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Barberries (Berberis vulgaris); Overview and Health Benefits

Barberries (Berberis vulgaris) belong to the family of Berberidaceae. It is a shrub-shaped plant with a height of 1-3 meters and Turkey is one of the 5-6 countries in the world where it grows.

In recent years, instead of treating many diseases after they occur, practices to prevent diseases have come to the fore. One of the ways to achieve this is to take nutrients/components that increase the body’s resistance to diseases and minimize or completely eliminate the factors that cause diseases.

Some of these components are antioxidants and phenolic compounds. Fruits are at the forefront of the food sources where these components are found naturally. However, uncultivated wild fruits are preferred in this regard.

Wild plants and fruits are generally known and used by the local people. In addition, the same wild plants grown in different regions are named and consumed in different ways according to the regions. Many wild fruits, which are so valuable for these reasons, are not widely recognized. In addition, since its features have not been fully revealed, it does not receive sufficient attention and cannot be evaluated.

One of the fruits that can be considered in this context is the plant known as “Barberry” and called Berberis vulgaris L. in Latin.

Barberry berries are pink or red in color and about 10 mm (1 cm) long. The plant is a tall and red-colored shrub. It is known that there are around 200 species of this fruit. This plant which grows spontaneously in many parts of Europe, Asia, North America and also in the North Anatolian Region of Turkey, is a shrub species that can grow up to 2 meters in height and shed its leaves in winter.

It has spines and bright red fruits in groups of three. Its roots, which are used as an appetizer, strengthening and antipyretic among people, are generally known as “amberparis root”.

In addition, many species are grown as ornamental plants due to their attractive flowers and fruits and their fruits are a valuable food source for birds. It contains alkaloids such as berbamine, berberine and berberubin.

Since the benefits of this plant are quite high, it can also be considered a natural alternative medicine product.

It is widely used in traditional treatment practices by local people in the places where it is found. For example, in Turkey, the barberry plant is used for medicinal purposes due to its antibacterial, antipyretic, antipyretic, itching and allergy-relieving properties and regulating rhythm disorders.

In addition, Barberries have been used locally and traditionally for many years as a food additive or for therapeutic purposes. All parts of this plant, from root and root bark to leaves and fruits, are evaluated in different ways. Scientific studies on its pharmacological and chemical content and properties are still continuing and are the subject of research.

The leaf arrangement of the barberry fruit is spiral, single or in the form of a bouquet. Generally, it has a light green color, short stem, oval, leathery structure, reddish-like edges and a penetrating and toothed leaf structure.

It has flowers in the form of compound clusters. In addition, there are 6 male and 1 female organ as well as 6 bowl and crown organs. The fruit is red-yellow or dark red in color. The fruits are half the size of the leaves and are located under short shoots with 2-3 seeds.

Barberries are a fire-red, slightly elongated, oval-shaped fruit with a sour flavor. Some types of barberry fruit grow well in shady places, humus and moist soils, while others grow well in sunny places and dry soils. According to TÜBİVES (Turkish Plant Data Service) data, the areas where this plant naturally grows in Turkey are İstanbul, Kastamonu, Artvin, Samsun, Tokat, Giresun, Gümüşhane and Bayburt.

Health Benefits of Barberries (Berberis vulgaris)

The barberry plant, like many other wild fruits, is known to be a great source of antioxidants. In many scientific studies, it is reported that the antioxidant activity is quite high.

In addition, it has high levels of phenolic and anthocyanin compounds. In addition, it contains ascorbic acid (vitamin C), vitamin K, resin, tannin, several triterpenoids, many phytochemicals, more than 10 phenolic compounds and more than 30 alkaloids. Berberine, berbamine, jatrorrhizin, columbamin, berberubin, oxycanthine, palmatin contain important alkaloids in their structure.

It also contains flavonoids such as quercetin and campherol. From this point of view, it can be said that barberry fruit is a good source of bioactive phytochemicals due to its high content.

1. Thanks to the antioxidant properties of the plant, it has many effects such as anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, vasodilator, antimicrobial, antioxidant, and antithrombotic.

2. It is reported that the phenolic acids in the fruit have the potential to have a protective effect against fatal diseases such as cancer and coronary heart disease.

3. All parts of these plants are medicinal, tonic, antimicrobial, antiemetic, antipyretic, anti-pruritic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, hypotensive, antiarrhythmic, sedative, antinociceptive, anticholinergic, cholecystitis, cholelithiasis, jaundice, dysentery, leishmaniasis, malaria, gallstones, hypertension, it is used in ischemic heart diseases, cardiac arrhythmias and cardiomyopathies. It is also used to treat diarrhea, reduce fever, improve appetite and relieve stomach discomfort.

4. According to some academic studies, barberry fruit can be used in the treatment of many diseases, from skin diseases, infectious diseases, heart diseases and even psychiatric disorders.

5. It is reported that it can be used in cardiovascular diseases, in the treatment of liver diseases and in diseases related to the gallbladder. It has been explained that it has positive effects on the treatment and prevention of some types of cancer.

6. In addition to these, it is stated that it can be used in the form of cream for some skin diseases and wounds. Finally, it is reported that it gives very beneficial results for diabetes patients, especially in type 2 diabetes diseases.

7. In terms of ethnobotanical use, it is stated that the leaves are used in the treatment of colds and have positive effects on urinary tract disorders.

8. It is reported that the barberry plant is an important food source for blood pressure patients and its potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus contents are higher than many cultivated plants.

9. In the interviews with the local people, it was said that the leaves of the barberry plants, which are said to be good for diabetes and blood pressure, are collected in the spring and the fruits are generally ripe at the end of September.

As stated in the previous sections, Barberries are consumed in different ways depending on the people living in the region and their eating habits. It has been determined that it is consumed as fruit juice in many regions during the winter months.

However, it has been determined that Barberries are consumed in almost every region, not as pure herbal tea, but by adding it to various herbal teas. In the food industry, jam, marmalade, dessert and wine production, as well as the root, bark parts, and fruits of the plant can be used as tea. Root and root bark are used for their cathartic (diarrhea, intestinal cleaner), diuretic, antipyretic, scurvy and antiseptic properties.

As can be seen, Barberries are a plant with many health benefits, very valuable components and high nutritional value. The use of this plant should be expanded. For example, it has a high potential to be added to existing fruit teas for the purpose of enriching the content.

Consumption of wild plants/fruits, which are of great importance in terms of health, should be transferred to new generations. We can say that these fruits, which have a high nutritional value and have an important area of use, are not known in many regions of the world and do not receive the necessary attention.

Products such as pulp, nectar, marmalade, tea and fruit extract can be obtained from these wild fruit species. In addition to enriching other fruit and vegetable juices with vitamins, it can be used as a filler in the pastry and confectionery industry.


Karabulut, A. (2018). Berberis vulgaris L. and Berberis crataegina DC naturally found in Bayburt province. Biochemical characterization of wild fruits. Master Thesis. Bayburt University, Institute of Science and Technology, Department of Food Engineering

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