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Are Barberries The Next Super Secret To Fighting Acne?

By Megan Griffith

Reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Jaggi Rao,
MD, FRCPC Double board-certified dermatologist

Barberries are one of the most antioxidant-rich fruits1 found in nature. It’s now a scientific fact that barberries have numerous health benefits. They’ve been found to be effective in treating a number of respiratory, gastrointestinal and skin issues. As a result, they have generated a great interest in the scientific community. But most recently, they’ve been getting attention for their possible acne-fighting benefits.

With acne being one of the most common skin problems, the search is always on for safe and natural ways to prevent it, control it or get rid of it. And a recent double-blind randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial revealed that barberries are very effective in the treatment of moderate to severe acne.

barberries for acne
Eating dried barberries might just clear up your skin.

Herbs Used In Treatment Of Acne

In addition to prescriptions, over the counter treatments and kits like Exposed Skin Care, there are a number of natural herbs and extracts available on the market to control acne2, too. Most of them contain ingredients that are traditionally used in ancient Chinese medicine3.

One of the more promising natural herbs4 to control acne, however, comes from Japan. The Japanese root herb called Rhizoma coptidis has been found to be very effective in treating acne5. In fact, it has been shown to be as effective as the drug Accutane, that was pulled from the market by the FDA due to serious side effects.

Although the root herb is effective, it’s not completely free from possible side effects. Research has shown that the active component of this root, effective against acne, is called Berberine6.

And guess what fruit has lots and lots of berberine? You guessed it, Barberries! They have been used in Middle Eastern cuisine for centuries. These sour berries are packed full of antioxidants and other nutrients. So it’s a no-brainer that they should be effective against acne, right?

Barberry Facts

The health benefits of these delicious little berries date back over two millennia. They’ve been used in ancient India, China and other Asian countries to treat a variety of conditions. And they still find a wide usage in Iran to treat many diseases of the liver7 including gallbladder issues and heartburn.

Berberine, the active component of barberries, is a potent antibacterial8 compound and has been shown to boost the immune system9. The water extracts of barberries promote cardiac health and neuronal health. It’s also effective in treating hypertension10, epilepsy, and convulsions. In recent years, the antioxidant potential of berberine has been linked to its cancer-preventing actions as well11.

Are Barberries Effective In Acne?

The claims of various health benefits of barberries12 have been substantiated by a number of scientific studies. People consuming barberry juice have experienced many benefits… including noticeably clear skin.

A recent double-blind clinical trial put this claim to test. The randomized placebo-controlled trial was conducted with fifty volunteers between the ages of 12-17 with moderate to severe acne. Half of the group received a placebo sugar pill and the other half received a teaspoonful of dried barberries three times a day for a period of one month.

The results of the trial were nothing short of spectacular. The group receiving the placebo treatment had no change in the number of pimples whatsoever. However, the group on barberries showed a 43% decrease in the number of pimples and as much as a 45% drop in inflammation of the zits13.

These results are amazing, considering the cost of a teaspoonful of the berries is just about 8 cents and there are no side effects at all! Talk about a win-win situation!

A Word Of Caution

Herbs have been used to improve health and vitality for hundreds of years. However, consuming herbs can sometimes lead to some unwanted side effects as well. Particularly if you are consuming something that is not naturally found in your part of the world. It is always smart to take these supplements under the supervision of a medical practitioner.

Another rule of thumb to follow: don’t overdo any herbs and know how they may interact with other medications. People taking barberries in a proper dosage have reported no side effects. However, if you consume too many, nausea and nosebleeds are fairly common.

It’s always good to avoid any herbs in infants. Berberine can cause liver damage in children and should be totally avoided. Similarly, pregnant women should also stay away from barberries. They have been known to stimulate contractions of the uterus and trigger miscarriages. Also, if you’re breastfeeding, it is probably best to not try barberries.


Barberries are one of the best sources of antioxidants and other nutrients14. The clinical research clearly proves that they are effective in treating acne in as little as a month. If you follow proper precautions, consuming a few of these berries a few times a day may just be the treatment you were looking for!


  1. Olas B. Berry Phenolic Antioxidants – Implications for Human Health? Front Pharmacol. 2018 Mar 26;9:78. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2018.00078. PubMed PMID: 29662448; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5890122. Olas B. Berry Phenolic Antioxidants – Implications for Human Health? Front Pharmacol. 2018 Mar 26;9:78.
  2. Nasri H, Bahmani M, Shahinfard N, Moradi Nafchi A, Saberianpour S, Rafieian Kopaei M. Medicinal Plants for the Treatment of Acne Vulgaris: A Review of Recent Evidences. Jundishapur J Microbiol. 2015 Nov 21;8(11):e25580.
  3. Chang XA, Dai S, Ye ZZ, Song QH. Treatment of Facial Acne Vulgaris by Chinese Medicine Combined Western Medicine. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 2017 Feb;37(2):160-164.
  4. Chen HY, Lin YH, Chen YC. Identifying Chinese herbal medicine network for treating acne: Implications from a nationwide database. J Ethnopharmacol. 2016 Feb 17;179:1-8.
  5. Nam C, Kim S, Sim Y, Chang I. Anti-acne effects of Oriental herb extracts: a novel screening method to select anti-acne agents. Skin Pharmacol Appl Skin Physiol. 2003 Mar-Apr;16(2):84-90.
  6. Clark AK, Haas KN, Sivamani RK. Edible Plants and Their Influence on the Gut Microbiome and Acne. Int J Mol Sci. 2017 May 17;18(5):1070.
  7. Deng Y, Tang K, Chen R, Nie H, Liang S, Zhang J, Zhang Y, Yang Q. Berberine attenuates hepatic oxidative stress in rats with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease via the Nrf2/ARE signalling pathway. Exp Ther Med. 2019 Mar;17(3):2091-2098.
  8. Peng L, Kang S, Yin Z, Jia R, Song X, Li L, Li Z, Zou Y, Liang X, Li L, He C, Ye G, Yin L, Shi F, Lv C, Jing B. Antibacterial activity and mechanism of berberine against Streptococcus agalactiae. Int J Clin Exp Pathol. 2015 May 1;8(5):5217-23.
  9. Wang H, Liu C, Mei X, Cao Y, Guo Z, Yuan Y, Zhao Z, Song C, Guo Y, Shen Z. Berberine attenuated pro-inflammatory factors and protect against neuronal damage via triggering oligodendrocyte autophagy in spinal cord injury. Oncotarget. 2017 Sep 23;8(58):98312-98321.
  10. Xia LM, Luo MH. Study progress of berberine for treating cardiovascular disease. Chronic Dis Transl Med. 2016 Jan 12;1(4):231-235.
  11. Tan W, Li Y, Chen M, Wang Y. Berberine hydrochloride: anticancer activity and nanoparticulate delivery system. Int J Nanomedicine. 2011;6:1773-7. doi: 10.2147/IJN.S22683.
  12. Li Z, Geng YN, Jiang JD, Kong WJ. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of berberine in the treatment of diabetes mellitus. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:289264.
  13. Fouladi RF. Aqueous extract of dried fruit of Berberis vulgaris L. in acne vulgaris, a clinical trial. J Diet Suppl. 2012 Dec;9(4):253-61. doi: 10.3109/19390211.2012.726702. Epub 2012 Oct 8.
  14. Li Z1, Geng YN, Jiang JD2, Kong WJ. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of berberine in the treatment of diabetes mellitus. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:289264.
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