In zereshk polo, tiny red berries (the barberry) dance on a bed of aromatic basmati rice and turmeric saffron chicken. Tahchin on the other hand is a savory rice cake where plain yogurt and chunks of succulent meat have been folded into saffron basmati rice, then baked to golden perfection.
But I digress. The purpose of this particular article isn’t to share a recipe or to make your mouth water, it is more to tell you about the health benefits of the Berbers vulgaris — or the Barberry.
Barberry shrubs grow in abundance in the mountainous north-east region of Iran. The small ruby-like berries contain the alkaloids berberine and oxycontin (alkaloids are nitrogenous organic compounds with pronounced physiological effects on the human body, i.e. many drugs contain alkaloids such as morphine and quinine.)
The Health Benefits of Eating Barberry
In recent history, the medicinal properties of Berberine has been studied at length. However, the use of barberries in Eastern and Western medical traditions goes back to at least 3000 years.
Recent research has found that berberine can:
- Increase immunity and fight infection
- Ease inflammation
- Improve digestion, reduce gastrointestinal pain and treat diarrhea
- Control blood sugar to aid in preventing and treating diabetes
- Improve hypertension and heart health
- Reduce oxidative stress
- Effectively cleanse the liver and act as a gallbladder flush agent
In traditional Eastern medicine, the barberry has a cold and dry nature. Historically, barberries in large quantities were used as a sedative by Iranian physicians, while in India they were used to treat diarrhea. Ancient Egyptians used barberry and fennel seed to cure fever and in northern Europe, the barberry is still used to treat disorders of the bladder, liver, and gallbladder.
How it’s Done
There are a few different ways you can incorporate the barberry into your diet.
A consistently balanced and healthy diet of varied fruits and vegetables, including the fruit of the barberry shrub is always going to be your best bet. My number one recommended method is to use it in real foods, like in the dishes I mentioned in the beginning of this article. As I’m not a seasoned recipe creator and do not want to copy and paste someone else’s hard work, I will refer you to someone who really knows their stuff… Try this delicious chicken, barberry and saffron frittata as shown by lovely chef/blogger Maryam Sinaiee, on her website The Persian Fusion. She has many other recipes for using barberries, some are very traditional, some are more fusion types. All seem delicious!
I am also partial to soaking dried barberries in boiling water, adding honey, then drinking as a kind of hot tea.
Where to Find Barberries
You can find Barberries at most Persian grocers, or you can also order online. Click the affiliate image below for my fave brand of barberries. Be warned that once in a while, small stones and stems are normal, and they should be thoroughly picked through and rinsed before use.
Of course, it can be easier for some to take a high dose of barberry compounds in capsule form. So another way is to take berberine supplements. If I’m at the point where I HAVE to use supplementation, Thorne Research products are in my top 5. I’ve also included a link to the Thorne Research capsules in the affiliate image below.
Let me know if you decide to make any Barberry recipes you find that I should know about. I make zereshk polo at least once a month, if not more, so I’m always looking for new ways of using Barberries as a part of my healthy diet.
To a berry positively strong week,