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Berberine HCL

  • May help to regulate blood sugar levels
  • Helps to maintain good metabolism
  • May help to promote a healthy weight


Berberine HCL is a compound that can be extracted from a number of herbs and plants. Other names include umbellatine and 5,6-dihydro-9,10-dimethoxybenzo[g]-1,3-benzodioxolo[5,6-a]quinolizinium and it is found in the following plants: Berberis vulgaris (barberry), Argemone mexicana (prickly poppy), Berberis aristata (turmeric tree), Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon grape), Hydrastis canadensis (goldenseal), Eschscholzia californica (Californian poppy), Xanthorhiza simplicissima (yellowroot), Phellodendron amurense[2] (Amur cork tree), Coptis chinensis (Chinese goldthread), and Tinospora cordifolia.


Berberine HCl 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.


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  • 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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Background: History and Importance of Berberine


Berberine was first used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for helping to reduce symptoms of gastrointestinal diseases. Berberine HCl is found in a large variety of plants and herbs. Chinese medicine used the herbs phellodendron and coptis to extract berberine. Interestingly, Berberine is also a natural dye. It is called “natural yellow 18”, and is one of around 35 natural dyes.[1] It is sometimes sold as Berberine HCl or simply as a Berberine extract supplement.


Today, Berberine HCl is gaining fame as a dietary supplement and potential medicine of the future, because of its remarkable potential ability to help maintain a healthy circulatory system. There is a large body of research into the effects of Berberine HCl supplements on the human circulatory system. The results pointed to Berberine’s efficacy in helping the body to maintain healthy blood glucose levels, cholesterol, triglycerides, HbA1c, BMI, and as an anti-inflammatory. Today, people use Berberine HCl as a dietary supplement with a number of great potential health benefits.

 Berberine Bark

Berberine Benefits and Effects


1. Helps to maintain a healthy circulatory system


One of the most important Berberine benefits is its remarkable ability help maintain a healthy circulatory system. In the past, this was especially beneficial for people who suffered from irregular blood sugar levels. Interestingly, the key Berberine benefits were first discovered when Berberine HCl 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 a Berberine dosage of 1 gram 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 a Berberine dosage of 1 gram daily was highly effective and safe in helping to maintain healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels.[2]  

2. May help to promote 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 “collides with” 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.[3]


A growing number of studies indicate that Berberine HCl may be able to help maintain healthy HbA1c levels. A recent review of over 14 studies on the effects of Berberine supplements on blood sugar levels indicated that Berberine may be effective at helping your body to maintain healthy a healthy and effective circulatory system.[4] 

3. Helps your body maintain healthy arteries 

In the past, people used Berberine HCl supplements to help promote good cholesterol levels. There have been a number of studies which have indicated Berberine’s apparent ability to help your body regulate cholesterol. Today, however, you can use Berberine as a powerful dietary supplement which is all the more effective when taken in addition to a healthy diet.


One important study looked into the effects of Berberine supplements 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 HCl to a commonly prescribed anti-diabetic substance.


Once again, Berberine HCl showed outstanding results. The study concluded that the Berberine benefits included significantly reduced liver fat content, blood glucose, and cholesterol. In fact, in this study, Berberine HCl was found to be more effective than the substance it was tested against for the variables of body weight reduction and cholesterol support.[5] This study does not indicate that Berberine HCl should be used for any medical reasons. It does, however, indicate the potential Berberine benefits, when used as a dietary supplement.


4. Helps your body stay strong  


Triglycerides are a specific type of fat that are found in your blood. Sadly, a high a concentration of triglycerides in the blood has been shown to contribute towards heart disease and stroke.[6] Scientists maintain that reducing triglycerides is very beneficial to your health. This is easily achieved through dietary and lifestyle changes.


In 2013, an important study demonstrated the potential strength of Berberine in assisting the body to maintain healthy triglyceride levels. The study was conducted on 144 healthy patients taking a Berberine supplement. 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 authors of this landmark study found that Berberine supplements had the potential to help the body maintain healthy cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol levels. At the end of the study, volunteers had increased the levels of HDL cholesterol levels (the ‘good’ cholesterol), while decreasing the levels of LDL-Cholesterol.[7] More studies are required to confirm the potential future benefits of Berberine HCl as a dietary health supplement.


