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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 16  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 299-305

Morphological and ethnomedicinal study of Berberis napaulensis (DC.) laferr. (Syn. Mahonia nepalensis DC.)

Department of Dravya Guna Vigyanan, National Institute of Ayurveda, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

Date of Submission05-Jul-2021
Date of Decision25-Oct-2021
Date of Acceptance09-Jan-2022
Date of Web Publication17-Dec-2022

Correspondence Address:
Kiran Paudel
Department of Dravya Guna Vigyanan, National Institute of Ayurveda, Jaipur, Rajasthan
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/joa.joa_215_21

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Introduction: Berberis napaulensis (DC.) Laferr. (Syn. Mahonia nepalensis DC.) belonging to the family Berberidaceae. In the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal this shrub plant is used in the alternative medicinal systems. It is found in Temperate Himalaya, Altitude 4000–8000 ft. in height from Garwhal, India to Bhutan. B. napaulensis DC. is sparingly branched shrubs having erect stems. Leaves are pinnately compound. Methods: The current survey study is based on the Berberry plants with the help of different Scholars of Botany, Ayurveda, Medicine, and Traditional Ayurveda Practitioners. Field trips were made with experts on the dense forest of Kathmandu Valley. The Collected Plant specimens were compared with Specimens of KATH and TUCH, KTM, Nepal, and CSIR-NIScPR, New Delhi, India. Results: The Survey study identified, recorded, and collected the common Berberis and Mahonia in Hilly area of Kathmandu valley. Berberidaceae family species have a valuable status in the Hilly area and Mountainous area of Nepal and India. Mahonia Plant Stem Bark was commonly used in Jaundice and Liver related Diseases, Ophthalmic Problems, Neurological Disorders, and Metabolism Disorders. Conclusion: Berberidaceae family has diverse numbers of species. In Ayurveda, Berberis aristata DC. signifies the name of Daruharidra but in the different field visits shown that any species of Berberry were used as Daruharidra (Nepali: Chutro). Commonly, Berberis aristata DC is substituted by Berberis asiatica Roxb. ex DC. as the name of Daruharidra Veda. In the absence of Berberis asiatica Roxb. ex DC., Mahonia nepalensis DC. is used in Kathmandu valley.

Keywords: Berberis napaulensis DC, hepatoprotective, jaundice, Mahonia nepalensis

How to cite this article:
Paudel K, Ramamurthy A, Sharma G. Morphological and ethnomedicinal study of Berberis napaulensis (DC.) laferr. (Syn. Mahonia nepalensis DC.). J Ayurveda 2022;16:299-305

How to cite this URL:
Paudel K, Ramamurthy A, Sharma G. Morphological and ethnomedicinal study of Berberis napaulensis (DC.) laferr. (Syn. Mahonia nepalensis DC.). J Ayurveda [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Feb 6];16:299-305. Available from: http://www.journayu.in/text.asp?2022/16/4/299/364043

  Introduction Top

Family Berberidaceae consists of erect shrubs or herbs. Berberidaceae members are diversified in morphological pattern. 'Berberys', gives name Berberis for the fruit.[1] According to Adhikari and Mabberley Berberidaceae family includes 715 species within 14 genera. According to Whetstone et al. and Nickol Berberidaceae family has 15 genera with ca. 650 and 13 genera with ca. 570, respectively. Berberis and Podophyllum Species are those species which are generally represented as Berberidaceae family in Nepal. Similarly, Ahrendt in 1961[2] and Adhikari in 2010,[3] Berberis includes ca. 450 species with excluding Mahonia of ca. 100 and with including Mahonia more than 500 species correspondingly. Berberis is the largest woody plants in the Berberidaceae.[4] Mahonia is compound leaved plant and Berberis has simple leaves. There is no significant difference in Chromosome arrangement in the plant Genetic study,[5] floral Taxonomy of plant,[6] Seed Germination and Early growth Morphology[7] in between Berberis and Mahonia. Berberis and Mahonia have close phylognetic relationship.[8] Marroquin and Laferriere in 1997[9] and Laferriere in 1997[10] transferred Compound leaved Mahonia Species to Simple leaved Berberis Species.

