Berberine is an ammonium salt predominantly found in the roots, stems, bark and rhizomes of the berberis plant amongst others.
What is Berberine?
Berberine has a strong yellow colour, with the plant species it is derived from often used as a dye for leather, wood and wool in the past and continues to be used as a dye for wool in northern India. Medicinally, it has been used as a folk medicine in China for centuries to counter gastrointestinal bacteria infections.
What does Berberine do?
Berberine has been shown to have numerous health benefits impacting the body at a molecular level. It is known to improve heart health, stimulate weight loss as well as lower blood sugar levels. A key molecular target for berberine is the enzyme AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). Once ingested, berberine infiltrates the bloodstream and activates this enzyme which acts as major player in regulating metabolism. It can be found in a range of organs from the brain to the heart, kidneys and liver.
Reducing the blood sugar levels of type 2 diabetics is a prominent positive for taking berberine which appears to function via multiple mechanisms in the body. It works to improve insulin efficiency by decreasing the body’s insulin resistance. It increases glycolysis which allows the sugars inside cells to be broken down more easily. It increases the number of beneficial gut bacteria and slows down the breakdown of carbohydrates in the gut. It also decreases sugar production in the liver. Further benefits to diabetes sufferers include berberine being able to lower hemoglobin A1c which is a marker for long term blood sugar levels. It can also improve blood lipids such as cholesterol and triglycerides.
Studies have shown berberine to be conducive to significant weight loss in obese individuals, likely due to improving the function of fat-regulating hormones such as adiponectin, insulin and leptin. It also appears to limit the growth of fat cells at a molecular level.
Berberine has also been proven to positively impact factors that are commonly associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Studies have shown berberine to be able to lower total cholesterol, lower LDL cholesterol, lower blood triglycerides and raise HDL cholesterol. Apolipoprotein B is a lipoprotein that carries fats and fat like substances in the blood. A high level of Apo B is another risk factor of heart disease and berberine has been shown to lower their levels in the blood. With high blood sugar levels and obesity being other heart disease risk factors, knowing that berberine is able to improve these symptoms is another box to tick in the list of reasons why taking berberine is a good idea.
Berberine in the Media
The most prominent news pieces on berberine tend towards the continued research into its potential benefits.
Berberine and Anti-Inflammation (Jan 2020)
PR Newswire reported on a research team at Okayama University investigating berberine for its anti inflammatory properties and possible use in fighting inflammatory bowel disease.
Preventative Measures (Jan 2020)
A team of Chinese medical researchers have declared that berberine is a preventative measure against colorectal adenoma (benign tumour) post resection (organ removal). Research was conducted across multiple Chinese provinces and found that berberine users suffered less recurrent adenomas in the follow up period.
Research Studies of Berberine
Holistically, berberine is a botanic compound which assaults multiple targets causing chronic disorders.
Berberine vs Chronic Disease
This analysis is indicative of the therapeutic efficacy of berberine use and how deploying a multiple target strategy might be more beneficial in combatting chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Safe and Therapeutic
The safety and effectiveness of berberine was tested in this study in conjunction with 7 other groups featuring other medicines or lifestyle alterations. 6 of the 7 groups showed an improvement to factors causing type 2 diabetes hyperlipidemia and hypertension. Similarly, this study highlighted the safety of using berberine to counter type 2 diabetes and other diseases like renal disease, hepatic dysfunction and heart disease.
Weight Loss Win
There are numerous studies indicative of berberine as a proponent to weight loss.
This research noted mild weight loss in obese human subjects consuming 500mg of berberine orally, three times per day. Other findings included a significant reduction in blood lipid levels a 12.2% decrease to cholesterol and 23% decrease to triglyceride. Blood lipids are mainly fatty acids and cholesterol, with elevated levels being a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Berberine was also found to minimise the formation of adipocytes which specialise in storing energy as fat. This study found that the accumulation of lipid drops in the preadipocytes (stem cells or precursor cells) was decreased, inhibiting adipocyte formation, indicating a probable benefit to obesity patients.
Helping Heart Disease
Further research is indicative of berberine being a safe treatment for factors causing heart disease. No serious adverse effects were noted by any of the groups consuming the berberine, whilst the final analysis also indicated a reduction in total cholesterol, triglycerides and low density lipoprotein cholesterol. Simultaneously, high density lipoprotein cholesterol, which is cholesterol that helps remove other forms of cholesterol from the bloodstream, was found to be dramatically increased.
Berberine Anecdotal Claims
There are a number of positive outcomes experienced by berberine users.
Dates: 12/10/19; 12/08/19; 10/06/17; 01/01/16
‘Gary712’ and ‘paliku7427’ both noted that their A1C (a test for blood glucose) levels were reduced after taking berberine.
‘paliku7427’ also noted that their body was slimming and found they had more energy to exercise
Other users were somewhat indifferent with one recording possible adverse side effects.
‘olrobert’ noted their blood sugar had not been lowered after consuming 900mg of berberine a day for up to 4 weeks
‘anonymous’ indicated that they also had not experienced a change to blood sugar after 1 month of use but had been experiencing dizzy spells and were concerned that they were caused by the berberine
‘Steve Gartner’ was confident that the reishi he was taking was aiding his remission of prostate cancer, suggesting the high polysaccharides content was an important component of any reishi product.
Legal Status in Australia
The Therapeutic Goods Administration of Australia has berberine listed as a substance that may be used in listed medicines within Australia.
Where to buy Berberine
There are numerous sites where you can source berberine and it is a product available in varying concentrations.
Supplement Hound has their own personal list of preferred berberine products, all of which are available through Amazon
Berberine Dosage and Usage
Standard berberine dosages are in the range of 900 to 1500mg per day with one of the most common ways to achieve that being through 3 x 500mg taken half an hour before meals. To avoid potential digestive issues, it is recommended to be taken with food, however it does have an outstanding safety profile with side effects being unlikely. To achieve stability in the blood, taking berberine at regular is advised due to its half life being several hours.