Berberine is a yellowish plant alkaloid that has long been a part of traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, but the western world is just beginning to take notice of it. Recent studies have backed up what the ancients have known for millennia – that berberine is a powerful compound that can assist with maintaining overall health and promoting normal body functions across a range of systems.
Berberine is found naturally in plants like the European barberry, Oregon grape, phellodendron, goldenseal, Chinese goldenthread and tree turmeric, but for most people, it’s difficult to work these things into their regular diet. Fortunately, berberine is now available in supplement form as well, and just a few pills a day could make a world of difference in your overall health. Read on to learn about some of its key benefits.
Promoting Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
Several studies have shown that berberine is effective in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels already in the normal range.1 It does this in several ways. First, it helps slow the breakdown of carbohydrates and reduces the amount of glucose produced by the liver, in order to support your body's ability to avoid blood sugar spikes after you eat a meal.* Then, it works to improve the body’s ability to make use of the sugars it takes in by promoting normal insulin sensitivity and enhanced glucose uptake by the cells, so that it can be converted into energy.* Its effects on heart health and weight management (see below) can also contribute to maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.
You should speak to your doctor or natural health practitioner before adding a berberine supplement if you are already on a blood sugar-lowering medication. Taking the two in combination could result in dangerously low glucose levels. You may also want to be cautious if your blood sugar is naturally low.
Healthy Weight Management
In addition to a healthy diet and regular exercise, berberine supplementation can assist you in maintaining a healthy weight.* It’s one of the few substances known that helps to activate adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK), also known as the body’s “metabolic master switch.” This compound is responsible for kickstarting your metabolism and encouraging your body to burn the calories it takes in, instead of storing them as fat. It also works to promote cellular renewal and may even support a healthy aging process.
In one study, after taking 500 mg of berberine three times a day for 12 weeks, obese subjects lost an average of five pounds and saw a significant decrease in their triglyceride and cholesterol levels.2
Another study on berberine supplementation in obese individuals had an even more pronounced effect. After taking 900 mg of berberine a day for three months, the subjects decreased their body mass index (BMI) from an average of 31.5 (obese) to 27.4 (overweight).3
While maintaining healthy blood sugar levels and losing weight will both help to improve your cardiovascular fitness, berberine may have even more benefits for heart health.* It promotes healthy blood pressure by encouraging the natural release of nitric oxide, enabling blood flow.4
Berberine also assists in regulating your normal blood lipid levels, another key component to cardiovascular health.* High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides can make you more likely to develop heart disease, so it’s important to monitor these and keep them in check. In one study, a berberine supplement helped to reduce total cholesterol by 29 percent and LDL cholesterol by 25 percent. Triglycerides saw a 35 percent decrease after berberine supplementation.5 That same study also suggests that berberine could help to increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels – the type that is beneficial to your health.*
Recent medical research has also shown that berberine may promote optimal joint health.* According to a 2017 study, berberine significantly improved joint health in rats, and it appears to be a promising candidate for human treatment as well.6 However, there hasn’t been a significant amount of research done on this topic yet, and more studies are needed to fully understand how berberine may affect joint health.
Gastrointestinal and Immune Health
Poor diet can damage the important mucous membranes in your intestines, opening the door to a variety of diseases and intestinal problems. Berberine has been shown to help protect mucous membranes throughout your body, even against severe damage like that induced by heavy alcohol consumption.7*
It’s also useful in maintaining a healthy balance of gut bacteria.* Many people don’t realize it, but the majority of your immune system is in your gut, and if the harmful bacteria get out of control, that makes it more likely that you will get sick. One study showed that berberine helped to moderate gut bacteria, minimizing the bad bacteria while promoting strains that are beneficial to the body, like short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) producing bacteria.8
One study suggests that berberine could assist in maintaining healthy lung function, though so far, no research has been done on this topic with human test subjects.9
Many of the same properties that make Berberine a great supplement for the body also work on the mind. It’s been shown to assist in improving memory, spatial learning and overall cognitive functioning in rats.10 Several studies have also suggested that Berberine could help to promote optimal mental health as we age.11 However, this is a relatively new area of study, and researchers caution that further assessment is necessary to understand the role that Berberine could play in mental health.
Berberine consumption may also contribute to increased levels of the brain chemicals dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine as well, all of which are necessary for healthy brain functioning and maintaining a positive mood.12
Berberine, along with a healthy diet, has also been shown to be beneficial in promoting liver health and bile secretion, which works to break down fats into fatty acids that the body can use.13
Promoting Strong Bones
Berberine may also help to promote high bone mineral density, a key factor in maintaining strong bones.* One study showed that regular consumption of berberine over a period of 22 weeks resulted in a significant increase in bone mineral density among both male and female mice.14 No studies have yet been conducted on humans to find any benefits in improved bone density after taking berberine.
