Berberine is a great supplement, especially reducing blood sugar.  Check out this pretty comprehensive post on how berberine can help you.

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What is Berberine?

Berberine is a compound found in many different plants, including Barberry (Berberis vulgaris), Oregon Grape (Berberis aquifolium), Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), and Chinese Golden thread (Coptis chinensis).

Berberine has a 3000-year history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Modern medicine is now proving scientifically the benefits that have been known for ages, as well as identifying new applications for the ailments of modern civilization.

Berberine That I use

I just make sure to get my berberine from a reliable source.

Berberine

  • Longevity8.5/10
  • Inflammation9.0/10
  • Mood8.5/10
  • Cognition8.0/10
  • Energy7.7/10

Pros

  • Improves learning and memory.
  • Heals the gut and improves the gut microbiome.
  • Is anti-diabetic –Improves blood sugar balance.
  • Is anti-infectious.
  • Shows potential as an anti-cancer agent.

Cons

  • May cause constipation at too high of a dose.
  • Conversely, it may also cause diarrhea if taken before food.
  • It can also cause abdominal discomfort (nausea, distension) if taken on an empty stomach.

1) Berberine Improves Learning & Memory

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Berberine improves learning and memory in diabetic animal studies (R, R2).

Berberine may improve memory by

  • stimulating cholinergic enzyme activity and reducing inflammation (R).
  • preventing the destruction of neurons in patients with reduced blood flow (low oxygen) to the brain (R).

Berberine is neuroprotective in strokes (R) and may be useful for neuroinflammation-associated disorders (R).

2) Berberine Supports Gut Health

Berberine is anti-diarrheal, a property which may be mediated by its ability to delay the small intestinal transit (R, R2).

Berberine reduces “leaky gut (intestinal epithelial tight junction damage) in a mouse model of endotoxemia (R).

It protects the mucosal lining of the gut from damage due to heavy drinking (R).

Berberine also reduces the damaging effects of TNF-alpha inflammation on the intestinal lining (R).

Berberine beneficially inhibits particular human intestinal bacteria (R), preferentially increasing short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) producers (R).

Berberine’s normalizing effect on gut bacteria was able to improve symptoms of fatty liver disease in mice (R).

3) Berberine is an Anti-Depressant

Berberine

Berberine acts as an antidepressant by increasing levels of key neurotransmitters in the hippocampus and frontal cortex of the brain (R, R2, R3).

Specifically, Berberine inhibits monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A), an enzyme that breaks down Serotonin (R).

Animal studies indicate that Berberine may also be useful for alleviating the depression and anxiety that often follow morphine addictions (R).

4) Berberine Treats Inflammation

Berberine shows anti-inflammatory activity both in the lab and in living organisms (R).

  • It reduced inflammation from dust mite allergens in a Chinese study using mice (R) .
  • Berberine lessens inflammation of the airways caused by inhalation of cigarette smoke (R).
  • Inflammation of the blood vessels was improved in a rat study (R).
  • Berberine reduced inflammation of the liver and the fat tissues in an animal model of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (R).

5) Berberine Improves Blood Sugar Balance

Overview: Berberine is an ideal treatment for type 2 diabetes (R, R2), working differently from drugs like Metformin (R). It works through increasing insulin, regenerating the pancreatic cells, promoting antioxidant enzyme activity, and decreasing damage to cells (R).  Berberine reduces fasting blood glucose, triglycerides, apo b, LDL-C, and total cholesterol while improving glucose tolerance (R, R2, R3).

Berberine addresses blood sugar imbalances in a number of different ways:

  • Delays the breakdown of carbohydrates into simple sugars (R).
  • Mimics insulin action by increasing the ability of the body to take up glucose (R).
  • Additionally, lowers blood sugar by
    • Decreasing glucose transport through the intestinal lining (R).
    • Increasing insulin receptor expression (R).
    • Enhancing glucagon secretion (R).
    • Inhibiting dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPP IV) enzyme (R).
    • Increasing adiponectin, a protein which helps regulate blood sugar levels (through AMPK) (R).
    • Directly increasing AMPK, which stimulates glucose uptake in muscle cells and helps balance high blood sugar (R , R2, R3, R4).  It is also a major player in regulating metabolism (R).
    • Acutely activating the blood sugar transport activity of Glucose transporter 1 (GLUT1) (R).
    • Activating the fatty acid receptor GPR40 (R).

Improves insulin resistance through:

  • Inhibiting NF-kappaB (NF-kB) (R).
  • Increasing insulin receptor expression (via protein kinase C) (R).
  • Inhibiting production of glucose in the liver (R).
  • Improving the gut microbiota (R).

Berberine protects the pancreas against cell death from exposure to excess fat (R).

6) Berberine Promotes Weight Loss

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Berberine improves insulin sensitivity by inhibiting fat storage (R).

Berberine inhibits the production of body fat through up-regulation of C/EBP inhibitors, CHOP and DEC2 (R).