Taxonomic classification of Mahonia Nutt:

Kingdom- Plantae Phylum- Tracheophytes

Class- Spermatopside Order- Ranunculales

Family- Berberidaceae Subfamily- Berberidoideae

Genus- Mahonia Species- M. nepalensis DC.

Binomial name: Mahonia nepalensis DC. Syn. Berberis napaulensis (DC.) Laferr.

Vernacular name: Garhwal: Gurm, Haldia; Jaunsar: Khoru; Nepal: Chutro, Jamanemandro, Milkissie.

English Name: Mahonia, Nepal Barberry.

  Aim and objectives Top

  1. To Study the Morphological structure of B. napaulensis (DC.) Laferr and other Beberidaceae family species
  2. To study the Ethno-medicinal values of B. napaulensis (DC.) Laferr with its Modern scientific database.

  Materials and Methods Top

This study is based on comparative survey study of Berberidaceae family plants over 30 herbarium specimens of KATH and on field visit study of different varieties of both Berberis and Mahonia in Kathmandu valley. Berberis aristata DC. (Daruharidra), Berberis asiatica Roxb. ex DC (Daruharidra Veda) and { B. napaulensis (DC.) Laferr (Syn. Mahonia nepalensis DC.)-Jamanemandro} was the focal point of the study during field visit. B. napaulensis DC. was collected during field visits. The plant was collected from different regions of Kathmandu valley as from Bosan Forest; Chalnakhel, Dakshinkali Municipality; Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park, Shivapuri; Phulchoki, Godawari. Specimens were compared with herbaria of National Herbarium and Plant Laboratories (KATH) TUCH, KTM, Nepal and CSIR-NIScPR, New Delhi, India. In this study, detail morphological characters of Mahonia nepalensis DC were studied with ethno-medicinal uses of this plant. The ethno-medicinal values of the plants were collected from the villagers and a bibliographic investigation was done by analyzing Articles, Google Scholar, Pub-Med., References books, Peer-reviewed paper, Worldwide accepted databases.

  Results Top

In this survey study, the plant was collected from different regions of Kathmandu valley as from Bosan Forest; Chalnakhel, Dakshinkali Municipality of height 1288 m (27.6462°N, 85.2804°E) from there Mahonia nepalensis and Berberis asiatica were collected. From Champadevi tracking route of height 2278 m, Berberis aristata was collected. Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park, 2133 m (27.820711°N, 85.388337°E), from there Berberis aristata were collected. Phulchoki, Godawari 2782 m (27.5844657°N, 85.3785301°E) of Lalitpur District, from there Mahonia nepalensis and Berberis asiatica were collected. Sangha, Bhaktapur district of Kathmandu valley (27.635127°N, 85.48945°E) from there Berberis asiatica DC were collected.

