The Common Barberry (Berberis), which gives its name to a

special order of plants, grows wild as a shrub in our English

copses and hedges, particularly about Essex, being so called from

Berberin, a pearl oyster, because the leaves are glossy like the

inside of an oyster shell. It is remarkable for the light colour of its

bark, which is yellow inside, and for its three-forked spines.

Provincially it is also termed Pippe
idge-bush, from pepin, a pip,

and rouge, red, as descriptive of its small scarlet juiceless fruit,

of which the active chemical principles, as well as of the bark, are

berberin and oxyacanthin. The sparingly-produced juice of the

berries is cooling and astringent. It was formerly held in high

esteem by the Egyptians, when diluted as a drink, in pestilential

fevers. The inner, yellow bark, which has been long believed to

exercise a medicinal effect on the liver, because of its colour, is a

true biliary purgative. An infusion of this bark, made with boiling

water, is useful in jaundice from congestive liver, with furred

tongue, lowness of spirits, and yellow complexion; also for

swollen spleen from malarious exposure. A medicinal tincture (H.)

is made of the root-branches and the root-bark, with spirit of wine;

and if given three or four times a day in doses of five drops with

one tablespoonful of cold water, it will admirably rouse the liver to

healthy and more vigorous action. Conversely the tincture when of

reduced strength will stay bilious diarrhoea. British farmers dislike

the [43] Barberry shrub because, when it grows in cornfields, the

wheat near it is blighted, even to the distance of two or three

hundred yards. This is because of a special fungus which is

common to the Barberry, and being carried by the wind reproduces

itself by its spores destructively on the ears of wheat, the

AEcidium Berberidis, which generates Puccinia.

Clusius setteth it down as a wonderful secret which he had from a

friend, that if the yellow bark of Barberry be steeped in white

wine for three hours, and be afterwards drank, it will purge one

very marvellously.

The berries upon old Barberry shrubs are often stoneless, and this

is the best fruit for preserving or for making the jelly. They

contain malic and citric acids; and it is from these berries that the

delicious confitures d'epine vinette, for which Rouen is famous,

are commonly prepared. And the same berries are chosen in

England to furnish the kernel for a very nice sugar-plum. The

syrup of Barberries will make with water an excellent astringent

gargle for raw, irritable sore throat; likewise the jelly gives famous

relief for this catarrhal affection. It is prepared by boiling the

berries, when ripe, with an equal weight of sugar, and then

straining. For an attack of colic because of gravel in the kidneys,

five drops of the tincture on sugar every five minutes will

promptly relieve, as likewise when albumen is found by analysis

in the urine.

A noted modern nostrum belauds the virtues of the Barberry as

specific against bile, heartburn, and the black jaundice, this being

a remedy which was discovered after infinite pains by one who

had studied for thirty years by candle light for the good of his

countrymen. In Gerard's time at the village of Ivor, near

Colebrooke, most of the hedges consisted solely of Barberry


[44] The following is a good old receipt for making Barberry

jam:--Pick the fruit from the stalks, and bake it in an earthen pan;

then press it through a sieve with a wooden spoon. Having mixed equal

weights of the prepared fruit, and of powdered sugar, put these

together in pots, and cover the mixture up, setting them in a dry

place, and having sifted some powdered sugar over the top of each

pot. Among the Italians the Barberry bears the name of Holy

Thorn, because thought to have formed part of the crown of thorns

made for our Saviour.