Chitra (Berberis aristata)

B. chitria. B. coriaria.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Berberis aristata

A yellow dye is obtained from the root and the stem[46, 61, 272].

An important source of dyestuff and tannin, it is perhaps one of the best tannin dyes available in India[194].

The wood is used as a fuel[146]. The spiny branches are used for making fencing around fields[272].

  • Medicinal Use

    The dried stem, root bark and wood are alterative, antiperiodic, deobstruent, diaphoretic, laxative, ophthalmic and tonic (bitter)[46, 61, 158, 194, 240]. An infusion is used in the treatment of malaria, eye complaints, skin diseases, menorrhagia, diarrhoea and jaundice[240, 243].

    Berberine, universally present in rhizomes of Berberis species, has marked antibacterial effects. Since it is not appreciably absorbed by the body, it is used orally in the treatment of various enteric infections, especially bacterial dysentery[218]. It should not be used with Glycyrrhiza species (Liquorice) because this nullifies the effects of the berberine[218]. Berberine has also shown antitumour activity[218].

  • Edible Use

    Fruit – raw or cooked[145]. A well-flavoured fruit, it has a sweet taste with a blend of acid, though there is a slight bitterness caused by the seeds[194, K]. The fruit is much liked by children[194, K]. It is dried and used like raisins in India[2, 3, 177, 183]. The fruit contains about 2.3% protein, 12% sugars, 2% ash, 0.6% tannin, 0.4% pectin[194]. There is 4.6mg vitamin C per 100ml of juice[194].The fruit is about 7mm x 4mm[194] – it can be up to 10mm long[200]. Plants in the wild yield about 650g of fruit in 4 pickings[194].

    Flower buds – added to sauces[177, 183].

  • Cautionary Notes

    None known

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame, it should germinate in late winter or early spring[78]. Seed from over-ripe fruit will take longer to germinate[78]. Stored seed may require cold stratification and should be sown in a cold frame as early in the year as possible[80]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse or cold frame for at least their first winter. Once they are at least 20cm tall, plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. The seedlings are subject to damping off, so be careful not to overwater them and keep them well ventilated[113]. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Very difficult, if not impossible. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season’s growth, preferably with a heel, October/November in a frame[78]. Very difficult, if not impossible.
Prefers a warm moist loamy soil and light shade but it is by no means fastidious, succeeding in thin, dry and shallow soils[11, 200]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Plants are very hardy, they survived the severe winters of 1986-1987 without problems in most areas of Britain[K]. Plants can be pruned back quite severely and resprout well from the base[200]. The fruits are sometimes sold in local markets in India[194]. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus[1]. Most plants cultivated under this name are B. chitria., B. coriaria., B. glaucocarpa. and, more commonly, B. floribunda[67, 200].
E. Asia – Himalayas in Nepal.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.