It is a herb high in the alkaloid berberine and this constituent is a powerful anti-microbial, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, antiprotozoal plus more that was commonly used for digestive and lung infections. It is also reported to have anti-radiation effects.
It is yellow in colour and tastes very bitter, though it is a stronger, cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternative to goldenseal.
It can also increase bile production and is used in the Orient in cases of chronic gall bladder problems, cold sores, and to help slow the development of atherosclerosis.
It can be used in enema form to support the painful symptoms of ulcerative colitis. Digestive applications have included acute gastroenteritis, cholera, and bacillary dysentery.
Research is showing increased interest in lowering blood cholesterol, and especially LDL-cholesterol and it was found by accident that berberine had the therapeutic effect on the decrease of blood glucose when the authors used berberine to treat diarrhoea in patients who suffered from diabetes.
Research indicates that it is hepato-protective (liver protective) probably due to antioxidant properties.
It has great topical applications. I have used it successfully with scabies, school sores, golden staph infections and tooth or gum abscess, all of which are not very pleasant. For these more serious conditions applications are made every few hours and great care is taken to prevent cross contamination of infection.