The survey site spreads an area of 20,000 m2 in Chalnakhel; area of 30,000 m2 in Champadevi; area of 30,000 m2 Shivapuri Nagarjun; area of 10,000 m2 in Phulchoki, Godawari; area of 15,000 m2 in Sangha, Bhaktapur. In Chalnakhel, nearly 20 plants of Mahonia nepalensis & 40 plants of Berberis asiatica species; in Champadevi, 10 plants of Berberis aristata; in Shivapuri Nagarjun National park 30 Berberis aristata species; in Phulchoki 20 Mahonia and 50 Berberis asiatica species and in Sangha, Bhaktapur 20 Berberis asiatica species are counted and for proper authentication mature twig of plants with Inflorescence were collected from these sites. These field sites are also characterized by different vegetations as Gaultheria fragrantissma, Xanthozylum armatum, and Myrica esculenta. The collected plants were compared with 30 herbarium specimens of KATH-KTM, Nepal. The 30 herbarium specimens are Berberis aristata DC from Dhawalagiri and Mustang, alt. of 2460 m; B. aristata DC from Kaski, alt. 2210 m; B. aristata DC from Mustang, alt. 2450 m; B. aristata DC from Myagdi, alt. 2010 m; Berberis asiatica from Kaski, alt. 1350 m; Beberis asiatica from Ghadruk, alt. 1860 m; Berberis everestiana from Eastern Nepal, alt. 2700 m. B. concinna from Eastern Nepal, alt. 2600 m. Mahonia nepalensis from Kathmadu, alt. 1900 m; M. nepalensis from shivapuri, alt. 2100 m; M. acanthifolia from Kathmandu, alt. 2500 m; M. acanthifolia from Helabu, alt. 2400 m and also compared with different Berberis species from different locations and altitude. Personal interview and group conversation with local inhabitants were conducted to gather information on ethnomedicinal values of plant from 15, 10, 10, and 10 Householders from Chalnakhel and Champadevi; Shivapuri; Pulchoki and Sanga, respectively. Questionnaire asked for gathering information of the plants are location of plant, general identification features, local plant names, parts of the plant used, name of diseases that the plant is used for treatment, plant used as single medicine or as mixed with other plants, method of preparation, administration, quantity and frequency of used.

Morphology of some species of family berberidaceae

The family Berberidaceae is made up of herbaceous plants, shrubs, and small trees distributed mainly in Northern Hemisphere, especially in Temperate Regions, from Eastern Asia to Northern America region.


Berberis aristata DC and Berberis asiatica Roxb. ex DC are shrubs having large morphology and sometimes small tree-like shrubs in appearances usually 2 m to 6 m in height. Berberis nepaulensis is evergreen shrub having height up to 4 m and up to 20 cm diameter with Branched erect stem [Figure 1].
Figure 1: (a) Mature plant of Berberis aristata DC. in natural habitat; (b) Mature plant of Berberis asiatica roxb. ex DC. in natural habitat; (c) Mature plant of Berberis napaulensis DC. in natural habitat

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Different species of Berberidaceae family have Leaves as alternate, simple, or pinnately compound as Mahonia and deeply lobed, very slight teeth or no lateral lobes. Berberis aristata DC has distinct primary and secondary venations. The mid rib is more prominent in Berberis aristata. Age of plant and twig of plant of B. aristata varies color from Green to Dark red. Mature plant with old leaf is dark red and young one has green leafy color. In Berberis asiatica with Prominent Venation on both side of the leaf and leaf is leathery coriaceous. B. napaulensis have compound leaf arrangement [Figure 2].
Figure 2: (a and b) Dorsal and ventral surface of leaf of Berberis aristata; (c and d) Ventral and dorsal surface of leaf of Berberis asiatica; (e and f) Dorsal and ventral surface of leaflet of Berberis napaulensis

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Stem of B. napaulensis is brown outside, inner side yellow. Stem erect, subsimple with leafy at top only. Stem is terete, angled, or sulcate. Stem of Berebris aristata is reddish brown in color with sulcate or angled, glabrous. Stem of Berberis asiatica is yellowish gray with angled, glabrous; young shoots is sulcate with 1–6 cm long internode.

Stem bark

In Mahonia nepalensis, Twig color is variable in the same plant according to the age of twigs and exposure to the environment. Mature long shoots have variation in color as in Mahonia it is brown, in Berberis aristata DC reddish brown and in Berberis asiatica ash gray or sometimes yellowish gray in color [Figure 3].
Figure 3: (a) Stem of Berberis aristata; (b) Stem of Berberis asiatica; (c) Stem of Berberis napaulensis; (d) Stem bark removed of Berberis asiatica; (e) Stem bark removed of Berberis napaulensis; (f) Stem bark removed of Berberis aristata

