I remember when I first heard about Oregon Grape during my Community Herbalist course from Pacific Rim College. Ooooh…yummy! Grapes! Not quite…although apparently bears do love these little “berries” just like how I love grapes. Actually the interesting bit for me was when the teacher started speaking about a compound I had never heard of; Berberine.
Also found in other plants such as tree turmeric, barberry and goldenseal* Berberine has a long history of traditional use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and good quality supplements that have been carefully harvested and formulated can be found in most reputable health food stores. Which is good for us because unlike bears, our hands don’t do well with their spiky leaves and thorns and I still, even today, can remember the tone an adult used to very clearly say “don’t eat wild berries!” Although I am not specifically endorsing a brand, and for the love of common sense talk to a medical professional before popping any supplements in your mouth, Thorne, Renue and Now are all reputable brands.
Some of the potential health benefits of Berberine supplements are the lowering of HDL levels, strengthening the heart, lowers sugar levels especially its absorption as well as its production within the liver. Here is a medical review of Berberine. Personally I'm always looking for the medical science behind supplements despite having an herbalist education. Bringing together both sources of information and plant knowledge is best practice.