The Berberry botanical family Berberidaceae

L-tyrosine-derived alkaloids occur also in the Berberry botanical family (Berberidaceae Torr., Gray, Juss.) (Table 12). Berberine is produced particularly by the Berberry genus (Berberis L.) and the Mahonia genus (Mahonia Nutt.). These alkaloids are found in such species as the common berberry (Berberis vulgaris L.), native to Euroasia; the Japanese berberry (Berberis thunbergii DC.), native to Asia and the Chita (Berberis aristat DC.) in the Himalayas. It is also present in Holly (Mahonia aquifolium Nutt.), native to Western America, and in the Creeping mahonia (Mahonia repens (Lindl.) G. Don., endemic to the North America. New research reports mention berberine, found in the oblonga berberry (Berberis oblonga Scheid), growing in Kazakhstan but native to Central Asia161. Moreover, it is also reported that, together with berberine, other alkaloids were detected, such as glaucine, hydroxyacanthin and berbamine. Orallo162 reported on (+)-nantenine, a natural alkaloid derived from Nandina domestica Thunberg, which was first isolated by Takase and Ohasi in 1926. Subsequently, extracts

Table 12 General botanical characteristics of the Berberry family


Botanical Forms and Parts





Small hairs

Stems with vascular bundles

Generally alternate Simple


Olitary or in cymes, racemes or panicles


A berry or pod

Anatropous with endosperm

Small embryo containing this alkaloid were widely used in Japanese folk medicine for the treatment of whooping cough, asthma, pharynx tumours, uterine bleeding and diabetes. Berbamine was extracted from Berberis poiretil Echneid, a plant which grows in China163. This alkaloid shows actions of anti-arhythmia, anti-myocardial ischemia and antithrombosis.

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