In a human study of berberine on weight loss, 500 mg berberine was given to obese patients three times daily for twelve weeks. Results included a weight loss average of 5 pounds, as well as a significant improvement of triglyceride and cholesterol stats (R).

Another 3-month study of obese patients with metabolic syndrome used just 300 mg of berberine three times a day. At the end of the trial, the patients’ body mass index (BMI) went down from 31.5 to 27.4 and they lost fat around the middle (R).

7) Berberine is Anti-Cancer

Berberine shows promise as a general anti-cancer agent, killing cancer cells and blocking proliferation (R).

It shows potential as an alternative medicine for tumor chemotherapy (R).

Berberine can also work synergistically with conventional cancer treatments as it has been shown in lab experiments to sensitize many different types of cancer cells to the effects of the conventional chemotherapy drug doxorubicin (R).

  1. Brain Cancer: Berberine induces cell death in human brain cancer (glioblastoma) cells (R). Studies show it to have a potent anti-tumor effect on Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), which is the most common type of malignant brain cancer and known to be a grim diagnosis (R) .
  2. Breast Cancer: Coptis extracts (which contain berberine) enhance the anticancer effect of estrogen receptor antagonists on human breast cancer cells (R). The effect of Berberine on the growth of anoikis-resistant breast cancer cells was greater than treatment with doxorubicin, a drug commonly used to treat breast cancer (R) .
  3. Cervical Cancer: Berberine is a potentially promising compound for the treatment of cervical cancer associated with HPV (R). Berberine induces cell death in human cervical cancer cells (R).
  4. Colon Cancer: Berberine induces cell death in colon tumor cells (through activation of an apoptosis-inducing factor) (R). Derivatives of Berberine are even stronger against colon cancer than the original compound (R).
  5. Liver Cancer: Berberine induces cell death in liver cancer cells (R). Berberine can inhibit Aspergillus flavus, a common fungal infection that produces cancer-causing compounds in the liver (R).
  6. Lymphoma: A Berberine derivative inhibits lymphoma in a Chinese study (R). Berberine as a whole shows potential as an anti-tumor agent for Primary effusion lymphoma (PEL), associated with AIDS (R).
  7. Oral  Cancer: Berberine induces cell death in human oral cancer cells (R, R2).
  8. Spinal Cancer: Berberine induces cell death in tumor cells that develop in the spine, according to rat studies (R).
  9. Thyroid Cancer: Berberine inhibits thyroid cancer cells (RR2).

8) Berberine Improves Cholesterol Stats

Berberine promotes proper cholesterol balance (R, R2, R3).

In combination with other nutraceuticals, berberine lowers high total cholesterol, high LDL, and insulin resistance (R, R2, R3).

The lipid-lowering effects also result in moderate weight-loss (R).

Berberine has potential as an alternative to statins (R).

The ability of Berberine to lower LDL comes through:

  • Increasing activity at the LDL receptor in the liver (R).
  • Reducing Hepatocyte nuclear factor 1alpha (R).
  • Inhibiting lipid synthesis through activation of AMPK (R, R2).

9) Berberine Lowers Blood Pressure

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Berberine lowers blood pressure and dilates blood vessels, showing it to be a good candidate as a treatment for high blood pressure.

  • Berberine blocks the human platelet alpha-adrenoceptors causing blood vessels to dilate, relaxing muscles, healing ulcers (through antisecretory action in the stomach), causing a sedative effect (RR2, R3).
  • It inhibits ACE and directly releases NO/cGMP in blood vessels, causing a blood pressure-lowering effect (R).

Berberine derivatives inhibit acetylcholinesterase, resulting in increased levels and prolonged action of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (R).

10) Berberine Prevents Heart Disease

Berberine shows potential for multiple aspects of cardiovascular health, including arrhythmias (R), enlarged hearts (R), heart attacks (R), heart rate (R), and especially atherosclerosis (R) by:

  • Reducing the formation of plaque in the arteries by reducing foam cell formation (R) and preventing the plaque from breaking off (R).
  • Reducing oxidative stress and inflammation of the blood vessels (R).

Berberine also demonstrates a protective effect on heart muscle cells injured by the return of blood flow after blood flow restriction –as after a stroke (R).

Berberine increased the quality of life and decreased death rates for patients with congestive heart failure (R).

11) Berberine Prevents Alzheimer’s Disease

Berberine inhibits beta-amyloid and amyloid plaque accumulation that is characteristic of Alzheimer’s Disease (R, R2).

12) Berberine Helps Arthritis

Berberine helps with osteoarthritis (R) and rheumatoid arthritis (R, R2) in animal models.

13) Berberine Protects the Liver

Berberine protects against rat liver fibrosis induced by multiple agents toxic to the liver (R).

It also protected against infection-related liver damage in mice (R).

Berberine improves non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in humans in a study of 184 patients (R).

