Berberis vulgaris - the rock eater

Dr.P.V.Venkatraman M.D. (hom)
# 33,Ist Main Road
Lake area
Ph 044-28173236 / 28174389



Dr.P.V.Venkatraman president of Tamil Nadu Homoeopathic Association is a pioneer homoeopath, intimate and disciple of worlds renowned Dr.S.P.Koppikar . He is well known for his speech and writings. Young dynamic brethren had in many academic and social activities, had given many lectures to the students in various Homoeopathic Medical Colleges, has stamped his individuality in scientific seminars. Former managing editor of Homoeopathy in Practice.

There can’t be any one without knowing Jim Corbett and his “Man Eaters”. Similarly there can be no homoeopath without knowing the Stone Eater of Homoeopathy “The Berberis vulgaris.”The very name Berberis vulgaris brings a very vivid picture about the calculus particularly biliary and urinary calculus in the minds of every one. Berberis vulgaris which covers all the three Miasms, provides a strong basis for the utility of it in all types of calculi. Berberis mainly expels or dissolves the calculi. It rarely breaks the stone. Though it is the most useful medicine in the cases of calculi and though I personally call it a rock eater, I still take the privilege to say that it is the most misused medicine in the very same condition. One of my study on renal calculus showed its need in 30% of the cases only. Instead of viewing the elephant like a blind person, we can view it in the Hahnemannian light. Hence, I prefer not to elaborate much on its efficacy in calculi disorder. Hope every homoeopath has a stone in his showcase to his credit.There are nearly five hundred members in the Berberidacae family. Berberis vulgaris, Berberis aquifolium, Caulophyllum thalictroides and Podophyllum peltatum (Berberidacae or Ranunculaceae) are the very important members as for as homoeopaths are concerned. The click of the word Berberis vulgaris spots more than 50,000 sites in the internet. Few sites recommend Berberis vulgaris for its anti- Helicobacter, anti- fungal and anti- parasitic properties and it needs further clinical evaluation and evidence based study.

Berberis Vulgaris which belong to Berberidacae family was first proved by Dr. Hesse and published in the year 1834. The important characteristics of this remedy are very wide and deep. It is better to forget about its utility for calculi a moment and restudy the symptomatology again.The radiating Pain: The calculus pain radiates to other parts. More often the patient shows the wide area of pain. In one of my patient who was diagnosed to have left sciatic pain showed the entire thigh - (the back, front and sides of thigh) as painful. Difficult to get up from sitting posture. Berberis vulgaris 200 put an end to it.

Rapid change of symptoms - pains change in regard to place and character. It may appear as if the patient is trying to fool the people around. Complaining of chest pain, the next moment of back pain and then the legs. What to treat? The patient may not be able to tell the exact symptom. This is the clue. A careful physician will think of Berberis vulgaris.

Venous system: Acts forcibly on the venous system, producing pelvic congestion and haemorrhoids. It works as diuretic and helps in relieving the congestion. In anal fistula with itching and bilious symptoms it works very well. Dr. Rajan Sankaran has given a case of anal fissure cured by Berberis vulgaris in his book “ The Insight Into Plants.”

Excretory system - the bubbling sensation in kidney area and pain radiating to other parts from renal area. The enormous symptoms of urinary tract, the change of character of urine mostly along with calculi problem indicate this remedy. In a lady of 28 years, indifference and irritableness due to the constant burning of urethra troubled her for years. When all investigation and treatment failed the “Burning in the urethra when not urinating”- a very characteristic symptom of Berberis vulgaris with few other put an end to her perennial problem.

On calculi: It will be proper for me to remind you of other medicines particularly Calcarea carb, Urtica urens, Hydrangea, Pareira brava, Medorrhinum, Acid phos and various other medicines which are equally important. Prescribe only on the basis of similimum. Stone pains of berberis vulgaris are of radiating type, patient can not locate the exact spot but can definitely point to renal area. It is mostly on left side. Patient will be pointing a wide area of pain. Bubbling sensation in renal area. It helps to expel thestones, particularly Oxalates. It is also effective in other types of stones of the urinary tract and gall bladder. Gall stone pain also has the similar symptoms.

Organs of Digestion and its tract: Liver and Gall Bladder are affected by the portal congestion. For bilious colic with or without gall stones. The pain is radiating and changing. Jaundice with clay coloured stools. ‘Pit of stomach puffed’ up is the symptom to be remembered. It will be of worth to try in cases of gastric of hepatic tumour or malignancy since Helicobacter is one of the definite cause for gastric carcinoma. Hydrastis, the well known remedy for liver cancer and Berberis vulgaris contain an alkaloid ‘Berberinum’ in common. Symptoms like heart burn, very slow digestion and pressure in stomach as if it would burst and better by vomiting guide us to the correct remedy. Dr. Nash suggested to give Antimonium crudum to save the food eaten without being vomited out. In this condition we can also think of Berberis vulgaris.

Extremities: The pain in the heel which make the patient more difficult to stand in the morning. The body weight causing more pressure and pain. Then the movement relieves. Can walk a little better. After the walk much weakness and exhaustion. Can not walk longer, must rest a while to walk again. Back pain extending to thigh and other parts. Worse by motion and worse by standing. Difficult to get up from bed in the morning. Imagine how many patients we get regularly with this symptom complex. Suited for old gouty arthritic conditions with urinary disturbances. Dr. G. Suresh of Tamil Nadu used to say “ think of Berberis vulgaris first in cases of low back pain”. Add to this- think in cases of heel pain or sole pain.

Respiratory : Dr. S.P.Koppikar in his book “ Koppikar’s Clinical Experiences of 70 years in homoeopathy” has recommended Berberis vulgaris as one of the medicines in asthmatic condition. He gives the indications as Obstructed breathing; Agg. ascending; Agg. raising arms; Contraction in chest to abdomen compels him to bend over. It also has short dry cough with stitching pains in chest. Dr. Ozonum has cured polyps of vocal cords with Berberis vulgaris.

Skin: Circumscribed pigmentation which follows eczematous inflammation is another characteristic of Berberis vulgaris. Flat warts, base is attached to the skin. Yellow coloured skin due to jaundice. Itching of skin with or without jaundice worse by scratching and better by cold application. One of my patient treated for gall stone with Berberis vulgaris was cured of his eczema also, which troubled him for years. It is also used for post inflammatory hyperpigmentation, chloasma, tanning, drug reactions, and atopic dermatitis.

Prescribing notes: A few characters to be remembered

1. It is a chief remedy in all cases of calculi - gallbladder, renal, pancreatic and salivary gland.
2. All complaints with urinary and biliary symptoms.
3. The constant rapid change of nature and location of the symptoms.
4. Radiating pain.
5. Predominance of left sidedness.
6. Portal and venous system involvement.
7. Aggravation from motion: walking and any sudden movement.
8. Similar to Cantharis, Lycopodium, Sarsaparilla, Tabacum in renal colic.
9. In rheumatic complaints acts well after Arnica, Bryonia, Kali bic, Rhustox and Sulphur.

1. All our Materia Medicas by Hering, Nash, H.C.Allen, Boericke, Robin Murphy, Clarke and Richard Hughes .
2. Homoeopathy -Ever Green Medicine by Ronald Livingston.
3. Dermatology for Homoeopaths by Ramji Gupta & R.K.Manchanda.
5. The insight into plants by Rajan Shankar.
6. Koppikars Clinical Experience 70 years in Homoeopathy by S.P.Koppikar.