Oregon Grape Root*

Oregon Grape Root

Oregon grape root is a more sustainable alternative to goldenseal. Mahonia aquifolia, refers to the dried root or extract. Both goldenseal and Oregon grape root share an active component, berberine, which is a powerful antimicrobial compound. It is particularly effective in topical applications for the fungal infection known as ringworm and for the autoimmune condition psoriasis.


Berberine is a potent agent against pathogens which cause tinea infections (Athlete’s foot, ringworm, and “Jock itch”) and is effective against resistant strains of the fungal pathogens as well (de Silva, et al, 2016). Topical applications involving a cream or salve made from Oregon grape root can be applied liberally as long as symptoms persist.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes red, scaly patches on the skin. It can be painful, is often considered unsightly, and conventional medicine has very little to offer in terms of a safe and effective method of treating the condition. Fortunately, instead of taking the traditional or conventional approach of suppressing the immune system–which can leave you susceptible to various types of infectious disease–herbalists have tools to treat the rash effectively and safely. Many natural treatments focus only on the symptoms by soothing the pain or reducing the inflammation, but studies show that Oregon grape root has the potential to go further and eliminate the rash altogether (Gulliver, et al, 2005). To achieve these results, researchers to use a simple cream for topical application that you can easily make at home. While you will likely see results after just one application, it’s best to continue treatment for about a month to ensure that the results are long-lasting.


Oregon grape is applied topically in a balm or salve with no restrictions on the duration of application for intact skin. A 10% concentration applied to the affected area once a day is required for efficacy.


This concentrated Oregon grape root ointment is simple to make in just a few minutes, requires no heat, and even uses volume measurements so you can skip the scale. It was designed specifically for psoriasis but is also useful for ringworm.


2 Tbsp Oregon grape root (powdered)

1/2 cup coconut oil

(optional) 24 drops lavender oil


To make your own psoriasis ointment, simply combine 4 ounces (1/2 cup) coconut oil with 2 Tablespoons of powdered Oregon grape root. (Yes, yes, we’re measuring an herb by volume, which is definitely breaking our own rules. We’re making this exception because the herb is powdered (which leaves little room for variation in weight) and it’s a topical formula. The goal is to ensure coverage on the skin so in this case a volume-based measurement is optimal.)

Add the lavender oil, if using, and combine well. Store the mixture in a sterile tin.


To use, apply a generous amount directly to the affected area. Because the ointment still contains the herb, it may be slightly grainy so be gentle during the application. The goal is not to exfoliate the skin, just to ensure ample coverage. Leave on the skin for a minimum of 1-2 hours or overnight, then bathe as usual. Reapply daily for 4 weeks. The salve will last 4-6 months, depending on storage conditions. For optimal shelf life, avoid using the hands to dispense the salve and store in a heat stable environment.

Dig Deeper

da Silva, A. R., de Andrade Neto, J. B., da Silva, C. R., Campos, R., Costa Silva, R. A., Freitas, D. D., ... & Nobre Júnior, H. V. (2016). Berberine Antifungal Activity in Fluconazole-Resistant Pathogenic Yeasts: Action Mechanism Evaluated by Flow Cytometry and Biofilm Growth Inhibition in Candida spp. Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy60(6), 3551–3557.

Gulliver, W. P., & Donsky, H. J. (2005). A report on three recent clinical trials using Mahonia aquifolium 10% topical cream and a review of the worldwide clinical experience with Mahonia aquifolium for the treatment of plaque psoriasis. American journal of therapeutics12(5), 398–406.

Meet Dr Hawkins

Dr. Hawkins brings 20 years of expertise in the integrative health field to her role as Executive Director of the Franklin School of Integrative Health Sciences and the leader of our clinical research team.

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Health from Union Institute and University, a Master’s Degree in Health Education & Promotion from the University of Alabama, a post-graduate certificate in epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, a PhD in Health Research from Middle Tennessee State University, and is completing the post-doctoral Global Scholars Research Training Program at Harvard Medical School. She also holds certifications in numerous natural health fields including aromatherapy, aromatic medicine, herbalism, childbirth education, and labor support.