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Spines are strong, distinct, and not foliaceous in Berberis aristata and Berberis asiatica. Spines are solitary at apex and generally with 3 or rarely 5-fids. Spines are usually angled and terete. Angled at the node of stem. Spines are not present in B. napaulensis [Figure 4].
Figure 4: (a) Twig of Berberis aristata with spine; (b) Twig of Berberis asiatica with spine; (c) Twig of Berberis napaulensis DC. in natural habitat

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In Berberidaceae, Inflorescence is raceme. Pedunculated in Berberis aristata and short pedunculated or epedunculated in Berberis asiatica. In Berberis nepaulensis, flowers are in raceme or in solitary. Sepals 3 or 6, free, imbricate; Petals-6; Stamens-6; anthers 2-celled; Ovary-1-celled; ovules few or many; style-terminal, short or none; stigma large. In Mahonia nepalensis inflorescence terminal cluster of many flowered spikes, 10-25 cm long. Flowers yellow. Fruits ellipsoid berries, sweet and sour; berry up to 1 cm long, deep purple 1-3 seeded.


Fruit-Berries, Globose, ovoid or obovoid, ellipsoid Bright red color to Dark purplish black in color variation. Berberis asiatica have glaucous berries. Seeds-Ellipsoid, 3-7 mm long. In Berberis aristata, Berries are dark purple or black with slightly glaucous. Fruits ellipsoid berries, sweet and sour; berry up to 1 cm long, deep purple 1-3 seeded.


Berberidaceae species have a worldwide distribution. Nepalese generally grow berberry in villages and forest margin area, open pasture at the higher altitudes of Himalayan region, semi desert vegetation of the High altitude, and margin of cultivated land of the Farmers.

Taxonomy study of Berberis napaulensis (DC.) laferr

Taxonomic history of Mahonia

Mahonia is the second largest group of Berberidaceae family after Berberis.[11],[12] Mahonia and Berberis are distinctly separate before development of DNA-based Phylogenetics, classification on the basis of taxonomy of leaf, stem complexity, floral diagram, and inflorescence structures. However, intermediate features between Mahonia and Berberis of “M. freemontii, M. haematocarpa, and M. trifoliolata exhibit a blend of taxonomic.”[13] These morphological inconsistencies have led some Scientists as Laferriere, Whittermore, and Morroquin[10],[14] to treat as berberidaceae family includes all Mahonia species to Berberis species. “Nevertheless, within Berberis, makes a unified circumscription hard to reconcile, and consequently, the horticulture field generally maintains the two groups as separate genera.”[15],[16] Recent phylogenic analysis based on internal transcribed specer sequencing[17] has shown evolutionary history of Mahonia and Berberis. Ahrendt in 1961 supported as Mahonia was the progenitor of Berberis.

Taxonomical analysis of Berberis napaulensis (DC.) laferr

B. napaulensis, leaflets are oblong ovate or lanceolate spinous-toothed palmately 3-5 nerved, racemes dense flowered [Figure 5].[18]
Figure 5: Berberis napaulensis: (a) Twig of Berberis napaulensis with inflorescence; (b) Fruit raceme; (c) Fruit. (d) Flower; (e) Flower bud

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Habit and habitat

A large shrub is distributed in Himalayas from Garhwal of India Bhutan and Meghalaya. In Nepal Shrub or small tree of Mahonia nepalensis is distributed in Hill slope, mixed Oak-Rhododendron forest. Central: Shivapuri and In Champadevi, Kathmandu District [Figure 6].
Figure 6: Distribution of Berberis aristata DC.; Berberis asiatica roxb. ex DC.; Berberis napaulensis (DC.) Laferr. in Kathmandu Valley

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Plant morphological description

Internodes 15-20 cm. Sharply Spinous toothed Leaflets. Leaves compound, pinnate, cor. 20-30 cm long leaflets with distinct Petiole. Leaflets 2-12 pairs, 5-10 cm × 4.5 cm long, coriaceous, sessile, attached to petiole, apex acute. Margin with each side 5-10 spine appearances. Inflorescence is 15-20 cm long, pedunculate raceme of 20-40 flowers, Flower yellow. Flower buds 2-4 mm, Flowers 3-4 cm, Peduncle length 0.5-1 cm Sepals and Petals distinct.

