Many herbs have a history of utilization for assisting liver function and metabolic management with subjection to toxins or extreme consumption of food or alcohol. Analysis and studies have helped to understand better the possible health benefits of this significant botanically-derived substance called berberine. Berberine is found in individual plants having many medicinal effects. Some of the most potent benefits of berberine include antimicrobial, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, and blood-glucose-lowering abilities. Let’s discuss the 10 powerful benefits of berberine.
What Is Berberine?
Berberine (berberine hydrochloride) is a natural isoquinoline alkaloid found in a broad variety of herbs. These include goldenseal, barberry, goldthread, Oregon grape, and tree turmeric. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, berberine also has a long history of use for managing bacterial gastroenteritis, diarrhea, and other digestive concerns.
The berberine alkaloid is usually found in the stem, bark, roots, and rhizomes of the plants. With its deep yellow color, it has also been used as a natural dye. Alkaloids are organic compounds of plant origin that contain mostly basic nitrogen atoms. Consuming alkaloids can have noticeable physiological actions on humans, especially for cardiovascular and metabolic health.
More and more studies have uncovered evidence that some of the most powerful benefits of berberine can include protection against:
- Metabolic syndrome
- Gastrointestinal infections
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
- Immune issues
- Joint concerns
- Low bone density
- Weight control
- Depression and cognitive decline
- Possible formation of cancer cells
10 Powerful Benefits of Berberine
1. Helps Lower Blood Glucose
In one particular study, berberine was found to help lower blood glucose, which can help in the prevention and treatment of type II diabetes and its complications — including diabetic cardiovascular disease and diabetic neuropathy. Berberine has also been shown to have positive effects on glucose-lipid metabolism, inflammatory factors, as well as insulin resistance in those who have metabolic syndrome.
A very impressive study compared consuming 500 milligrams of berberine two to three times daily for the duration of three months to consuming the common diabetes drug metformin. Results showed that berberine was able to control blood sugar and lipid metabolism as effectively as metformin. Researchers described it as a “potent oral hypoglycemic agent.”
Women with PCOS present higher levels of insulin when compared to other women of the same weight without the condition. Metformin is an insulin-sensitizing prescription medication often prescribed to women with PCOS. Metformin is supposed to help manage insulin and glucose levels. The concern is that many women with PCOS end up experiencing gastrointestinal side effects such as diarrhea, nausea, and stomach cramping. Also, when using metformin long-term, it is shown to affect the absorption of B-12.
Berberine can improve insulin resistance in a related way to the drug metformin by improving insulin signal transduction by stimulating glucose intake via the activation of the AMP-activated protein kinase pathway.
Thanks to its effects on insulin sensitivity, berberine may also help to prevent kidney damage, according to some studies.
2. May Lower High Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure
There’s some evidence that berberine may help lower high LDL, total cholesterol, and high blood pressure levels.
The journal Metabolism published a study showing that berberine reduced serum cholesterol along with triglyceride levels in type 2 diabetic patients. Seemingly it worked by inhibiting PCSK9, which, as research from Harvard Medical School says, helps lower cholesterol.
Another study showed that combining red yeast rice, which is known for its ability to lower cholesterol naturally, and berberine may give a larger range of cholesterol protection along with a lower risk of serious adverse effects when compared to a prescription statin therapy.
Since berberine can lower blood sugar, improve LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reduce testosterone levels, and lower waist-to-hip ratio, it provides benefits for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) as well.
Berberine can also improve blood pressure levels and circulation in those diagnosed with metabolic syndrome when combined with a healthy diet high in antioxidants and/or supplements such as folic acid, coenzyme Q10, and astaxanthin.
3. Supports Healthy Weight Loss
Berberine has the capability of activating adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK). AMPK is an enzyme located in the cells of your body and is often described as a “metabolic master switch” because it takes part in a critical role in managing your metabolism.
AMPK activation augments fat burning in the mitochondria. This is why studies have demonstrated that berberine may help stop fat accumulation in the human body and protect against metabolic syndrome.
In one study found in Phytomedicine, over-weight adults took 500 milligrams of berberine orally three times per day for 12 weeks. The effectiveness and safety of the treatment were decided by measuring every participant’s weight, comprehensive metabolic panel, blood lipid and hormone levels, inflammatory factors, complete blood count, and electrocardiograph.
This particular study displayed that berberine is a potent lipid-lowering compound with a moderate weight loss outcome.
4. Protects Against Cognitive Decline
Past studies have assessed the therapeutic probability of berberine against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and trauma-induced neurodegeneration. One particular study states that berberine possesses multiple positive effects. These positive effects strengthen neuroprotective factors/pathways and others that counteract neurodegeneration. However, more research is warranted.
Animal studies also show that berberine can help with depression. There’s some evidence that berberine possesses central nervous system activity protection, specifically the ability to inhibit monoamine oxidase-A, which is an enzyme that has mood-lifting effects.
