Precautions to take when eating Mahonia berries shouldn’t be overlooked. Indeed, what makes the plant excellent for health can also make it dangerous for a certain category of persons, too.
Mahonia risks, key facts
Main active compound – berberine
Vulnerable persons – pregnant & nursing women, children
Mahonia, commonly called oregon grape, demonstrates medicinal benefits, but these can also have negative side-effects for some persons.
Oregon grape not recommended for pregnant & nursing women
Also, mahonia berries contain a natural chemical compound called berberine. It is an alkaloid that is common in plants from the same family as barberry.
- Berberine has several medicinal applications, for example related to diabetes. It’s an antibacterial, too.
- The highest levels are in the seeds. Remove them whenever possible, such as when preparing jam, jelly, syrup, and liquor.
More seriously, though, consuming excess amounts of berberine has been linked to damage to brain development in fetuses and newborns.
Since berberine ingested by the mother can travel to her child through both placenta and breastmilk, it’s best to avoid it.
- Don’t eat mahonia berries during pregnancy and if you’re still breastfeeding your child.
Expect diarrhea when eating too many raw berries
Mahonia berries aren’t particularly toxic or allergenic. However, like many other fruits, eating too many of them at once may cause digestive troubles.
- When eaten raw, avoid ingesting more than a handful (15 to 20 berries) during a single meal.
- Indeed, this might trigger light digestive trouble. Like plum, you might expect a light diarrhea.
- You can counter diarrhea with herbs if ever you indulged in too many mahonia berries!
Know where your Mahonia berries come from
In some tests, Oregon grape berries grown not far from roads had absorbed tiny amounts of heavy metals.
For example, lead particles usually contained in automobile brake pads and fumes had floated to the berries. A small deposit was identified on the fruits. The amount was minute, just barely enough to trigger the threshold that sanitary agencies consider “not sellable”.
- However, it was shown that simply rinsing the fruits in running water removed these trace amounts of lead immediately.
Heavy metals are often accused of creating mental problems, especially when given to children and yet-to-be-born fetuses.
Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Danger with some berries by Rosalyn & Gaspard Lorthiois, own work