Berberine is a naturally occurring chemical, more specifically an alkaloid compound, found in some plants and various Chinese herbs. It has been used for centuries as an antimicrobial. But more recently, researchers have been exploring its possible use to treat low blood sugar, cardiac conditions, and obesity. Learn how berberine works and how berberine supplements may affect you.
Berberine is a natural compound found in plants that has been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine for its gastrointestinal and antimicrobial properties.
Studies in mice and rats show that berberine may play a role in chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Berberine may also lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels in humans, but other lifestyle interventions are necessary.
While berberine supplements are available and make claims about weight loss and appetite suppression, further studies are needed in humans to show a connection.
Berberine and its health benefits
Berberine is a natural alkaloid compound that is found in a variety of plants, including the Berberis species, goldenseal, Phellodendron, and coptis. It has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda for the treatment of gastrointestinal and cardiovascular disorders, and for its antimicrobial properties.
Researchers are still investigating the pharmacological effects of berberine on humans, though studies in mice and rats show promise. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and hypoglycemic effects as well as regulate blood lipid metabolism. The latter may be beneficial in the treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
The effects of berberine also include antimicrobial properties, which may help to improve gut health by reducing the growth of harmful bacteria and promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria. It's also being investigated as a treatment for hormone imbalances and insulin resistance for patients with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
How does berberine work?
Berberine is an alkaloid compound. Alkaloids are naturally occurring organic compounds that contain nitrogen. The number of nitrogen atoms is what gives these compounds their unique biological properties. Berberine contains two nitrogen atoms in its alkaloid structure.
The exact biological actions of berberine in the body are not fully understood. But researchers believe it works partly by activating a group of enzymes known as AMP-activated protein kinases (AMPK). AMPK is involved in regulating energy metabolism in the body. Therefore, activating AMPK can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce glucose production in the liver.
Berberine also appears to influence the gut microbiome and its metabolites, which play a role in the development of chronic diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes (T2DM), and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and lowering the risk of heart disease.
Researchers have also stated that berberine can help inhibit cancer cell proliferation, suppress metastasis, activate autophagy, and improve the effects of anticancer drugs. In this case, it may help treat breast, lung, gastric, liver, colorectal, ovarian, cervical, and prostate cancers.
How long does berberine take to work?
The time it takes berberine to work varies depending on the specific health condition being treated, the dose of berberine, and the individual. In general, berberine takes several weeks to several months to produce noticeable beneficial effects. For example, when used to lower blood sugar levels, berberine has been shown to lower HbA1c levels (a measure of long-term blood sugar control) by an average of 1.5% within three months of use.
However, some people may experience benefit of berberine sooner, while others may take longer to see results.
It is also important to note that berberine is not a quick-acting treatment and should not be used as a substitute for conventional medical treatments for serious health conditions. If you are considering using berberine for a health condition, it is important to speak with your healthcare provider to determine the best treatment plan for your individual needs.
Can supplementing berberine help with blood sugar issues and blood glucose levels?
Yes, berberine has been found to improve markers of blood sugar control, such as total cholesterol and triglycerides, in people with type 2 diabetes. It can also improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels by reducing glucose production in the liver and increasing glucose uptake by muscles.
How berberine helps with weight loss
Berberine has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, which can help regulate blood glucose metabolism and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, much of the research on the weight loss effects of berberine has been done in mice and rats. Improved insulin sensitivity can also help reduce the accumulation of body fat.
Lipid metabolism plays a crucial role in weight loss because it helps the body use stored fat as a source of energy. Berberine's ability to help regulate lipid metabolism and reduce the levels of triglycerides and cholesterol in mice allowed them to overcome weight loss resistance and lose weight more easily.
Studies have shown that berberine can help reduce high-fat diet-induced inflammation and obesity in rats. This shows promise for patients who have tried high-fat diets, high-protein diets, or other fad diets and have gained weight as a result. Berberine may help restore aberrant levels of gut hormones, such as glucagon‑like peptide‑1 (also known as the hormone GLP-1), and regulate the fat-storage hormone leptin.
Berberine has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and reduce levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines in mice, which are associated with obesity and the development of metabolic disorders.
While berberine may help support weight loss in humans via these same mechanisms, it is not a magic pill. It must be accompanied by a healthy diet and regular exercise to reduce body fat stores.
Is berberine an appetite suppressant?
Berberine supplements have been shown to lead to appetite suppression in mice, though the supplements are often advertised as having the same effect in humans.