5. May help the body maintain a healthy weight


Another important Berberine benefit is its ability to help your body maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI). Studies have found that, secondary to the health-promoting effects of Berberine, this amazing plant-based supplement has been helping participants in the studies to keep a healthy weight. In fact, all the studies we’ve referenced so far have found significant data indicating that Berberine was effective at helping to maintain a healthy BMI, on top of the other indicated effects.


In one study, conducted on 24 patients with metabolic syndrome, researchers indicated that Berberine HCl 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.[8] However, we definitely don’t recommend trying to use Berberine HCl as some kind of ‘magic-bullet’ Unfortunately, these things just don’t exist. That being said, the evidence certainly suggests that a Berberine supplement is a great addition to a healthy lifestyle and diet or a move in that direction.

6. May act as an anti-inflammatory supplement


Animal studies have shown that Berberine HCl may have the potential benefit of helping to reduce inflammation.[9] Inflammation is often a sign of an underlying disease or infection. However, chronic stress, bad dietary habits, smoking, obesity, and alcohol abuse are also risk factors for developing inflammation. Reducing inflammation has a host of health benefits and is recommended by all doctors.[10]


The natural state of the human body is one of homeostasis, where all its parts and systems work together in harmony, bringing health, happiness, and vibrant well-being. Unfortunately, many people have got to a point where it feels normal to feel inflammation, discomfort, or even pain, at any given time in the day. This shouldn’t be normal. If you often feel discomfort or inflammation, speak to a dietician, a holistic healthcare worker, or a doctor about how changes in your lifestyle can improve your wellbeing.

 Berberine for heart health concept

Is Berberine an Antibiotic Supplement?


Lately, there is considerable talk about Berberine’s potential antibiotic applications. We’ll review a couple of studies below, but it’s important to remember that, for the time-being at least, Berberine HCl is available only as a dietary supplement and is not intended to be used in any medical or veterinary application.


Once scientists learned of the potential anti-viral and antibiotic effects of Berberine, they couldn’t get enough of it! Recently, studies have suggested that Berberine may be effective against numerous strains of bacteria, including cholera, giardia, shigella, and salmonella; and potentially also against staphylococcus, streptococcus, and Clostridium.[11] Berberine also appears to have surprisingly effective action against protozoans like Giardia lamblia, Trichomonas vaginalis, Leishmania donovani, and even Malaria. [12] [13]


One important thing to remember is that, although Berberine has the potential for future antibiotic development, its mechanisms in this regard are not yet fully understood. There are some important Berberine interactions to keep in mind. These include interactions with antibiotics, especially microlide antibiotics, which may prove to be very dangerous. Do not use Berberine supplements if you are taking any antibiotics.


Berberine Recommended Dosage


Most studies have found that Berberine HCl is best taken in three separate servings of 500 mg.[14] Taking three servings throughout the day, rather than one large serving, reduces the gastro side effects. It has suggested that the absorption and efficacy of a Berberine supplement may be improved when taken with a P-glycoprotein inhibitor. Some natural Berberine P-glycoprotein inhibitors include milk thistle, chrysin, and coconut oil.[15]


Do not exceed the recommended Berberine dosage. Increasing the serving size of this supplement may not improve its efficiency. Do not use Berberine supplements if you are taking any medication. If you have any medical conditions, or are pregnant or breastfeeding, please speak to your doctor before taking a Berberine supplement.


Berberine Side Effects / Warnings


Berberine is a generally considered a very safe supplement to help maintain a healthy circulatory system, healthy arteries, and to promote general well-being. However, there are some potential hazards to consider:


Firstly, Berberine supplements interact with a lot of different prescribed and OTC substances. Importantly, any medication that lowers blood sugar levels may have a dangerous interaction and should not be to taken with Berberine. Interactions could cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). For a list of possible Berberine interactions, read through the ‘Interactions’ section on the Examine.com page for Berberine.[16]

If you are taking any medication, speak to your doctor BEFORE using Berberine supplements.