5. Manages Gut Health
People who suffer from small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) symptoms have large amounts of bacteria in their small intestines. The current conventional treatment of SIBO is restricted to the use of oral antibiotics, which provides inconsistent success.
A study in Global Advances in Health and Medicine with the purpose of deciding the remission rate of SIBO when using an antibiotic versus an herbal remedy indicates that the herbal treatment, which included berberine, worked as well as the antibiotic treatment and was equally as safe.
Since a good part of the immune system resides in the gut, researchers found that berberine can stop certain types of harmful bacteria from creating a biofilm — a sticky substance that protects the bacteria. It usually takes up to 24 hours for bacteria to produce these biofilms, making it essential to take berberine every day to support your immune system in warding off these particular harmful organisms.
6. Supports Heart Health
Berberine’s positive effect on cardiovascular health inevitably comes from its ability to keep blood sugar levels and obesity, both of which can raise the risk of heart disease under control. In fact, researchers were so impressed with the powerful benefits of berberine in lowering cholesterol levels; they praised it as an advancement in herbal medicine.
Berberine also encourages the release of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide (NO) prompts a molecule that relaxes the arteries, increases the flow of blood, lowers blood pressure, and protects against arteriosclerosis.
One particular study published in the World Journal of Cardiology shows that people who take berberine have better heart function and have better ability to exercise than those who consumed a placebo.
Cardiovascular effects of berberine also suggest its probable clinical efficacy in arrhythmia treatment and heart failure.
7. Supports Lung Health
Berberine benefits lung function because of its anti-inflammatory properties, according to research. This alkaloid can reduce the effect of acute lung inflammation caused by cigarette smoke.
The journal Inflammation posted a study where mice were purposely introduced to cigarette smoke in order to cause acute lung injury. They were then given 50 mg/kg of berberine intragastrically. After examining the lung tissues of the mice, it was discovered that the cigarette smoke created inflammation of the lung’s alveoli as well as cellular edema or abnormal fluid retention. Prophylactic treatment with berberine significantly lessened lung inflammation and improved cigarette smoke-induced acute lung injury through its anti-inflammatory effect.
8. Calms Inflammation
Berberine can possibly lower your body’s release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. This helps to reduce redness and swelling as well as boosting the immune system.
There is more and more research coming out about the management of cancer cell metabolism with berberine hydrochloride. This is because berberine may possibly help promote cancer cell death.
Berberine’s anticancer activity, particularly inhibiting growth and proliferation of cancer cells, makes it very likely to become a natural component of the nanoparticulate delivery systems used for cancer berberine therapy. As an example, berberine induced apoptosis of human tongue cancer cells in research conducted at China Medical University.
9. Berberine – A Powerful Antifungal
Candida yeasts are always in the human body. However, it is easy for these particular yeasts, under certain circumstances, to become unbalanced disease-causing yeasts. It is one of the most frequent fungal causes of hospital-acquired infections.
Research shows that berberine extract is a potent antifungal against a host of pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa, fungi, and yeasts. In various studies, berberine was found to be very effective against Candida.
When Fluconazole, a standard prescription medication treatment for Candida overgrowth, is used together with Berberine for Candida albicans, both provide a synergistic effect in the lab, meaning both are extremely powerful when used together instead of individually. In 2013, research showed that berberine damages the DNA of Candida albicans, and fluconazole increases the amount of berberine that enters the yeast cells.
Berberine has been proven to be selective, which means it can target Candida but does not harm the beneficial gut microbes, including the Lactobacilli and Bifidobacter species, which encourages good gut health.
Berberine applied topically is effective against a wide range of bacteria, protozoa, and fungi that affect the skin.
10. Berberine and Your Liver
Is berberine good for your liver? If you guessed yes, you are correct! Berberine has numerous mechanisms by which it may help protect the liver, particularly against NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease).
Berberine is well appreciated for its antidiabetic and lipid-balancing effects, both of which impact fatty liver changes. The direct actions of berberine, however, are many more.
Berberine reduces gut permeability and improves tight junction integrity, reducing the passage of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) into circulation. High systemic levels of LPS, also known as endotoxemia, play a significant role in cholestasis and related liver damage.
Berberine is shown to suppress obesity-associated inflammation and hepatic steatosis in mice via pathways related to an inflammatory complex known as JNK1, a protein kinase implicated in the development of steatohepatitis. Environmental stressors and pro-inflammatory cytokines strongly activate JNK1.
The benefits of Berberine in NAFLD have also been demonstrated clinically in a randomized, parallel controlled, open-label clinical trial. In patients with NAFLD, Berberine was shown to restore standard hepatic architecture, lipid, and blood sugar metabolism, with significant improvements seen over the population who only implemented lifestyle changes.
In our current world, where the toxins we take in are often food and beverage related, berberine may be of tremendous benefit in supporting long-term health.
How to Use Berberine
Berberine is found in supplement form, most commonly as berberine HCL, both online and in most health food stores.
Because it has a short life, berberine is best taken in divided doses to keep stable levels in your blood.
