Latin Name: Berberis aquifolium, Mahonia aquifolium
Also known as: Oregon Grape, Creeping Oregon-grape, Holly-Leaved Barberry, Holly-leaf Oregon-grape, Mahonia, Mountain Grape.
Description: Oregon Grape is a 3 foot evergreen shrub. The leaves are pinnate, darker above than below with 5-9 leaflets in pairs along a thin but tough stem. The margins are wavy with prickly edges, which turn red in the fall. The fragrant, bright yellow flowers are in dense, erect terminal, often 3-headed, clusters. They bloom in early spring, ripening to dusty dark blue berries that are bitter, but also slightly sweet. A native of North America, found mainly in the northwestern U.S. The berries, when ripe in the fall, are used for making jellies and beverages. The medicinal actions are identical to Barberry (Berberis vulgaris).
Origin(s): United States.
Plant Part Used: Root.
Appearance: Tan to brown.
Aroma: Without noticeable scent.
Taste: Very bitter.
GMO Status: Non-GMO and unsprayed
Additives: Free of any additives or preservatives.
Applications / Preparations: Can be put into capsules, teas or infused as an herbal extract. For cosmetic use can be put in creams, salves, balms & ointments.
Storage: Store in a sealed container in a cool, dry place.
Shelf Life: It is very difficult to pin down an exact expiration date for most single herbs as they do not really expire, they lose potency or strength over time but will still have value. Unlike synthetic material or drugs, herbs can contain many constituents that contribute to their medicinal effects. Even if when we know what the active constituents are, there are often many active constituents in a single herb, each with different rates of degradation. Some herbs lose their effect more easily. Other herbs that possess more stable compounds such as alkaloids or steroids will last much longer.
A huge part of the degradation rate of herbs depends also on the storage conditions of the herb, & even on the quality of the herb before storage – how it was grown, harvested, dried & processed. If the product is left in hot places or open to sunlight then it will degrade much quicker than if it was stored in cool, dry place & sealed tightly.
A good rule of thumb is that herbs should be stored no longer than 2-3 years, but many herbs will have great strength much longer than that. To determine if a an herb is still good you can check the appearance & aroma. Herbs that are no longer acceptable will have lost much of its vibrant color & will instead appear dull & faded. The bigger key though is to smell the raw materials to see if the potent aroma is still present.