Why Your Skin Will Love Berberis Aquifolium (Oregon Grape)
14th Feb 2023
Our skin is our biggest organ. It is our protector: it shelters all of our internal organs while also regulating our body temperature and preventing dehydration. It is also the means through which we feel sensation as well as the supple coat we show the world.
Sadly, our helpful skin is also susceptible to diseases and discomforts. Our skin experiences constant exposure to the outside world, meaning it can be damaged from the elements, such as the sun or by being torn. Our skin is also very responsive to what we put on it, since it acts like a sponge of sorts, absorbing both nourishment and toxins. Common chemicals found in many products can be especially harsh, damaging skin tissue when used over the long term.
Thankfully, we can keep our skin healthy and nourished by being selective about what we smear all over our bodies. Oregon Grape root, or Berberis aquifolium, is an excellent ally for our skin. This root medicine helps with a number of skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne. Berberis aquifolium makes a lovely addition to skin care products, whether you are looking to treat a specific skin ailment, or just want to make your skin happy with nature's ingredients.
Let’s take a deeper look into where Oregon Grape comes from, and why it is such a helpful plant for your skin.
What is Oregon Grape Root?
Oregon Grape, also known as Mountain Grape, is a shrub with tiny leaflets that resemble holly. It has small yellow flowers that turn to waxy ‘blueberries’, or ‘grapes’ in the fall. As the name implies, Oregon Grape grows over a great deal of the state of Oregon, also stretching up into Washington and down into California.
The most medicinal portion of the plant—and the part primarily used in both topical and internal elixirs—is the very bitter root. The root contains high amounts of a powerful alkaloid called berberine, which confers the inner root with a striking yellow color.
In addition to being used for yellow dye, berberine has also been the subject of many medical studies, thanks to its supportive action on the liver and immune system. In fact, berberine is so fundamental to the way we use the Oregon Grape plant, that the shrub even takes its scientific name from this alkaloid: Berberis aquifolium.
(You will also see Oregon Grape referred to as Mahonia aquifolium—don’t let all the names confuse you!)
Oregon Grape contains other helpful alkaloids, such as berbamine, oxyacanthine, and jatrorrhizine. Thanks in part to these alkaloids, Oregon Grape strengthens the immune system, helping to fight infection.
Oregon Grape root is also used to detoxify the body, especially the lymph and liver. It also helps to purify the blood and lymph by supporting elimination processes at a cellular level, while also helping to transport strengthening nutrients into cells. In short, it promotes a healthy body. Oregon Grape stimulates the liver to produce bile and enzymes, while also improving the liver’s function of detoxifying blood.
How does this fit into skin? Well, healthy elimination equals healthy skin. When the liver and other eliminatory organs are not working at the top of their game, the skin has to compensate by becoming an elimination organ itself. This is part of the skin’s job, but not its primary role. Detox through skin can be one potential cause for acne, eczema, and other skin conditions.
Oregon Grape Root as a Topical for Skin Conditions
Why Your Skin Will Love Berberis Aquifolium (Oregon Grape)
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a painful and itchy skin condition. With root causes that can be difficult to pinpoint, the discomfort of eczema is exacerbated by its elusiveness and persistence. While eczema affects 10-12% of the population, there is no known one-pill-remedy that suits everyone with this condition.
For many, the only relief is offered through steroids, which have a long-term side effect of thinning the skin. Steroids can be absorbed through the skin, causing issues with long term usage such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and more.
Oregon Grape root is an excellent supportive ingredient to add to an eczema therapy routine. It can help soothe dryness, itching, redness, and skin irritation. It might also help to support the skin’s immune system, potentially easing eczema attacks.
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes an overgrowth of skin cells. The rapid growth can lead to itchy and painful skin, scaly spots and red crusty patches. Like eczema, it is a painful and frustrating condition that can also lead to scarring.
When used topically, Oregon Grape root has been shown to help slow the overproduction of skin cells characterized by psoriasis. A number of studies done on people who suffer from psoriasis have proved Oregon Grape root to be an effective treatment for this uncomfortable condition.
In one study, patients were treated with Oregon Grape cream on one side of their bodies and a prescription psoriasis medication, by the name of Dovonex cream, on the other. When asked to compare results, 63% rated the Oregon Grape cream as equal to or better than the prescription cream. Researchers concluded that Oregon Grape cream is a safe and effective treatment for patients with psoriasis.
Acne is characterized by pores in the skin becoming blocked and occasionally infected. Acne has a variety of causes, including hormones, change of environment, and genetics. Many of the available remedies on the market include harsh chemicals that can wear on the skin when used over time.
Luckily, however your acne presents itself, you can treat the condition with Oregon Grape root.
Oregon Grape may help to cleanse the skin of bacteria. It may also soothe painful, swollen bumps thanks to its anti-inflammatory actions.
General Skin Care
Oregon Grape root is a soothing option for skin.. Studies show that the extract inhibits free radical activity in the skin, meaning it may help protect your skin from wrinkles and diseases.
It also seems to have some antimicrobial and antifungal properties, so it is quite cleansing.
Our skin does a lot for us. We can return the favor by taking good care of it. Oregon Grape root is a great place to start.
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