Did this “Medicine Woman”
the secret to treating pain?
My Great Aunt Anna was a doctor of osteopathy in western Colorado in the early 20th century. She served in an area where there weren’t any other doctors for a hundred miles or more. So she did just about everything, including delivering babies (she delivered my two oldest brothers).
Aunt Anna always makes me think of the TV show “Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman” because that was her. She lived in the Wild West, born just a few years after Geronimo was roaming Texas and New Mexico a few hundred miles south of her.
Unfortunately, I don’t know a lot about her medicine. But I do have her National Dispensatory from 1879. And every now and then, I love to look through it and see what she may have used. Today was one of those days, and what I found has great health benefits for us in the 21st century.
While skimming the pages of the huge book, I came across Berberis. The name rang a bell, because it’s the name for barberry. As you can imagine, the known uses for barberry then was quite limited compared to what we know about this herb today. Back in 1979, one of the uses I noted was “It has been used with alleged success in reducing the spleen enlarged by malarial poisoning.”
While we don’t have too many people in the U.S. with this specific problem today, the anecdotal evidence they had in 1879 has grown substantially and barberry now has many scientific studies behind it. And what is it good for? Well, let’s just say that the reason it worked on an enlarged spleen is the same reason it can help you with heart disease, memory problems, and a host of other inflammatory conditions. That’s right, barberry is a great anti-inflammatory. In fact, legend has it that the Native Americans used barberry root to treat back pain.
But what about those studies? In one study, researchers wanted to know if berberine, a compound in barberry, could inhibit COX-2, a known cause of inflammation. The researchers looked to see if taking the compound orally would reduce COX-2 inflammation in cancer patients. As you may know, inflammation can lead to cancer.
Not only did the berberine reduce inflammation, but it worked fast. The researchers said, “This berberine induced effect occurred rapidly (3 h) as a result of reduced COX-2 protein.” In other words, barberry clearly helps reduce inflammation.
It’s no wonder the Native Americans used barberry to treat back pain. It works. And you should use it to if you’re concerned about inflammation, or have any inflammatory condition. Fortunately, our methods of using the herb have improved considerably. My aunt’s huge book said, “It may be given in doses of from two to five grains in pill or powder, or in alcoholic solution.” These were part of directions given to the doctor to prepare the herb. But don’t worry, you don’t have to mix your own barberry root concoction. You can take it as part of an anti-inflammatory formula called Reduloxin, which has 50 mg in each daily dose.
What I find interesting about barberry is that a good bit of the research surrounding it involves fighting cancer. In a future issue of Nutrient Insider, I’ll show you how some are using barberry to fight certain forms of cancer.
Your insider for better health,
The National Dispensatory, 1879.
Steve Kroening is the editor of Nutrient Insider, a twice-a-week email newsletter that brings you the latest healing breakthroughs from the world of nutrition and dietary supplements. For over 20 years, Steve has worked hand-in-hand with some of the nation’s top doctors, including Drs. Robert Rowen, Frank Shallenberger, Nan Fuchs, William Campbell Douglass, and best-selling author James Balch. Steve is the author of the book Practical Guide to Home Remedies. As a health journalist, Steve’s articles have appeared in countless magazines, blogs, and websites.
Nutrient Insider, written by Steve Kroening, is a complimentary e-mail service from Advanced Bionutritionals.
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