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Sunday, February 20, 2011


The berberry (Berberis lycicum) grows in the Himalayan region of Pakistan where it is known as Kashmal (Urdu); its local name is Ishkeen. It grows to between 2 and 4 metres high and produces yellow flowers, and then blue-black berries. Berberis aristata is very similar and has been shown to have properties which protect the liver, making it a good treatment for jaundice and other liver and spleen complaints. Both the varieties have been used for centuries by the locals in India, where Berberis aristata is called the Indian barberry (as opposed to the European variety Berberis vulgaris).
   The root bark, fruit and leaves of both plants are used in traditional medicine, and the parts used are the dried fruit, and the root bark, although the leaves are also used. The dried fruit is given as a mild laxative to children, but as it is rich in vitamin C it is more often consumes fresh as a fruit. The dried fruit is also used to treat infections of the uterus.
    The leaves are used to treat jaundice and the root bark is given in a decoction for people with diabetes mellitus. Together with the stems, the leaves are also given in an infusion or tisane as a laxative for adults.
     Traditionally where the plants grow they have been used to treat various ailments, particularly for conjunctivitis and other inflammatory problems in the eyes. It is used for internal injuries and the root bark, powdered and mixed with oil has been used externally to treat broken bones.
     The roots are used for gonorrhea, to heal wounds, ulcers, and piles, and they are made into a bitter astringent tonic to promote sweating when someone has a fever, and as a diuretic. It is also said to control and normalize blood pressure.
      Medical research has found that the fruit of both plants have antihistamine properties, as well as being anti-cholinergic. The root bark powder has decreased cholesterol levels in lab rabbits and the Berbamine present in the plants is an alkaloid with hypotensive (helps with low blood pressure) activities, which has anti-bacterial properties. It also has palmatine which has antineoplastic properties so can inhibit cancerous cell growth.
      Because of the thorns on both plants they are often to be seen in hedges as they deter animals from trespassing onto farmland.

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