Phenology: October-April.

Selected specimens: Central: Shivapuri, Kathmandu District, 2730 m, 1973.3.6, M. M. Amatya and T. K. Bhattacharya 13950.

Keys to difference Mahonia nepalensis (DC.) laferr from Mahonia acanthifolia G. Don

Mahonia nepalensis DC. Herbarium materials of Hamilton from Kathmandu valley, Nepal was studied by Swiss botanist Augustin de Candolle in 1821. Hooker & Thomson in 1840s collected Mahonia from Sikkim, India with considering the same species as described by Hamilton and recalled old name M. nepalensis. However, after 100 years later, Takada (1917) gives the differentiation of M. nepalensis and M. acanthifolia on the basis of leaflets as M. nepalensis had 3-7 pairs of leaflets and M. acantifolia had leaves of up to 11 pairs of leaflets. Mahonia acanthifolia G. Don is shrub or small tree having more leaflets per leaf than M. nepalensis. The leaf of M. nepalensis has leaflets at the narrower end of its variable range. M. acanthifolia has more widely spaced leaflets with terminal leaflet being slightly longer than the lateral pairs. The differentiation of these plants for proper identification is given in [Table 1].
Table 1: Differentiate table for Mahonia nepalensis DC. and Mahonia acanthifolia G. Don

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Selected specimens of Mahonia acanthifolia for differentiate

Mahonia acanthifolia G. Don., Shrub or small tree. Hill slope. Central: Borlag Bhanjyang, Kathmandu District, 2500 m, 1975.3.17, D. P. Joshiand K. R. Rajbhandari 75.669. Helambu, Sindupalanchok District, 2400 m, 1966.9.88. D. H. Nicolson 2664. East: Batase-Halhale Bhanjyang.

Ethno-medicinal values and scientific data related to uses of Berberis napaulensis

Hepatoprotective activity Mahonia nepalensis

Mahonia nepalensis contains alkaloids protoberberines and bisbenzylisoquinolines, Berberin,[19] Jattrrorhizine, O-methyl puljabine,[20] Homoaromaline.[21] Infective hepatitis is the highly contagious disease that attacks hepatocytes of liver.[22] The signs and symptoms are yellow sclera, Yellowish discoloration of skin, yellow urination, nausea, vomiting, pain in abdomen, burning sensation.[23] B. napaulensis has Berberine, Jattrrorhizine, O-methyl puljabine. Berberine has properties of cholegogue, hepatostimulant and astringent and is useful in treating anorexia, dysentery, and hepatitis.[24]

Use of chemical component berberine of Berberis napaulensis in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

Berberine is the main chemical compound in this plant which inhibits in hepatoma cell line (HepG2), cholesterol, and triglyceride synthesis.[25],[26] Experimental study of berberine on rat hepatoma H4IIE cells shows increased glucose consumption.[27] In experimental observation, BBR prevents development of obesity in rat and also shows that insulin resistance activities in HFD-fed rats;[28] Reduces liver necrosis due to infection in liver both in nonalcoholic steatosis and steatosis.[29] In the elderly, increased cholesterol level statin-intolerant patients BBR reduces cholesterol levels.[30]

Antidepressant activity

Berberine shows anti-depressant.[31] Activity of BBR on the CNS works as the part of L-arginine-nitric oxide-cyclic guanosine monophosphate signaling.[32]

Ethno-medicinal values of Berberis napaulensis

Stem Bark extract and dried root powder of Berberis are used in Eye's Diseases. In traditional Practices for diseases such as Jaundice, Malaria, and Peptic ulcers, Berberis stem bark is highly used.[33] Berry fruits are used for making alcoholic drinks in high altitude as a beverage and fruits are eaten when ripe. “Chutro” In Nepali means all species of Berberidaceae family. Mahonia nepalensis DC wood bark decoction (15-20 ml) is prescribed two times daily for 15 days in case of Jaundice by Traditional Health practitioners.[34] The root stem and its bark are used as diuretic, demulcent, and root as antiseptic.[35]

