruits and the bark. The latter is collected both in spring and in autumn and, once dried, is stored in bags. In the same way, the leaves are preserved and are used after being dried while the fruits are mainly used fresh; however, this does not prevent them from being used even dry. The barberry is used in the culinary and pharmaceutical fields in particular. A particular use of the leaves and fruits of the barberry concerns the treatment of mental disorders related to stress. Decoctions, infusions and tinctures are the best ways to take advantage of the benefits of barberry; they can be prepared with both leaves and berries. The bark, then, is considered the part of the plant that is richest in active principles and is therefore the most used part.
Therapeutic use of barberry
First of all, we must remember that the barberry owes its therapeutic capabilities to particular substances. These substances, contained in the leaves, in the fruits and in the bark although in different quantities, are berberine, ossocantina and berbamina. Moreover, from every part of the tree some essential oils are obtained which act particularly on the metabolism and solve the problems of stomach acidity. Among the other beneficial effects that the barberry has on health there is the astringent one, which is therefore helpful in case of diarrhea, the diuretic one, useful for the elimination of excess liquids, and the purifying one, so it helps the body to eliminate toxins and protect the body from free radicals. Furthermore, the barberry is able to fight the bacteria that attack the intestine and is of great help in the case of dysentery. The extract of roots and bark is excellent for increasing appetite and for fighting dyspepsia. The liver is another organ that can benefit from the effects of barberry; in fact, this plant stimulates the production of bile and is indicated for biliary dyskinesia. Still with regard to the liver, the barberry is able to fight even liver colic. The enlarged spleen can be cured thanks to the infusion of barberry. Particular help can reach women who, during the period of the menstrual cycle, suffer from too much flow; moreover, it can also relieve the problems related to menopause. Headache, nausea, vomiting, flu, dizziness and fainting can also be treated with barberry. As far as the psychological aspect is concerned, the barberry can help in several cases. First of all, the habit of daily drinking a barberry-based infusion allows you to face daily difficulties with greater tranquility and serenity; this is a good way to reduce the level of stress, which is getting higher nowadays. Not everyone knows, then, that barberry is considered a natural remedy against agitation, tension and fear. Therefore, those who are particularly agitated can use the barberry to calm themselves and thus increase their attention and concentration. Excessive fear, another possible character tendency, can also be tackled by resorting to the barberry decoction. Mental tiredness and slowness of thought, melancholy and insecurity can in turn be better addressed if the barberry is consumed daily.
Barberry: Prepare infusions and decoctions with barberry
Barberry-based decoctions and infusions can easily be prepared at home by using one of the different parts of the plant as the main ingredient, all easily found in herbal medicine. If you want to prepare a decoction with the fruits of the tree, just use 100 grams of fresh berries (the quantity will be halved in case of dried berries) and boil them in a liter of water for about twenty minutes. Using the leaves, on the other hand, you will get a good infusion, effective against menstrual pain, by pouring boiling water over about 50 grams of dry leaves; after having left to macerate for at least half an hour it will be necessary to filter the liquid before drinking it. Following the same procedure, you can also prepare the infusion of bark, to be used dry and chopped; the bark infusion, as well as its decoction, is excellent in the case of dysentery. Under normal conditions, however, it is necessary to avoid drinking excessive amounts because, in this case, it could have the same effect as a purge. For therapeutic purposes, barberry infusions can also be drunk in the quantity of one cup three times a day.