Berberis thunbergii DC

[From Arabic, barbaris and after Carl Peter Thunberg (1743-1828), Swedish naturalist and favorite pupil of Linnaeus]

Physical description: It is a spiny shrub of China and Japan which grows to a height of 1 m. The plant is often cultivated to decorate gardens and is even made into bonsais. Leaves: simple, without stipules, in groups, and sessile. The blade is spathulate, 1 cm-4cm x 5mm-1 cm, and reddish or green. The margin is slightly wavy and recurved. The secondary nerves are indistinct. The flowers are solitary, axillary and showy. The calyx comprises of 3 triangular sepals. The corolla comprises of 4 series of petals. The andrecium comprises of 6 stamens. The gynecium consists of a single-celled ovary. The fruits are ovoid, with red berries attached to the slender pedicels (Fig. 36).

Common name: Japanese barberry.

Fig. 36. Berberis thunbergii DC. From: KLU Herbarium 039313. Field Collectors: Benjamin C Stone, AE Schuyler & Emilie Russell. Geographical localization: United States of America, Pennsylvania, Hopewell Furnace/village National Historic Site "shunk cabbage". Botanical Identification: Benjamin C Stone.

Uses: In China and Japan, the bark is used to cool, to expel intestinal worms, to counteract putrefaction and to check menorrhagia. A decoction of the stem and roots is used to wash the eyes. In Vietnam, a decoction of the plant is used to wash the eyes and to treat dental caries.

Fig. 36. Berberis thunbergii DC. From: KLU Herbarium 039313. Field Collectors: Benjamin C Stone, AE Schuyler & Emilie Russell. Geographical localization: United States of America, Pennsylvania, Hopewell Furnace/village National Historic Site "shunk cabbage". Botanical Identification: Benjamin C Stone.

Pharmaceutical interest: It will be interesting to learn whether more intensive future research on Berberis thunbergii DC. will disclose any alkaloid of therapeutic interest. Note that Berberis thunbergii DC. contains berberine, oxy-berberine, jatrorrhizine and other isoquinoline alkaloids which are probably responsible for uses mentioned above (KawashimaY etal, 1969; Khamidov I etal, 1997).

Continue reading here: Caulophyllum robustum Maxim

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