For thousands of years, Chinese Medicine practitioners have known the healing powers of berberine. Science is now catching up, with research supporting the many benefits of this supplement. Berberine benefits metabolism, reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, and protects cardiovascular health. It’s also incredibly supportive of general wellness and many other chronic conditions.
What is berberine?
Berberine is an alkaloid, which simply means that it’s a compound extracted from plants and contains nitrogen. Alkaloids alter the physiology of the human body, often with potent therapeutic effects. You can find berberine in many plant species, such as Oregon grape, barberry, tree turmeric, goldenseal, and yellowroot.
Berberine functions like a medication, as it can bind to molecules within the body and change their function. But unlike most drugs, berberine has few adverse side effects.
The top benefits of berberine
This powerful plant acts on a cellular level, widely affecting many different body systems. Let’s take a closer look at the specific conditions that berberine can benefit.
Prevents and treats cancer
Who knew that a plant-derived substance could have such powerful anti-cancer qualities? Research demonstrates the power of berberine to prevent the spread and growth of cancer cells. Studies have shown that it can even cause cell death, or apoptosis, of cancer cells.
It helps the body clean out damaged cells and make room for new ones, which may help reverse drug resistance and may make chemotherapy more effective in the fight against cancer. Exciting research is being done on the benefits of berberine for specific types of cancer.
Can help fight off infections
Berberine has antimicrobial properties that make it effective against many different types of bacteria and parasites. It can reduce the replication of viruses, including HIV, HSV, and HPV, and can help boost the immune response. While further research is necessary, it’s likely that berberine could even fight COVID-19.
Lowers blood sugar and treats diabetes
Berberine is most known for its metabolic effects in supporting type 2 diabetes. Activation of the AMPK enzyme helps coordinate metabolic processes, which means that the body is more able to take in blood sugar, mimicking the action of insulin. This allows for better control of blood sugar and may even reverse insulin resistance.
Berberine alters the gut microbiome similar to the popular diabetes medication metformin, resulting in better absorption of glucose and lower blood sugar. In a study of people with type 2 diabetes, berberine use over three months led to a significant decrease in fasting blood sugar and hemoglobin A1C. For prediabetics, this herb could prevent the progression to diabetes.
Women diagnosed with PCOS tend to struggle with insulin resistance and metabolic issues. Early research has shown that berberine may help support metabolic health in this population as well.
Can help with weight loss
Berberine’s effects on blood sugar and insulin resistance can also aid in weight loss. By avoiding swings in blood sugar, you can get your appetite under control. The anti-inflammatory qualities of this powerful plant compound may also support weight loss, as chronic inflammation is linked with obesity and metabolic disease. One study showed that obese individuals lost an average of five pounds when taking berberine over 12 weeks.
Improves cardiovascular health
Diabetes and obesity are major underlying risk factors for heart disease. So it makes sense that berberine would also support the cardiovascular system. It has proven to lower blood pressure in hypertensive individuals, which can decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. In one study, berberine, in conjunction with medication, lowered systolic pressure by five points and diastolic by two points.
Combined with other lifestyle changes, berberine may be helpful for those wanting to wean off medications. If this is your goal, make sure you work closely with a holistic doctor and check your blood pressure daily.
Berberine can improve endothelial function and prevent atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. It increases the number of LDL receptors on the liver, supporting the regulation of cholesterol. All these changes to the cardiovascular system lower the risk of stroke, heart attack, and early mortality.
Berberine can even help treat individuals who already have severe cardiovascular conditions. One study investigated individuals diagnosed with heart failure who started supplementation. The result was an improved quality of life, increased exercise tolerance, and a lower mortality rate.
If you have high blood pressure or heart disease, berberine could be useful in helping to get these conditions under control. It’s a simple and low-cost way to support your best heart health.
Other potential benefits of berberine
It doesn’t stop there – more and more studies are showing the effect of berberine on other conditions. Some of these include:
- Depression and anxiety
- Fatty liver disease and other liver diseases
- Ulcerative colitis
How to safely take berberine
The typical dosage of berberine is 500mg, three times per day, taken before meals. It has a short half-life, meaning that it’s processed and eliminated quickly. This is why it’s important to space out your dosages if you’re trying to control your blood sugar.
Berberine is a very safe and low-cost supplement without major side effects or harmful long-term effects on the body. The most common side effects are mild digestive upset. Before starting this supplement, talk to your holistic doctor. This is especially important if you’re taking medications for high blood pressure or diabetes.
Berberine vs. pharmaceuticals: there is no competition
Pharmaceuticals often do what they’re prescribed for, but not without consequence. Most medications can cause side effects and may induce long-term consequences. Prescription drugs are a temporary solution that will often create other issues down the road.
The benefit of a natural supplement like berberine is how it works with your body to support overall health. Make sure you get a high-quality supplement like this one with no harmful additives. For best results, pair supplementation with diet and lifestyle changes.
Eat Well, Live Well, Think Well
Medical Review: Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD 2022