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Growing and Using Oregon Grape


Oregon Grape Root

Oregon Grape Root

© nordique


Oregon grape is a gorgeous evergreen shrub. It is found along roadsides, and pastures, and is often easier to notice during the winter months as the only bit of color alongside of country roads.

Crafters can often be seen trudging through the underbrush on the side of a road, pulling down beautiful branches of Barberry. They use this colorful plant to make swags and wreaths. You may have even seen the imitation vine, laden with clusters of berries, at your local craft store. Why not cut your own?

Herbalists often talk about the antibiotic properties of this useful herb. It can be used in any herbal preparation, and is often the substitute for Goldenseal, an endangered wild herb.

Latin Name:

Berberis spp. or Barberry

Common Name:

Oregon Grape Root, or Barberry, Mountain Grape

USDA Hardiness Zone:

Found throughout the US, there are varieties of Barberry found almost everywhere, although different species. In fact, it bears the state of Oregon's flower.


Shade, partial sun. Oregon grape is considered invasive in many areas, so it is tolerant of many growing conditions.


The part most commonly used is the Oregon grape root, so harvesting is a bit tricky. The long, strong root has to be pulled from the ground. All the hard work is well worth it, as the root is highly renowned for it's antibiotic actions.

Historically, the berries were also used to make jelly and wine. If nothing else, why not add Oregon grape berries to your wildfood list?

Native Americans used Oregon grape for food and medicine, and it was used to cure many things, including heartburn, kidney problems, skin issues, and to stimulate poor appetites, due to the Berberine stimulating action on the gall bladder. Oregon grape was very popular right up until the 1950's.


Historically, the berries were used to make jelly and wine. This is still applicable, although has fallen out of favor for the more commonly recognized elderberry or wild berries.

Oregon grape root is absolutely fabulous for it's use in herbal healing. The roots are often recommended for any herbal remedy that traditionally used goldenseal, since goldenseal is endangered.

Oregon grape is also wonderful for making wreaths and swags, the berries remaining on the plant throughout the winter months. It is fairly simple to cut long pieces, and wrap them into a wreath shape while still pliable. I have made baskets, swags, wreaths and wrapped them around the base of a hurricane lamp, for decorating with a natural look. Another benefit of using Oregon grape over regular grape vines, is they don't *shed* quite as much.

Dyers take note: Oregon grape is also used to create yellow dye. Using the roots, stems and leaves, colors range from yellows to tan. Use the berries and alum as the mordant, and you can dye wool a purple-blue tone.

Oregon grape roots are a brightly yellow color, due to the Berberine.

Oregon grape roots can be made into a tea, tincture or oils, depending on the desired use.They can also be dried and slipped into water or chewed, which is said to help ward off traveler's illness from bad water or food. To find out more about making herbal preparations, see:

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