Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium) is an evergreen shrub that is native to western North America. The Oregon Grape is the official plant of the state of Oregon (USA). The bush has spiny leaves and blooms of yellow flowers that develop into dark blue berries.
The berries of Oregon Grape are edible, but they are quite tart. Oregon Grape was an important element of the traditional medicine of the Native Americans who inhabited the region. Oregon Grape is occasionally used in Naturopathic treatments for acne.
Extracts from the roots of Oregon Grape are available commercially and are commonly used in Naturopathic Medicine. Oregon Grape root extract has been reported to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Some Naturopaths prescribe Oregon Grape root extract as an oral supplement to treat inflammatory skin conditions, such as psoriasis and acne. Some people have reported that oral supplements of Oregon Grape root extract helped improve their acne symptoms. However, no rigorous clinical studies have been conducted to determine if Oregon Grape extracts are actually an effective treatment for acne.
Oregon Grape root extract contains signficant concentrations of a biologically-active molecule called Berberine. Berberine is an alkaloid that has been shown to have anti-bacterial properties. Berberine may be responsible for many of the reported medicinal properties of Oregon Grape root extract. Berberine is found in many other plants (eg. Goldenseal), and many cultures utilize those plants for medicinal purposes.
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