In mice, berberine appears to increase serotonin levels. Increased serotonin can help suppress appetite and curb cravings, leading to weight loss.
What is the berberine dose for weight loss?
While the benefits of berberine for weight loss have not been
clinically proven in humans, patients who can safely take berberine may see beneficial
effects on body weight and body fat with doses ranging from 100 mg to 500 mg per day.
No dosage has been scientifically determined for weight loss in humans. Nevertheless, many supplements come in 500 mg to 1000 mg capsules, taken one to three times daily. Some studies have used doses as high as 2,000 mg daily, but this is not commonly recommended.
Possible berberine side effects
Berberine appears to have low toxicity and does not typically lead to adverse effects at doses under 1500 mg per day. However, some individuals may experience minor gastrointestinal issues, such as upset stomach, diarrhea, gas, and constipation.
At high doses, in those with jaundice or those taking other
medications, neurotoxicity, severe jaundice, and phototoxicity have been
reported. Berberine, in combination with pharmaceutical medications, can
the metabolism of those drugs. Speak to a healthcare practitioner about
potential drug interactions.
How to take berberine
Berberine is typically taken orally as a capsule or tablet. The recommended dose and duration of treatment will depend on the specific health condition being treated and the individual's response to the supplement.
If you are experimenting with berberine supplements, it is important to follow the instructions on the product label and to speak with your healthcare provider to determine the best dose and treatment plan for your individual needs.
Berberine supplements may contain other ingredients, such as binders, fillers, and excipients, which can affect the absorption and effectiveness of the supplement. Taking berberine on an empty stomach may be more effective in reducing blood sugar levels in some patients.
However, the best time to take berberine supplements will vary depending on the health condition being treated and an individual's response to the supplement. For example, some studies have shown that taking berberine with a meal can increase its absorption and effectiveness.
Is it safe to take berberine with other supplements?
Berberine may interact with other supplements that lower blood sugar levels, such as Gymnema sylvestre, alpha-lipoic acid, and chromium.
Avoid berberine if you are taking supplements that increase the risk of bleeding, such as ginkgo biloba, garlic, fish oil, nattokinase, and Panax ginseng, as it may slow blood clotting.
Who should avoid berberine?
Do not take berberine if you are taking bosutinib oral chemotherapy, immunosuppressive drugs, or diabetes medications called sulfonylureas because it can have negative effects on the concentrations of these drugs. Berberine may also decrease the effectiveness of CYP2D6, 2C9, or 3A4 substrate drugs. Ask your healthcare provider if berberine is safe to take with the prescription medication they prescribe.
Pregnant women are advised to avoid berberine because the safety of this supplement during pregnancy has not been established. Breastfeeding women should not take berberine as it may cause a rare type of brain damage in infants with jaundice.
Is berberine an alternative to prescription medications?
No, while berberine shows promise for treating many diseases, it
is not yet a first-line treatment for any disease and is not considered an
alternative to prescription medications.
Can berberine help people with heart disease or fatty liver disease?
Berberine has been studied for its potential benefits in people with heart disease because it has been shown in animal models to reduce blood lipid levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and reduce oxidative stress. However, the evidence for its efficacy in these conditions in humans remains inconclusive.
Does berberine have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects?
Yes, in cell models, berberine's antioxidant properties protect against oxidative stress and prevent cellular damage. Cell studies also show that berberine's anti-inflammatory effects include the inhibition of the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Can berberine help with blood sugar issues?
Yes, berberine has been found to improve markers of blood sugar control, such as total cholesterol and triglycerides, in people with type 2 diabetes. It can also improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels by reducing glucose production in the liver and increasing glucose uptake by the muscles.
- BioMed Research International Berberine for appetite suppressant and prevention of obesity
- Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy The effect of Berberine on weight loss in order to prevent obesity: A systematic review
- Chronic Diseases and Translational Medicine Study progress of berberine for treating cardiovascular disease
- Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology The mechanism of berberine alleviating metabolic disorder based on gut microbiome
- Frontiers in Microbiology A new perspective on the antimicrobial mechanism of berberine hydrochloride against Staphylococcus aureus revealed by untargeted metabolomic studies
Show all references
- Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine Pharmacological effects of berberine on mood disorders
- Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) Anticancer effects and mechanisms of berberine from medicinal herbs: An update review
- Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) Berberine, a herbal metabolite in the metabolic syndrome: The risk factors, course, and consequences of the disease
- Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) Expatiating the pharmacological and nanotechnological aspects of the alkaloidal drug berberine: Current and future trends