Secondly, Berberine HCl can be transferred through breast milk and is not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. [17]


Other potential side effects felt when taking Berberine supplements may include gastrointestinal discomfort and constipation. Remember, Berberine benefits were originally touted as a future treatment for diarrhea in diabetics! Don’t take it if you’re constipated.


What is an AMPK supplement?


AMPK refers to a complicated enzyme called Adenosine Monophosphate-Activated Protein Kinase. Studies have found that Berberine HCl effectively activates the AMPK enzyme while inhibiting Protein-Tyrosine Phosphatase 1B (PTP1B). The AMPK enzyme works as a ‘nutrient sensor’ and responds to changes in blood sugar levels. AMPK supplements either activate or inhibit the actions of AMPK, and Berberine is an AMPK activator.[18]


Berberine is considered an AMPK supplement and animal studies have indicated that it significantly increases levels of the AMPK enzyme in the blood.[19] The effects of increased AMPK activity seem to include a number of positive health benefits like reduced cholesterol and triglyceride synthesis, even at fairly low dosages.[20]

 Berberine healthy eating blood sugar concept

Conclusion: Berberis vulgaris supplements for health


In summary, Berberine complex supplements are a great addition to a healthy diet and lifestyle. Berberine HCl is extracted from a number of plant sources with traditional use in Chinese herbal medicine. Many people wonder about how to control blood sugar. While Berberine certainly doesn’t offer a magic bullet in this regard, it may be useful when taken in addition to healthy lifestyle changes.


Many people also wonder about Berberine weight loss benefits. Again, as with all things, there is no magic-bullet for weight loss and we definitely don’t consider Berberine to be an exception to this rule. However, there is considerable evidence that Berberine is exceedingly useful as a supplement to help support a metabolism, especially when used in addition to a healthy diet and regular exercise.


Berberine is an active AMPK supplement and helps to promote a healthy body, healthy circulatory system, and helps your body fight inflammation. In the past, Berberine HCl was used by diabetics to lower blood sugar and reduce diarrhea. Today, Berberine is available as a dietary health supplement to support vitality and well-being. The recommended serving size is three doses of 500 mg each, taken throughout the day.  


Berberine supplements are generally considered safe but may have some potentially dangerous interactions with antibiotics and other medication. Speak to your doctor before using a Berberine HCl supplement if you are taking any medication or have any underlying medical conditions.



[1] NEW USES OF BERBERINE, by Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon, April 2005, available from http://www.itmonline.org/arts/berberine.htm

[2] 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

[3] Guide to HbA1c, Diabetes.co.uk, available from http://www.diabetes.co.uk/what-is-hba1c.html, retrieved on August 5, 2016

[4] 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

[5] 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

[6] 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

[7] 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

[8] 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

[9] 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

[10] Inflammation: Causes, Symptoms, and Anti-Inflammatory Diet, by Jessie Slazlay, LiveScience.com, September 2015, available from http://www.livescience.com/52344-inflammation.html

[11] Vuddanda PR, Chakraborty S, Singh S. Berberine: a potential phytochemical with multispectrum therapeutic activities. Expert Opin Investig Drugs. (2010)

[12] Sheng WD, et al. Treatment of chloroquine-resistant malaria using pyrimethamine in combination with berberine, tetracycline or cotrimoxazole. East Afr Med J. (1997)

[13] Kaneda Y, et al. In vitro effects of berberine sulphate on the growth and structure of Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia lamblia and Trichomonas vaginalis. Ann Trop Med Parasitol. (1991)

[14] 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

[15] Berberine, Examine.com, available from http://examine.com/supplements/Berberine/, retrieved on August 5, 2016

[16] Berberine, AARP Online, available online from http://healthtools.aarp.org/natstandardcontent/berberine, retrieved on August 6, 2016

[18] Han Y, et al. Redox regulation of the AMP-activated protein kinase. PLoS One. (2010)

[19] Kim WS, et al. Berberine improves lipid dysregulation in obesity by controlling central and peripheral AMPK activity. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. (2009)

[20] Brusq JM, et al. Inhibition of lipid synthesis through activation of AMP kinase: an additional mechanism for the hypolipidemic effects of berberine. J Lipid Res. (2006)