14) Berberine Prevents and Arrests Colitis/IBD

Berberine is a key anti-inflammatory agent in a Traditional Chinese Medicine formula which is prescribed for ulcerative colitis (R).

Berberine demonstrates the ability to inhibit both the development and perpetuation of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (R, R2, R3).

Some of the methods by which it does this are by inhibiting lipid peroxidation, intestinal bacterial growth and NF-κB inflammation (R).

15) Berberine is Anti-Bacterial

Berberine shows effectiveness against a variety of microbes (R):

  • S. aureus,
  • P. aeruginosa,
  • E. coli,
  • Candida albicans,

Others: S. cerevisiae, A. pullulans (black + white), T. viride (brown), M. gypseum, B. subtilis, Z. ramigera, A. niger, F. nivale, P. chrysogenum and T. viride (green).

16) Berberine is Anti-Parasitic

Berberine shows anti-parasitic effects on anaerobic protozoa (R).

It is effective against Trichomonas vaginalis in lab experiments (R), as well as dog roundworm (Toxocara canis) (R).

Berberine combined with pyrimethamine was effective against malaria in human studies (R).

17) Berberine is Anti-Viral

Berberine may be useful for the treatment of infections with influenza A virus (R).

Berberine acts against the Herpes Simplex Virus (R).

Berberine is anti-HIV (R).

18) Berberine Heals Canker Sores

A topical application of Berberine gelatin may be an effective treatment for canker sores (aphthous stomatitis) (R).

19) Berberine Treats Diabetic Nephropathy

Berberine can relieve injury to the kidneys in diabetic rats with nephropathy (R, R2).

Berberine reduces fibronectin and collagen accumulation in rat kidney cells exposed to high blood sugar (R).

Berberine works by inhibiting NF-κB (R) and by inhibiting aldose reductase and oxidative stress in kidney cells (R).

20) Berberine Improves Mitochondrial Function

Berberine creates new mitochondria by increasing SIRT1 and the NAD+/NADH ratio (R).

Drug Interactions

Repeated doses of berberine inhibit cytochromes P450 in humans, altering the normal breakdown of drugs (R).

Adverse Effects

Mild adverse digestive effects were observed among a few subjects in studies: abdominal discomfort (nausea, distension, diarrhea) was relieved by taking Berberine after meals. Constipation was ameliorated by reducing the dose (R).

Buying Berberine

Start with one capsule a day.  Here are some options:

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13 COMMENTS

  • Stephanie

    That’s my experience, too. I’m looking around to see what causes that.

  • Simon Saunders

    Isnt it s slight concern that Berberine inhibits hepatic gluconeogenesis https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20515652, I wonder if many of the results seen is due to the body down regulating its own internal stores of glucose production.

  • Mike

    Interesting that it increases serotonin, I was not expecting that. I can only take berberine in the morning otherwise I get bad insomnia, that doesn’t seem consistent with increased serotonin. Any idea why it might cause insomnia? I use pure berberine HCl.

    1. ryan

      I heard it increases norepinephrine or noradrenalin as well so little more energy for the brain

  • Camilla Camilla

    Hi
    You mentioned berberine caused constipation at a high dose.
    For the thorne brand of berberine what is the maximum dosage to stop at so as to prevent constipation?

  • TH

    increases nad+ to nadh ratio via nampt

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3366688/

    1. Joseph M. Cohen

      thanks 🙂

  • aag

    Is oral berine (HCL) even absorbed? I read something that is does not get absorbed, and is useless taken orally.

    1. Joseph M. Cohen

      I can certainly say that it has strong, positive effects when taken orally.

      1. aag

        Well, I can now totally agree on that. I am so tired after taking 1 cap 400 mg Berberine that Im fighting to keep myself awake.
        Do you got an opinion on AMPK activation with berberine/metformin and its interference with muscle building? Is it conflicting? I thought about pairing the AMPK activation through exercice with berberine and on my resting days stop taking berberine (ampk goes down.).

  • Linda

    MAO inhibitor? Well I’m staying far away from it then. That’s hella dangerous

  • emanuela

    Amaizinig
    Do you know if it can give hypoglycemia in people with no blood glucose imbalance/ diabetes.
    Do you know for how long you can take it?
    Thank you

    1. Christian Schwalbach

      This might be helpful; I take Alpha Lipoic Acid on an occasional basis, mostly for its anti-oxidant effects, but ALA can also act to lower blood sugar. I have noticed with ALA, that I can feel a bit weak after taking it as if hypoglcemic. However, this is usually mild. I have normal blood sugar regulation, no diabetes whatsoever. Given this example, if berberine also works to lower/regulate blood sugar, than I would do two things if you want to sample it. First is take a lower dosage (half, 1/4 etc) and see how you feel. The second is to avoid taking the supplement before strenuous exercise, at least until you have gauged its effects. That is simply what I would do in your case. let me know how it goes.

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