Found on the west coast of North America here is a picture of Oregon Grape in bloom.
Soon these flowers will turn into clusters of purple berries with a that bring to mind a cluster of grapes…hence the name.
These berries are very high in pectin and make wonderful jelly.
They grow on an evergreen bush that can be tall or short, the bush has prickly leaves that look like holly. In our area the Oregon Grape bush is short.
The berries of the Oregon Grape Bush are juicy but also very tart. They can be eaten raw, although they are better used for making jelly, jam or even wine.
Mashing up berries and adding a little sugar and water will give you a nice refreshing summer drink.
The leaves are prickly like holly, but the young leaves can be added to a salad or just eaten while out hiking. The leaves can also be cooked – simmered until tender and then eaten.
The root of the Oregon Grape bush was used to make a tea. That tea was used to help relieve constipation and was used as a cough medicine.
Oregon Grape produces a strong alkaloid called berberine, berberine is a natural antibiotic. Plants that contain the highest levels of berberine are Golden seal, Oregon Grape, Coptis and Barberry. This is a broad-spectrum antibiotic with a long history of medicinal use in Chinese Medicine.
This natural antibiotic has been used to fight bacteria, viruses and has been used historically for bacterial diarrhea.
I rely on my book “Edible & Medicinal Plants of Canada” by MacKinnon, Kershaw, Arnason, Owen, Karst, HamersleyChambers for so much of my information. It is a great book! We have one at home and one in the truck.
In this book it says “The crushed plant and roots have antioxidant, antiseptic and antibacterial properties”
I have learned that the tea was used as a tonic for the treatment of ailments such as kidney & stomach problems as well as diarrhea, rheumatism and even skin problems.
Oregon Grape was used by the native people along the west coast of North America throughout the United States and as far north as Northern British Columbia in Canada. They used the leaves and berries as part of their diet and the roots were used as medicine for curing diseases and other ailments including intestinal issues.
The flowers and leaves can be harvested in early spring to mid summer, just remember if you do harvest the flowers there will be no berries later on. The berries ripen anywhere between June and August depending on what region you live in.
Oregon grape was known as a protector. If three branches of Oregon Grape were placed on a person threshold it was said to keep enemies away.