  Discussion Top

B. napaulensis (Syn. Mahonia nepalensis DC.) is belonging to Berberidaceae family. This is shrub or small plant having a compound leaflet. B. napaulensis is native to Kathmandu Valley. In Bosan Forest of height 1288 m (27.6462°N, 85.2804°E), B. napaulensis DC was identified. In Short interview of villagers with our team shown that the plants were very much important for them from ethnomedicinal point of view. The beauty of flowers, the sweet berry, and enormous medicinal values have related them together in this type of bounding. Mahonia nepalensis and Berberis asiatica were located at the base of the forest but Berberis aristata located at the southern east of Kathmandu valley and at the top of the Bosan forest, in Hiking route of Champadevi Temple and in Shivapuri National Park at height of 2133 m. Hamilton in his book: From the Kingdom of Nepal, 1856 first introduces Jumne-mundroo on p. 85. Berberis (Mahonia) nepalensis; properly as Jamani mandru. After that, the study in this plant began worldwide and name changed according to new findings from as Mahonia nepalensis DC to B. napaulensis DC. Scientists as Laferriere, Whittermore, and Marroquin treat as Mahonia nutt as in Berberidaceae family and includes all Mahonia species to Berberis species. Mahonia nepalensis has pinnately compound leaflets but Berberis aristata has simple leaf arrangement. Conventionally, Mahonia nepalensis DC berries are considered as diuretic and demulcent in dysentery. The root, stem, and its bark are also used as diuretic, demulcent, and root as antiseptic. The stem bark is highly used for hepatic-related diseases as Jaundice. In Ayurveda, Berberis aristata DC (Daruharidra) is described for the treatment of Netra Roga and Yakrit Vikaras. Berberis aristata is substuted by B. asiatica for the same treatment purpose [Figure 7].
Figure 7: Pharmacological activities of Mahonia nepalensis DC

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Mahonia has a potential action as antioxidative, anticancer, immunomodulatory, antidiabetic activities. However, these potencies of the plant show great important in medicinal field but till this plant is unknown for clinical study and unknown for trial in clinical point of view. This plant needs more exposure in different new emerging diseases day by day by clinical trial approach.

  Conclusion Top

During the last some years back, there has been increased consumption of medicinal plants in the market. The new technology is developing for the investigation of the chemical compound present in the plants. Folklore medicines have great importance in society. They are related with spiritual values as well. This survey study is based on field trips, identification, authentication, and documentation of various Berberis species. Berberis aristata DC., Berberis asiatica Roxb. ex DC., and (B. napaulensis [DC.] Laferr. [Syn. Mahonia nepalensis DC.]) have great ethno-medicinal values. In folklore medicine, these have been used in Jaundice. Its bark juice is used in hepatic-related diseases. This plant is known for botanists' since 18th century from Kathmandu Valley. Due to its medicinal properties, it shows hepatoprotective action against various liver-related problems. Experimental studies show that it shows antidiabetic and antioxidative properties.


We would like to thank Dr. Gokul Neupane, BAMS for the proper location suggestion of Berberis sp. and Berberis napaulensis (Syn. Mahonia nepalensis DC.) in Kathmandu Valley. We are grateful to Dr. Mukti Poudeyal, PhD for sharing his expertise on location and identification of Plant. We would like to thank Dr. Dharmaraj Adhikari, BAMS; Raju Moktan, Traditional Ayurveda Practitioner for helping in collection of Plants. We also like to thank to the curators of KATH-Suvash Khatri, Head, chief Scientist & Ganga Dutt Bhatta, Chief Scientist and TUCH curators. We are Thankful to Dr. Sunita Garg, Former Chief Scientist, RHMD, CSIR-NIScPR, New Delhi.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

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  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5], [Figure 6], [Figure 7]

  [Table 1]


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