Berberis fremontii also known as Oregon grape, Yerba de Sangre, Desert Barberry, or Agarito. It is an evergreen shrub that grows from Chihuahua Mexico, Texas, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Western Colorado ranging from altitudes from 2,000 feet to 7,500 feet.
The glossy leaves of this plant are toothed and spiny with a bluish green hue. Some species of this plant can have three leaflets while others may have five and even seven. All will have the tell tail yellow bark and roots. In spring the bush will bloom with yellow flowers that will mature into bunches of deep purple berries. Some species will have yellow-orange to sand colored berries which are hollow and dry. These berries are edible raw. You can also make a sweet refreshing drink from the berries by boiling a couple of hands full in some water. Trust me this is very good!
A root tincture made from a 1:5 ratio of 50 percent alcohol is said to aid with gastric secretions and liver function. 5 to 10 drops of the tincture just before eating will help with indigestion. 15 to 30 drops of this tincture will aid liver function.
This plant contains an alkaloid called Berberine. This works to kill many micro organisms. This is found in abundance in the roots. It has also been proven to kill giardia. This can in an emergency be used to treat water in a survival situation or can be used to treat giardia while in the field..
This is a Photo of the Fremont Barberry or Berberis fremontii. This is a member of the Berberidaceae family. The flowers have 6 petals usually in 2 circles. It will also have 6 sepals also in 2 circles, and the superior ovary is 1 celled. There are 6 species of Berberis in Arizona.
Another use of this shrub it to collect the bark from the lower parts of the branches as well as the roots. Pulverize these and let them steep in cool water for a great antimicrobial wash for the skin. Two to four ounces of the cool tea will help with liver metabolism, intestinal problems and aid with blood sugar problems, and serious allergies. Take this once then stop for two weeks.
Another plant of the Berberidaceae family that can be easily over looked in its young stage is the creeping barberry or Mahonia (Berberis) repens. This plant has leaves that are pinnate with 7 to 9 leaflets in pairs. This is a ground cover meaning the stems will only grow to a few inches in height while the branches will spread across the ground. It is also considered to be an evergreen although the leaves will turn a beautiful red color in the fall. The blooms are pretty similar to the Fremont barberry with the fruit ripening to a dark blue. They are a little bitter but I have found a few plants with sweet berries. The creeping barberry has the same beneficial alkaloid berberine as the Fremont barberry with a few more added medicinal advantages. Medicinally tends to be a bit more effective on chronic liver ailments and will work great topically against staph bacteria. This plant has also shown effective with thyroid function.
The Creeping barberry can be found growing on rocky outcroppings, slight slopes, and it really seems to love loose pine needles that have littered the forest floor. Personally I have not seen this plant below the ponderosa belt of Arizona. Chances are if you are in or above this belt you have a good chance of finding this plant.