Amplifing the Effectiveness of Antibiotics
A recent study on Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) shows that berberine may help to amplify the effectiveness of traditional antibiotics when the two are taken in combination.15 However, the study is very clear that berberine itself did not kill the bacteria and should not be taken as a substitute for traditional antibiotics.
If you are planning on taking berberine along with your antibiotics, be sure to discuss this with your doctor to ensure that there won’t be any negative interactions between the two substances.
How to Take Berberine
Extremely high doses of Berberine can cause digestive distress, so it’s best to spread out your dosage throughout the day. An easy way to ensure you're taking the right amount is to follow the guidelines on the label.
While you don’t have to take berberine with meals, it’s best to do so, especially if you’re looking to take advantage of its effects on blood sugar and metabolic activity. This way, it will be able to get right to work on all of the sugars and nutrients that are coming in.
Pregnant and nursing women should not take berberine, as it may be harmful to infants and unborn babies. If you are on medication or you have a health condition, it’s best to speak with your doctor or natural health practitioner before adding a berberine supplement to your daily routine. They will be able to tell you about any possible interferences between your medications and the supplement and can advise you on the appropriate dose for your situation.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, Berberine can be responsible for a whole suite of different health benefits! It's most typically used for how well it promotes healthy blood sugar levels, but the positive effects don't stop there.
If you're interested in taking Berberine, you should consider Enzymedica's brand new Berberine. Unlike other available Berberine products, ours is Enteric-coated and specially designed to prevent self aggregation and the formation of Berberine crystals, which reduce effectiveness.
Enzymedica's Berberine can help promote healthy blood sugar levels, along with all the other benefits listed above!
*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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2 Hu, Y., Ehli, E.A., Ronan, P.J., Munger, K., Downey, T., Bohlen, K., Callahan, L., Munson, V., Jahnke, M., Marshall, L.L., Nelson, K., Huizenga, P., Hansen, R., Soundy, T.J., Davies, G.E. (2012, July 15). Lipid-lowering effects of berberine in human subjects and rats. Phytomedicine. 19(10):861-7.
3 Yang, J., Yin, J., Gao, H., Xu, L., Wang, Y., Xu, L., Li, M. (2012, March 8). Berberine Improves Insulin Sensitivity by Inhibiting Fat Store and Adjusting Adipokines Profile in Human Preadipocytes and Metabolic Syndrome Patients. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2012: 363845.
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7 Wang, X.P., Lei, F., Du, F., Chai, Y.S., Jiang, J.F., Wang, Y.G., Yu, X., Yan, X.J., Xing, D.M., Du, L.J. (2015, July 30). Protection of Gastrointestinal Mucosa from Acute Heavy Alcohol Consumption: The Effects of Berberine and Its Correlation with TLR2,4/IL1β-TNFα Signaling. PLoS ONE 10(7): e0134044.
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9 Lin, K., Liu, S., Shen, Y., Li, Q. (2013, Oct.). Berberine attenuates cigarette smoke-induced acute lung inflammation. Inflammation. 36(5):1079-86.
10 Lee, B., Sur, B., Shim, I., Lee, H., Hahm, D.H. (2012, Apr.). Phellodendron amurense and Its Major Alkaloid Component, Berberine, Ameliorates Scopolamine-Induced Neuronal Impairment and Memory Dysfunction in Rats. The Korean Journal of Physiology & Pharmacology. 16(2):79-89.
11 Cai, Z., Wang, C., Yang, W. (2016). Role of berberine in Alzheimer’s disease. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. 12: 2509–2520.
12 Kulkarni, S.K., Dhir, A. (2008, July 28). On the mechanism of antidepressant-like action of berberine chloride. European Journal of Pharmacology. 589(1-3):163-72.
13 Yuan, X., Wang, J., Tang, X., Li, Y., Xia, P., Gao, X. (2015). Berberine ameliorates nonalcoholic fatty liver disease by a global modulation of hepatic mRNA and lncRNA expression profiles. Journal of Translational Medicine. 13:24.
14 Li, H., Miyahara, T., Tezuka, Y., Tran, Q.L., Seto, H., Kadota, S. (2003, Jan.). Effect of berberine on bone mineral density in SAMP6 as a senile osteoporosis model. Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin. 26(1):110-1.
15 Chu, M., Zhang, M.B., Liu, Y.C., Kang, J.R., Chu, Z.Y., Yin, K.L., Ding, Y.U., Ding, R., Xiao, R.X., Yin, Y.N., Liu, X.Y., Wang, Y.D. (2016) Role of Berberine in the Treatment of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Infections. Scientific Reports. 6: 24748.