Most American herbalists rank the Oregon grape as one among the most outstanding and exceptional Native American herbs available today. They also believe that the shrub is in fact one of the best herbs available today, which can effectively stimulate liver activity and the secretion of bile. There are several reasons for this belief. For one, the Oregon grape boasts of a bright yellow root, which is high in the alkaloid berberine, which is in turn an important constituent of other similarly powerful healing plants like for example, goldenseal. The root is also said to have a warm and drying influence. The Oregon grape can stimulate weakened livers, and at the same time dramatically alleviate liver-induced symptoms such as headaches, poor digestion, and toxic blood... Herbalists of today prefer to use the Oregon grape to cleanse the liver, the spleen and in some cases the blood too. However, an individual who consumes too much rich food, or who overeats regularly and who therefore has an overactive liver must not use Oregon grape, because of its action on the liver.The Oregon grape is quite a sour little berry so you don't really want to eat a handful of them unless you happen to have scurvy as the berries have a lot of vitamin c in them. They also have from 1 to 4 seeds in each tiny "grape" so there isn't much meat to them. The good thing is that when prepared they make a fair replacement in all grape recipes from jams and jellies to wine, and juice.
Oregon grape is generally prepared in an easy infusion, using 1/2 ounce of dried Oregon grape root to one quart of water. The infusion can usually be taken a cup at a time, thrice a day until relief is obtained. Oregon grape is often used in herbal formulas, too. Since the berries of the Oregon grape have been found to possess a cooling effect, they are used to break fevers. For more information on medicinal uses click here.
Yesterday I picked our "grapes" from the bush. Because it is so holly like, the leaves on the plant will prick you and may also cause a slight allergic reaction when bare skin rubs on the plants. Wear gloves and long sleeves. Once the ripe berries are picked wash and remove stems, bugs and any non ripe berries.The berries also have a dusty blue coating on them,when you pick them it sort of rubs off and they become a purple/blue color.
To make the juice I simply put 2-3 cups of grapes in sterilized jars, add a cup of sugar and fill with hot water. Next cap and process in a hot water bath for 20 minutes. Allow the juice to age for two months or more. When ready to use, reconstitute and add sugar according to your taste.