Turn your Backyard into a Medicine Cabinet with TOG

Tall Oregon Grape (TOG)

Mahonia aquifolium



This evergreen shrub grows along the Pacific NW coast from BC to northern Canada and stays beautiful all year round. TOG blooms bright yellow flowers in the spring, matures produces bright blue berries during late summer,  and consists of green, glossy, holly-like leaves that turn copper red in the winter months. No wonder Oregon named it their state flower


In addition to the charming qualities of this NW native, it is also a powerful medicinal plant. From stems to berries, TOG has many practical benefits to people. Present in this plant is a bright-yellow alkaloid, berberine which acts as a strong antimicrobial and liver stimulant.It can be used to fight internal and external infection as well as provide assistance with digestion for issues such as constipation and upset stomach. TOG has been known to treat everything from toothaches, sinus infections, open wounds and scrapes, eczema, psoriasis, acne, eye infections, and inflammation, to name a few. 

The berries are extremely tart and are considered a bitter plant. Health benefits of eating bitter plants including increased digestion, controlling hunger and cravings, and promoting blood sugar balance. They can be eaten raw after being washed, however, below is a jam recipe from the WA Native Plant Society you should try! Rumor has it, TOG berries also make great wine. 

Oregon Grape Jelly (makes 6 half pints)

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3-5 lbs of washed, stemmed Oregon grapes (this is roughly equal to about 2 quarts of berries)

3 cups of water

5 cups of sugar

1 pkg of liquid pectin

  1. Crush the grapes and add the water. I use a hand blender on low. Do not over mix, or it may alter the natural pectin in the fruit, making it frothy.

  2. Boil for 10 minutes, mashing the berries a bit.

  3. Place the mixture in a colander lined with cheesecloth. Let this drain a few hours, or until you have about 4 cups of juice. Discard the debris and cheesecloth.

  4. Mix the juice with the sugar and bring to a rapid boil.

  5. Add the pectin. Return to a full boil for one minute.

  6. Place into warm sterilized jars, place the lids on, and put the jars into a boiling water bath for 10 minutes

  7. Remove the jars from the water and let set overnight.

In many forest preserves and places where Oregon grape grows, people are not allowed to uproot plants unless they are indigenous. This means you won’t be able to wildcraft your Oregon grape root - so grow it in your yard for harvest!

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*Disclaimer: These plants have been used by people for food and medicine in different ways since time immemorial. Any ethnobotanical information presented here in respect to healthy living, recipes, nutrition, and diet and is intended for informational purposes only. The information provided is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment nor is it to be construed as such. We cannot guarantee that the information provided by the Pierce Conservation District reflects the most up-to-date medical research. Information is provided without any representations or warranties of any kind. Please consult a qualified physician for medical advice, and always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding your health and nutrition program.