In the world of natural remedies, a rising star is gaining attention for its incredible health benefits: berberine. While most people might assume berberine is an herb, it’s actually a compound present in several herbs. In this article, we’ll delve into the wonders of berberine. We’ll explore what it is, how it works, its potential benefits, and precautions to keep in mind.
What is Berberine?
Berberine is an isoquinoline alkaloid extracted from the bark and other parts of certain plants. Examples include barberry, Oregon grape, goldenseal, tree turmeric, and Japanese goldthread. A few of these plants are shrubs in the Berberis family. Alkaloids are in plants to protect themselves against predators. Because of their potent effects on survivability, some also have medical value for humans.
Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) used berberine-containing herbs for infections and diarrhea. But modern science is finding its uses go far beyond a natural antimicrobial compound. Research shows it improves blood lipids, fights insulin resistance, promotes weight loss, and much more.
How Does Berberine Work?
Berberine works through many mechanisms in the body. It influences multiple cellular pathways, including one involving AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). This enzyme plays a vital role in energy metabolism. By activating AMPK, berberine improves glucose uptake by the cells. It also promotes insulin sensitivity, helps regulate blood sugar levels, and promotes the breakdown of fats. These qualities improve energy and metabolism, which have far-reaching effects.
Health Benefits of Berberine
This alkaloid may be helpful for several chronic health conditions when taken consistently. Some potential benefits of taking berberine include the following:
Blood Sugar Regulation
Berberine may be helpful for diabetic patients because it supports balanced blood sugar levels. It does this by improving insulin sensitivity and reducing blood glucose production in the liver. In clinical trials, it was excellent for lowering blood sugar in type 2 diabetics.
Not only did it lower blood sugar levels, but it also lowered a marker called hemoglobin A1C. Hemoglobin A1C shows us how blood sugar control has been over several months. Berberine supplementation also reduced total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein/LDL cholesterol.
In another randomized controlled trial, the effects of berberine on lowering fasting blood glucose and hemoglobin A1C were similar to the diabetes drug metformin.
In a review study of 1,078 women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), berberine improved fertility and live birth rates. It also improved insulin sensitivity in a way similar to the drug metformin.
Lowering Risk Factors For Heart Disease
Berberine may also help to lower the risk of heart disease. It promotes heart health by addressing components of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is characterized by five risk factors:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Abnormal cholesterol levels (Low HDL)
- High blood sugar levels
- High triglycerides
- Increased waist-to-hip ratio
As mentioned above, studies show berberine has an LDL cholesterol-lowering effect. So, it may help bring abnormal cholesterol levels back into balance. For those who don’t want to take statins, berberine may be a safe and effective alternative. Statins suppress the inflammatory response (but have adverse side effects). Berberine happens to also lower the inflammatory response but without the harmful side effects.
It may also improve the quality of life in those with congestive heart failure (CHF). One study divided CHF patients into two groups. The first group received just conventional therapies, while the other group also had berberine.
Those who took berberine with conventional treatment had greater exercise capacity and better energy levels. There were also fewer deaths in the berberine group at follow-up.
Promoting Digestive Wellness
And it may promote a healthy digestive system in several ways. First, it can help by fighting certain infections, like intestinal parasites, harmful bacteria, fungal and yeast overgrowths. Research also shows it protects the intestinal lining, which may reduce the chance of developing a leaky gut.
Berberine also improves the number of butyrate-producing bacteria in the gut. Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid (SFCA) that’s anti-inflammatory and nourishing to the brain. It may also lower the risk of colorectal cancer.
Scientists are also looking into berberine as a treatment for ulcerative colitis. Supplementing with berberine seems to lower inflammation of the mucus lining of the gut. It may lessen the severity of the condition and restore normal function.
Recent research has discovered a new potential use for berberine: as a sleep aid. An animal study of insomnia found berberine was comparable to diazepam (Valium) in alleviating insomnia. Berberine not only worked quicker than Valium but restored memory faster in the sleep-deprived rats.
Supporting a Healthy Weight
Berberine may also help those wanting to achieve a healthy weight. Research shows berberine can reduce obesity in some people by supporting balanced blood sugar and lowering inflammation. It may also promote weight loss by limiting fat cell growth.
A meta-analysis of 12 studies found that taking berberine greatly reduced body weight, waist circumference, and body mass index (BMI). Thanks to its antioxidant effects, it also lowered C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation.
Reducing Cancer Risk
Berberine also has anti-cancer properties and may promote cancer cell death. It’s currently being researched for breast, colon, lung, thyroid, and other cancers. But so far, the research is limited to animal and cell studies, not humans.
Contraindications and Potential Side Effects of Berberine
It’s not recommended to take berberine while pregnant or breastfeeding. The constituents can transfer to the baby through the mother’s fluids and may harm the pre-born infant or newborn. Berberine could cause brain damage (called kernicterus) in the developing baby.
Some people taking berberine may experience digestive upset (diarrhea, constipation, or bloating). For others, it may cause nausea, vomiting, headaches, or skin irritation. This primarily occurs when taking berberine in higher doses than recommended.
Check with your healthcare provider if you’re taking a diabetes drug like metformin. Diabetes medications already lower blood sugar, so adding berberine may lower it too much.
How to Find a Good Berberine Supplement
Another important thing to know about berberine is that it’s difficult to absorb. Our body absorbs less than 1% of the standard form on the market. So, if you think you’re taking 1,000 mg doses, you’re actually only getting 6.8 mg per dose. You’d have to take a lot of berberine to get any benefits.
That’s why the formulation is so important. When looking for a good berberine supplement, you want to ensure it’s bioavailable so you’re getting what it says on the bottle! That’s why I’m a huge fan of BerbElite. This supplement pairs berberine with sulforaphane from broccoli seed complex. Sulforaphane helps the body absorb berberine, increasing its effects on the body.
It also turns on a pathway in the body called Nrf-2. Ultimately, sulforaphane protects the brain against oxidative stress and lowers neuroinflammation.
How I Use Berberine
I’ve been experimenting with berberine lately and I’ve been really liking the results. Because my overall sleep is pretty dialed in I didn’t notice more sleep. However, I have seen an increase in my deep sleep numbers. My glucose response to foods is definitely better too. And I noticed the difference relatively quickly after taking BerbElite.
A bioavailable form of berberine like BerbElite can support health in many ways. It can help keep blood sugar stable, support a restful night’s sleep, and even potentially lower the risk of several chronic health conditions if accompanied by a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Have you tried berberine for any of these health issues? Was it helpful? Share with us below!