Here in the , and in many other areas of the US, Oregon grape [aka Berberis aquifolium; Mahonia aquifolium; Mahonia nervosa in the Berberidaceae family] plants cover the forest floor in abundance.  We are lucky this potent grows locally, as it has many uses.  I most often recommend it as an , and .  It is also a fantastic bitter digestive stimulant, liver and and a .

Berberine alkaloids are the active ingredients in the root bark, roots and rhizomes (the parts used in herbal medicines).  Berberine is also found in goldenseal and goldthread (coptis).  These two herbs are very popular in the herb and nutritional supplement industry.

oregon-grape-plant1Unfortunately, coptis and goldenseal populations are depleted in the wild and they are difficult to cultivate.  I believe it is important to use medicines that are abundant in nature and as local as possible.  Therefore, is a medicine I recommend very often to my patients and suggest they use instead of goldenseal or coptis.


Now is a great time of year to harvest Oregon grape roots, root bark and rhizomes for medicine as the strongest medicine is still in the roots of the plants.  Fall and winter are the best times to harvest all roots for medicine as they store what the plant needs during the dormant seasons.

In my area, there are already signs of the coming spring awakening.  The Oregon grape is already starting to make flower buds!  I took the pictures above literally right outside my back door.  What plants grow in abundance in your backyard?  Are they medicines?  I bet most of you have Dandelions in your yards as an example of another abundant plant with amazing healing benefits.  In a future post, I will share more about the medicinal benefits of dandelions.

For now, I just want to re-iterate that naturopathic medicine takes into account the health of the whole planet, not just humans.  Naturopaths are changing the face of medicine in promoting sustainable healing practices for the best possible health of all beings.  One way we accomplish this is by recommending local, sustainably harvested or organically grown herbs processed using good manufacturing practices.

With appreciation for the local and the wild,

Margaret Philhower, ND