- May help to regulate blood sugar levels
- Helps to maintain good metabolism
- May help to promote a healthy weight
Berberine is a compound that can be extracted from a number of herbs and plants. It has a history of use in traditional Chinese medicine and was once used as a treatment for diarrhea in diabetics. Berberine is a highly effective dietary supplement with a number of remarkable health benefits. In the past, people with diabetes and high cholesterol tried using berberine because of the various studies which showed its apparent benefits. Nowadays, people use berberine as a dietary supplement with many potential health benefits. Berberine dosage is recommended at 500 mg, two to three times daily.
- Berberine was used in traditional Chinese medicine and was once used as a treatment for diarrhea for people with diabetes
- Berberine has a host of effects and people once used it for high cholesterol and regulating blood sugar levels – today it is used as an effective health supplement
- The recommended dosage for berberine is 500 mg, two to three times daily
- Berberine interacts with a number of medicines, and can cause constipation and stomach cramps
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Berberine was first used in traditional Chinese medicine for treating gastrointestinal diseases. It is found in a large variety of plants and herbs. Chinese medicine used the herbs phellodendron and coptis to extract berberine. Interestingly, berberine is a natural dye. It is called “natural yellow 18”, and is one of around 35 natural dyes.[i] It is sometimes sold as berberine HCl.
Today, berberine is gaining fame as a dietary supplement and potential medicine of the future, because of its remarkable potential ability to help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. There is a large body of research into the effects of berberine on blood sugar levels. These studies indicated that berberine was effective at maintaining healthy blood glucose levels, cholesterol, triglycerides, HbA1c, BMI, and as an anti-inflammatory. Today, people use berberine as a dietary supplement with potential health benefits.
Berberine effects / benefits
- May help to maintain healthy blood sugar levels
One of the most important benefits of berberine is its potential ability help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. In the past, this was especially beneficial for people who suffered from irregular blood sugar levels. Interestingly, this effect of berberine was first discovered when it was used as a treatment for diarrhea in diabetic patients.
In a human study on over 110 volunteers, all with type 2 diabetes and high blood sugar, researchers found some interesting data. Volunteers were given 1 gram of berberine daily, for 3 months. At the end of the study, the patients had all benefitted greatly from the treatment. Glucose levels were reduced by an average of around 1.4 mmol/liter. The HbAc1 levels, triglyceride levels, and cholesterol levels were significantly lowered as well. The study found that berberine was a highly effective and safe supplement for potentially helping to maintain healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels.[ii] More studies are required before these results can be regarded as concrete evidence of berberine’s benefits.
- May help to maintain healthy HbA1c levels
HbA1c is a term used to describe “glycated hemoglobin”. Hemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells, and it is responsible for carrying both oxygen and sugar to cells around your body. When hemoglobin “bumps into” sugar in your blood, there is a chemical reaction and the protein binds to the sugar molecule. The result is glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c).
The concentration of HbA1c in blood is used as a marker for high blood sugar. An HbA1c concentration of over 6.5% indicates diabetes. HbA1c tests can also be used to give an average of your blood sugar levels over the past 2-3 months. A simple blood glucose test only tells you the level of sugar in your blood at that time, but an HbA1c gives you a better understanding of your average blood glucose levels.[iii]
A growing number of studies have indicated that berberine may be able to help maintain healthy HbA1c levels. A recent review of over 14 studies on the effects of berberine on blood sugar levels indicated that it may be effective at maintaining healthy blood sugar and HbA1c levels.[iv]
- May have the potential to help maintain healthy cholesterol
In the past, people used berberine to help maintain good cholesterol levels. There have been a number of studies which indicated berberine’s apparent ability to help your body regulate cholesterol. Today, however, you can use berberine as a dietary supplement in addition to a healthy diet.
One study looked at the effects of berberine on a number of key diabetic markers. These included liver fat content, blood glucose and blood lipid profiles (cholesterol). The study, which was conducted on 184 patients in five medical facilities, compared berberine to a commonly prescribed diabetic medication.
Once again, berberine showed outstanding results. The study concluded that berberine significantly reduced liver fat content, blood glucose, and cholesterol. In fact, berberine was more effective than the medication it was tested against in reducing body weight and improving cholesterol levels.[v] This study does not indicate that berberine should be used for any medical reasons. It is a good dietary supplement.
