How Oregon Grape Healed Mono

Image by Chris Martin of Arizona State University

When my friend’s nephew was diagnosed with mono recently, his doctor told him that he would likely miss school for a month or longer due to the symptoms, and this was a big deal, because he’s a high school senior, so it meant potentially not graduating. Fortunately, I was more than happy to pass along some of my homemade Oregon grape root tincture to him, and he made a full recovery — in terms of his symptoms — within one week. He’s back to feeling healthy again, and his family is pretty relieved!

Oregon grape berries / Wikipedia Commons license

Oregon grape berries / Wikipedia Commons license

I’m not surprised that it worked so very well. Herbal medicine really is effective, and for acute conditions, in my experience, it works quickly. My friend’s nephew is the second person I’ve given Oregon grape root tincture to for mono who made a fast recovery. I’ve also used it successfully for strep throat and cold viruses. The dose he used, and that I usually use, is two medicine droppers, four to five times daily, in tea.

Oregon grape, Mahonia aquifolium, is my favorite medicinal plant. It’s effective for many different ailments, from strep throat to Giardia to mono, and is especially indicated for viral diseases. Oregon grape is native to the Pacific Northwest and it resembles holly, except that holly is a shrub or tree with red berries whereas Oregon grape is an upright bush three to five feet tall or so with matte blue berries.

The roots and berries of the plant have a concentration of an antimicrobial compound called berberine, which stains their insides yellow. Berberine, which is also found in coptis and goldenseal, works synergistically with other chemicals in the herb to bring about healing. And of course, from a metaphysical perspective, the plant spirit is also playing an important role, as is the respectful manner in which the plant was harvested and turned into medicine.

Oregon grape is also an edible plant. The berries are a sour, tart flavor, and the young, soft leaves are citrus-y. The plant’s yellow blossoms are Oregon’s official state flower.

3171793039_93fb7df55c_oOregon grape roots can be harvested sustainably because they grow rhizomatically, which means they grow horizontally under the soil like a net, from which numerous plants sprout up. So you can unearth the rhizomes a couple inches beneath the dirt, snip a six-inch (or so) section with garden clippers, and replant the ends. Then you simply rinse and chop the roots, fill a glass jar with them, fill it halfway with 190 proof grain alcohol and the rest of the way with water, screw on the lid, and leave it in the dark at room temperature to extract. It’s ready two to six weeks later, when you have a dark brown-golden liquid inside. (You could do the same with the berries).

In a survival situation without a tincture handy, one could boil the roots and use the heat to extract the medicinal compounds into a tea.

Edited to add: In addition to the Oregon grape root tincture, I also gave my friend’s nephew a 2 oz bottle of some cleavers tincture to help him cleanse and support his lymphatic system, which mono stresses. (As it happens, mono also impacts the liver, and Oregon grape happens to be a good herb for cleansing the liver in addition to its anti-viral properties.)

What I’ve just described, and what I generally write about here, would be called “folk herbalism,” in the sense that it’s distinguished from the more sophisticated systems of energetic herbalism developed over thousands of years in China and India, and, in times past, also in Greece and the Middle East. Those systems are especially useful for treating chronic ailments.

I’ve been wanting to learn more about these traditions, and study herbal medicine more formally in general, so I recently enrolled in a distance herbal study course designed by the very respected teacher Michael Tierra, who is based in Santa Cruz, California, founded the American Herbalists Guild, and has formally studied and authored books on Traditional Chinese Medicine as well as Ayurveda (traditional Indian herbal medicine). He also trained with Native American healers and folk herbalists. His school is called the East West School of Planetary Herbology. The term “planetary” is meant to denote respect for all traditions, including folk and indigenous healing. I find this philosophy very refreshing.

I’m only a couple hundred pages into this course, but so far, I’m learning tons, and would recommend it to anyone who is looking to enhance their knowledge at their own pace. You can take up to three years to complete the course, and it is comprehensive, with various directions, so that you can choose to stop after the first twelve lessons, which are supposed to give you enough learning to be a home herbalist, or going into the full thirty-six, with additional courses on pathology and disease and anatomy and even an option to apprentice for hundreds of hours to become a certified clinical herbalist. Another bonus is that it’s about half as expensive as an in-person school.

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10 thoughts on “How Oregon Grape Healed Mono

  1. Pingback: Salal: Looks & Tastes Like Blueberries | First Ways

  2. Also, on a personal note, while meditating on/with this plant it shared it’s powerful spiritual properties of energetic protection. In ceremonial context if I feel there is a need for additional clearing and protection of a space beyond my usual practice I will call in Mahonia…for big work. <3

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this info – I have been really drawn to Oregon Grape this year and would like to try making my first tincture. Your blog is fantastic!!!! I am distributing your book to all my forest munching friends 😀

    Thought you and your readers might like to know of another school in the Pacific Northwest. I wanted to enroll this year but need to make more room for it, next year if all goes as planned!! is a training program by Sajah Popham. He has mentored and taught at Bastyr University and I’ve never met a more dedicated and intensely studious plant lover. He offers many free teleclasses on specific herbs. I recently joined one on nettles and there’s one on wild rose coming up.

  4. Hey, Rebecca. I’m sorry this doesn’t have anything to do with Oregon grape, but I was hoping to get your opinion on something. After recently misidentifying young lambs ear as culinary sage I did some research to find out if lambs ear is edible. I have found many conflicting opinions. It isn’t in either of my field guides. Some people say it is both edible and has medicinal uses. What is your take?

    • I’d love that, however, the best time to dig the root is fall/winter, and it’s a bit too early to harvest the berries because they are not yet ripe. :/ It’s possible I could locate some dried root at an herb shop, but it’s always the most fun use wild plants. We shall see!

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