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Berberis vulgaris
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Ranunculales
Family: Berberidaceae
Genus: Berberis
Species: B. vulgaris
Binomial name
Berberis vulgaris

Berberis vulgaris (European barberry)/( Jaundice berry)/( Ambarbaris) is a shrub in the family Berberidaceae, native to central and southern Europe, northwest Africa and western Asia; it is also naturalised in northern Europe, including the British Isles and Scandinavia, and North America.

It is a deciduous shrub growing up to 4 m high. The leaves are small oval, 2-5 cm long and 1-2 cm broad, with a serrated margin; they are borne in clusters of 2-5 together, subtended by a three-branched spine 3-8 mm long. The flowers are yellow, 4-6 mm across, produced on 3-6 cm long panicles in late spring. The fruit is an oblong red berry 7-10 mm long and 3-5 mm broad, ripening in late summer or autumn; they are edible but very sour, and rich in Vitamin C.


Culinary uses

The berries are edible, and rich in vitamin C, though with a very sharp flavour; the thorny shrubs make harvesting them difficult, so in most places they are not widely consumed. They are an important food for many small birds, which disperse the seeds in their droppings.

A widely available Russian candy called Барбарис (Barberis) is made using extract from the berries, which are pictured on the wrapper.

The Zereshk (زرشک) or sereshk is the Persian name for the dried fruit of Berberis vulgaris, which are widely cultivated in Iran. Iran is the largest producer of zereshk and saffron in the world. Zereshk and saffron are produced on the same land and the harvest is at the same time.

The South Khorasan province in Iran is the main area of zereshk and saffron production in the world. Barberry cultivation in Iran is concentrated there, especially around Birjand and Qaen. About 85% of production is in Qaen and about 15% in Birjand. According to evidence the cultivation of seedless barberry in South Khorasan goes back to two hundred years ago.[1]

A garden of zereshk is called zereshk-estan.

Zereshk is widely used in cooking, imparting a tart flavor to chicken dishes. It is usually cooked with rice, called zereshk polo, and provides a nice meal with chicken. Zereshk jam, zereshk juice, and zereshk fruit rolls are also produced in Iran.

Use in Alternative Medicine

Berberis is a very effective herb for all kinds of liver ailments, especially jaundice. So effective is the herb that it is nicknamed ‘jaundice berry’. It is a bitter tonic which is given to a jaundice patient several times a day in quarter teaspoon doses. The fluid extract of the fruit also has similar properties.

- Jaundice berry is highly beneficial as a bitter tonic in jaundice and other liver disorders. The pulverized bark is given several times a day in doses of quarter teaspoon. Alternatively, the fluid extract can be given in 2 or 4 gramme doses.

- Jaundice berry is very useful in the treatment of high blood pressure. Research has shown that it dilates the arteries thereby lowering blood pressure.

- The leaves of the plant are anti-scorbutic or anti-scurvy. A decoction of the leaves as well as the juice of the berry can be given with beneficial results in scurvy.

- It acts as an effective purgative when taken in large doses of more than one fourth of a teaspoon of pulverized bark or 4 gram doses of the fluid extract.

- The berries contain citric acid and malic acid. These are useful in arresting secretion or bleeding and in promoting the flow of bile. Their juice can be given in inflammatory and malignant fevers, especially typhus and typhoid, in doses of 2 to 4 grams.

- Jaundice berry is useful in menstrual disorders such as painful periods and excessive loss of blood. It has also been found beneficial during labor.


The plant is both poisonous and medicinal. The plant, except for its fruits and seeds, is mildly poisonous. Its most potent agent is berberine, which is also known to have a number of therapeutical effects. In Europe, the berries are traditionally used for making jam. In southwestern Asia, especially Iran, where they are called zereshk (زرشک), the berries are used for cooking, as well as for making jam.

It is an intermediate host for Puccinia graminis (black rust), a rust disease of wheat. Wheat farmers had accused barberries of spreading rust as early as 1660, but were derided as superstitious by the jam makers. The matter was not settled scientifically until 1865. Because of the impact of this disease on wheat crops, cultivation of European barberry is prohibited in many areas.

See also

External links




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