- May help to promote a healthy blood-circulatory system
Triglycerides are a specific type of fat that are found in your blood. Having too many triglycerides in your blood contributes to heart disease and stroke.[vi] Reducing triglycerides is very beneficial to your health.
An important study that demonstrated the potential strength of berberine in maintaining healthy triglyceride levels was performed in 2013. This study was conducted on 144 healthy patients. The long-term study required a 6-month ‘run-in’ period of physical training and dieting before patients started their 3 months of berberine supplementation. The study found that berberine had the potential to help maintain healthy cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol levels. After the study, volunteers had raised HDL cholesterol levels (the ‘good’ cholesterol).[vii] More studies are required to confirm the potential benefits of berberine as a dietary health supplement.
- May help to maintain a healthy weight
A great benefit of berberine is its ability to potentially help maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI). In fact, all the studies we’ve quoted so far found that berberine was effective at maintaining BMI on top of the other indicated effects.
One study, on 24 patients with metabolic syndrome, indicated that berberine use alone may help to maintain a healthy waist circumference. This effect was found to be in combination with potentially maintaining healthy cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar levels.[viii]
- May act as an anti-inflammatory supplement
Animal studies have shown that berberine is potentially effective at reducing inflammation.[ix] Inflammation is often a sign of an underlying disease or infection. However, chronic stress, bad diets, smoking, obesity, and alcohol abuse are also risk factors for developing inflammation. Reducing inflammation has a host of health benefits.[x]
Berberine recommended dosage
Most studies have found that berberine is best taken in three separate servings of 500 mg.[xi] Taking three servings throughout the day, rather than one large serving, reduces the gastro side effects. It is best taken with a P-glycoprotein inhibitor. P-glycoprotein inhibitors include milk thistle, chrysin, and coconut oil.[xii]
Berberine side effects / warnings
Berberine is a very safe supplement for healthy people to potentially maintain good cholesterol levels, blood sugar, and overall health. However, berberine interacts with a lot of medication. Specifically, medicines that lower blood sugar levels are dangerous to use with berberine. Interactions could cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). For a list of interactions, read through the ‘Interactions’ section on the Examine.com page for Berberine.[xiii]
Berberine can be transferred through breast milk, and is not recommended for use when pregnant.[xiv]
Other side effects of berberine may include gastrointestinal discomfort and constipation. Remember, it was originally used as a treatment for diarrhea in diabetics.
[ii] Treatment of type 2 diabetes and dyslipidemia with the natural plant alkaloid berberine, Zhang Y et al., J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Jul;93(7):2559-65. doi: 10.1210/jc.2007-2404. Epub 2008 Apr 8, available from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18397984
[iv] Berberine in the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systemic review and meta-analysis, Dong H, Wang N, Zhao L, Lu F, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:591654. doi: 10.1155/2012/591654. Epub 2012 Oct 15, available from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23118793
[v] Efficacy of Berberine in Patients with Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, Yan HM, Xia MF et al., PLoS One. 2015 Aug 7;10(8):e0134172. doi: 10.1371, available from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26252777
[vi] Triglycerides and Cardiovascular Disease, Michael Miller et al., American Heart Association, May 2011, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1161/CIR.0b013e3182160726, available from http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/123/20/2292
[vii] Effects of berberine on lipid profile in subjects with low cardiovascular risk, Derosa G et al., Expert Opin Biol Ther. 2013 Apr;13(4):475-82. doi: 10.1517, available from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23441841
[viii] Effect of berberine administration on metabolic syndrome, insulin sensitivity, and insulin secretion, Pérez-Rubio KG et al., Metab Syndr Relat Disord. 2013 Oct;11(5):366-9. doi: 10.1089, available from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23808999
[ix] Berberine inhibits dyslipidemia in C57BL/6 mice with lipopolysaccharide induced inflammation, Xiao HB et al., Pharmacol Rep. 2012;64(4):889-95, available from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23087140
[x] Inflammation: Causes, Symptoms, and Anti-Inflammatory Diet, by Jessie Slazlay, LiveScience.com, September 2015, available from http://www.livescience.com/52344-inflammation.html
[xi] Berberine Compared to Metformin in Women with PCOS, Beth Baldwin-lien, ND, Natural Medicine Journal, Dec 2012, Vol. 4, Issue 12, available from http://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/2012-12/berberine-compared-metformin-women-pcos
[xiv] Berberine Side Effects, WebMD.com, available from http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-1126-berberine.aspx?activeingredientid=1126&activeingredientname=berberine