Most studies use dosages of 900 to 1,500 milligrams per day. Most practitioners recommend a dose of 500 milligrams three times per day for a total of 1,500 milligrams every day. Taking higher doses has the potential to cause stomach upset, cramping, or diarrhea.
Berberine should always be consumed with a meal, or right after.
It’s always best to work with a natural health care practitioner who knows your health history to determine the dose that will work best for you.
Risks, Side Effects, Interactions
What are the side effects of berberine? If you have any health conditions or are consuming any medications, including antibiotics, it’s recommended that you talk to a knowledgeable healthcare provider before consuming berberine — this is extremely important if you currently take blood-sugar-lowering medications.
Berberine is not recommended during pregnancy or lactation.
Berberine may alter the liver clearance of certain medications. Caution is advised if you take other prescribed drugs such as antidepressants, MAO inhibitors, blood thinners, and beta-blockers. Regular monitoring of liver function tests is recommended for those taking berberine. Since berberine is an insulin-sensitizer, it may cause low blood sugar, especially when combined with other insulin-lowering medications such as metformin or supplements like inositol or n-acetylcysteine (NAC). Consult with your healthcare practitioner before taking berberine.
It’s always best to speak with your healthcare practitioner if you plan to supplement with berberine for more than 12 weeks.
Overall, berberine presents a great safety profile. The main side effects are usually related to digestion and are usually minor. By taking recommended smaller dosages, spread out throughout the day, and after meals, these possible negative berberine side effects are generally avoided.
Why should you be interested in the plant-based alkaloid compound known as berberine? Because berberine, in study after study, proves to be effective in helping with a number of the so-called lifestyle health issues such as diabetes, gastrointestinal infections, cardiovascular health, high cholesterol, hypertension, NAFLD, joint pain, low bone density, and even anti-aging and weight management. In a nutshell, berberine can do wonders for your health. I encourage you to work on your health every day. Be positive and be kind. Prevention is always the best natural medicine, but if health issues should arise, remember that there is still a solution to every situation. Be well.
References and Research
Tan W, Li Y, Chen M, Wang Y. Berberine hydrochloride: anticancer activity and nanoparticulate delivery system. Int J Nanomedicine. 2011;6:1773‐1777. doi:10.2147/IJN.S22683.
Chu M, et al. Role of berberine in the treatment of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections. Sci Rep. 2016;6:24748.
Zhang Y, et al. Treatment of type 2 diabetes and dyslipidemia with the natural plant alkaloid berberine. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Jul;93(7):2559-65.
Sun R, et al. Orally Administered Berberine Modulates Hepatic Lipid Metabolism by Altering Microbial Bile Acid Metabolism and the Intestinal FXR Signaling Pathway. Mol Pharmacol. 2017 Feb;91(2):110-122.
Gu L, et al. Berberine ameliorates intestinal epithelial tight-junction damage and down-regulates myosin light chain kinase pathways in a mouse model of endotoxinemia. J Infect Dis. 2011 Jun 1;203(11):1602-12.
Li N, et al. Berberine attenuates pro-inflammatory cytokine-induced tight junction disruption in an in vitro model of intestinal epithelial cells. Eur J Pharm Sci. 2010 Apr 16;40(1):1-8.
Ilan Y. Leaky gut and the liver: a role for bacterial translocation in nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. World J Gastroenterol. 2012 Jun 7;18(21):2609-18.
Miele L, et al. Increased intestinal permeability and tight junction alterations in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Hepatology. 2009 Jun;49(6):1877-87.
Guo T, et al. Berberine Ameliorates Hepatic Steatosis and Suppresses Liver and Adipose Tissue Inflammation in Mice with Diet-induced Obesity. Sci Rep. 2016 Mar 3;6:22612.
Schattenberg JM, et al. JNK1 but not JNK2 promotes the development of steatohepatitis in mice. Hepatology. 2006 Jan;43(1):163-72.
Yan HM, et al. Efficacy of Berberine in Patients with Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. PLoS One. 2015 Aug 7;10(8):e0134172.
Kong W, et al. Berberine is a novel cholesterol-lowering drug working through a unique mechanism distinct from statins. Nat Med. 2004;10(12):1344-1351.
Wang H, et al. Metformin and berberine, two versatile drugs in treatment of common metabolic diseases. Oncotarget. 2017;9(11):10135-10146.
Iwazaki RS, Endo EH, Ueda-Nakamura T, Nakamura CV, Garcia LB, Filho BP. In vitro antifungal activity of the berberine and its synergism with fluconazole. Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek. 2010;97(2):201‐205. doi:10.1007/s10482-009-9394-8.
Li Y, Ma H, Zhang Y, et al. Effect of berberine on insulin resistance in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: study protocol for a randomized multicenter controlled trial. Trials. 2013;14:226. Published 2013 Jul 18. doi: 10.1186/1745-6215-14-226.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Oasis Advanced Wellness/OAWHealth does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Oasis Advanced Wellness/OAWHealth are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician of choice.