Home Herbal Monograph Indian Berberry, Tree Turmeric

It is found in Himalayas.

Morphology Description (Habit)

It is an erect, glabrous, spinescent shrub with obovate to elliptic, subacute to obtuse, entire or toothed leaves. The flowers are yellow and in corymbose racemes. The fruits are oblong-ovoid or ovoid, bright red berries.

Principal Constituents

The alkaloids in the bark and root bark of Berberis aristata are berberine, berbamine, aromoline, karachine, palmatine, oxyacanthine and oxyberberine1


Berberone hydrochloride, an alkaloid isolated from Berberis aristata, was found to have significant anti-inflammatory activity on acute, subacute and chronic types of inflammations produced by immunological and non-immunological methods2. Chronic oral (20mg./kg.) and intramuscular (2mg./kg.) administration of Berberine sulphate to rats increased the duration of pentobarbitone-induced sleeping time and decreased serum cholesterol levels3.

The preventive and curative effects of Berberis aristata fruit extract on paracetamol- and CCl4-induced hepatotoxicity was studied. Pre-treatment of mice with the (Berberis aristata fruits), crude extract of Berberis aristata fruits (500mg/kg), reduced the death rate to 10 percent. Pre-treatment of rats with the fruit extract (500mg/kg, orally twice daily for 2 days) prevented (p less than 0.05) the paracetamol-(640mg/kg) as well as CCl4-(1.5ml/kg)-induced rise in serum transaminases (GOT and GPT).

Post-treatment with three successive doses of the extract (500 mg/kg, 6h) restricted the hepatic damage induced by acetaminophen (p less than 0.01) but CCl4-induced hepatotoxicity was not altered. The plant extract (500mg/kg) caused significant prolongation in pentobarbital (75mg/kg)-induced sleep as well as increased strychnine-induced lethality in mice suggestive of inhibitory effect on microsomal drug metabolizing enzymes (MDME). Hepatoprotective action of the crude extract of Berberis aristata fruits partly through MDME inhibitory action has been indicated4.

Clinical Studies

Clinical studies with berberine were conducted in 356 patients of Cholera and compared with 264 patients treated with chloramphenicol. Berberine was found to be effective in both bacteriologically positive and negative patients. It reduced the mortality rate, volume and duration of diarrhea, the intake of intravenous fluid and the convalescence period. Berberine was found to be better than chloramphenicol in this respect5.

Twenty five patients of giardiasis were treated with berberine in a dose of 5mg./kg./day for six days, and the results compared with those of metronidazole given in a dose of 10mg./kg/day for six days in 9 patients. Twenty patients receiving vitamin B complex syrup for 6 days served as controls. Twelve patients receiving berberine, 3 receiving metronidazole and 3 receiving vitamin B complex showed relief of clinical symptoms. The stools became free of giardia in 17 patients receiving metronidazole and 5 receiving B complex6.

Berberine was found to be effective in controlling gastroenteritis in 50 children. It is a good anti diarrhoeal agent and could be easily administered in children in the form of a palatable suspension. The drug was free from any serious toxicity7.


LD50 value of berberine sulphate in mice, intraperitonially, was found to be 24.3mg./kg.


The roots form a reputed drug in Ayurvedic medicine and possess antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activities. The drug is regarded as a bitter tonic and is apparently used as a cholagogue, stomachic, laxative, diaphoretic, antipyretic and antiseptic. It is administered externally in painful eye affections, indolent ulcers and hemorrhoids. The rootbark is very useful in periodic neuralgia and menorrhagia.

  1. Chakravarti et. al., sci indurst Res, 1950, 9B, 161; Atta-ur-& Banerjee, ibid, 1953, 30, 705; 13 Chatterjee, ibid, 1940 Rahman & Ansari, J chem Soc Pakist, 1983, 5, 282.
  2. Halder et. al.,Ind. J. Pharmac., 1970, 2,26.
  3. Vad et. al., Ind. J. Pharm.,1970, 32, 1794.
  4. Gilani, A.H and Janbaz, K.H., Phytotherapy Research, 1995, v. 9(7), 489-4945.
  5. Lahiri, S.C.and Dutta,N.K, J.Indian Med. Assoc., 1967, 48, 16.
  6. Choudhury et. al., Indian Pediatrics, 1972, 9, 1437.
  7. Sharada, D.C., J. Indian. Med. Assn., 1970, 54, 22