Botanical name

Berberis vulgaris

Common Names

Common barberry, european barberry




A native, bushy shrub that bears bitter red elongated berries in the autumn. Widespread throughout the UK.

Part supplied

The chopped bark. 

Food Use

Both barberries and barberry bark are used to make bitters and are often an ingredient in gin. The berries are high in vitamin C and antioxidants.

Barberry bark is used as a herbal tea.

Juice and ferment the berries with kefir to make a refreshing lemon-like drink similar to sumac lemonade.


Use 1 teaspoon of dried herb to one cup of boiling water to make a tasty tea. Infuse for 5-10 minutes. Sweeten with honey or lemon to taste.

Alternatively add half a teaspoon (2.5 ml) of tincture to a cup of warm water for a quick alternative to tea.

The herb can be added as a flavouring to gin, vodka and other infusions.


Berberis thunbergia is said to be the best for culinary use having large berries, the fruit contains pectin so no need to add any to the jam.

Recipes tend to call for equal amounts of sugar and fruit with a small amount of water to help the softening process: Boil two pounds of refined sugar with half a pint of water until it becomes white, and falls in masses from the spoon; throw in two pounds of thoroughly ripe and sound barberries (deseeded), and stir for five minutes; skim thoroughly, pour into jars and cover down.

Visit Celtnet for a full jam recipe. Another useful source of Barberry recipes is Earthnotes

Medicinal Use

Treats the gallbladder, gallstones, jaundice, kidney and digestive problems, stomach ulcers. It contains berberine which is antibacterial.

Key actions: Cholagogue, antimicrobial, bitter tonic, mild laxative, antiemetic, choleretic.

In clinic: Herbalists use this herb to treat jaundice, cholecystitis, leishmaniasis, cholelithiasis.

If you are interested in the medicinal use of this herb please consult a herbalist. Herbs are generally used at medicinal strength, in blends, prescribed for each unique patient's condition.


Decoction: Half a 1 teaspoon to 1 (1 to 2 g) of herb to a cup of cold water, bring to the boil and leave to sit for 15 minutes. Or steep 1 teaspoon bark in cold water overnight. Flavour with lemon, ginger or honey if desired. Drink 3 times a day unless otherwise told by a medical herbalist.

Tincture: Take 2 to 4 ml (1:10 tincture), 3 times a day or as directed by a practitioner.

Fluid extract: 1:1 Take 2 to 3 ml, 3 times a day or as directed by a practitioner.

Dried Herb: Maximum of 6 g per day may be taken as a powder or capsules.

Other Uses

Cosmetic Use

None known.

Other Uses

None known.



This herb is considered safe in food amounts. Do not take if you are allergic to this plant or other members of this plant's family (Berberidaceae). Not all herbs are suitable in pregnancy, breastfeeding or for young children. If in doubt, please ask us or your medical herbalist.


Do not use whilst pregnant or lactating without consulting a professional. 

Side effects

None known. Plant extracts cause few side effects when taken correctly but if a side effect is experienced please contact us.

Interactions with drugs

Interacts with phenylbutazone and other medication that replaces the protein binding of bilirubin.

Herbal remedies and supplements can interact with medicines. If you are taking medication please check with your medical practitioner, or call us, before taking herbs, supplements and medication together.

More Information


There are currently no articles related to this herb.


Look in our recipes section for more uses of this herb.


Read the latest PubMed research on this herb.

Add to BagBerberis vulgaris Barberry bark 100g £10.99
Add to BagBerberis vulgaris Barberry bark 500g £32.99
Add to BagBerberis vulgaris Barberry bark 1kg £56.99

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