Berberine Benefits: Is It Really a Key Supplement for Those with Diabetes?
Despite being known for thousands of years as a therapeutic herb, interest in berberine has piqued in recent years, thanks to a flurry of research supporting benefits for those who struggle with blood sugar balance.
In fact, one study even found that it was as effective for the control of blood sugar as the diabetes medications metformin or rosiglitazone. So what is it exactly and what else can it do? Here is the scoop on this healthful botanical.
What is Berberine?
Berberine is a compound found in several plants. These include goldenthread, goldenseal, European barberry, tree turmeric, phellodendron and Oregon grape. It has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and immune-boosting actions. Such properties make it suitable for treating bacterial, fungal and protozoal infections. In traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, these effects have led to its topical use on wounds and cuts, along with its internal use on infections that cause traveler’s diarrhea.
Recent studies show berberine has clinical applications beyond such conditions. These exciting discoveries have catapulted the healing agent out of relative obscurity and into the forefront of modern science.
What Conditions Can Berberine Improve?
- Diabetes: Most notably, researchers who conducted a clinical trial published in Metabolism concluded berberine and the diabetes drug metformin have “identical effect[s] in the regulation of glucose metabolism.” Expanding on these results, a study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology reveals the botanical’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help treat diabetic complications of nerve, kidney and heart damage.
- Cholesterol: A randomized, placebo-controlled trial tested the effects of a regular dose of 500 mg of berberine in people with high cholesterol. After three months, it lowered LDL cholesterol 21 percent. Also, total cholesterol lowered by 18 percent and triglycerides 35.9 percent.
- Obesity: Several functions of berberine suggest it may help prevent obesity. The compound reduces fat storage and boosts the action of hormones that influence weight control. It also improves the activity of brown fat, tissue that burns rather than stores energy.
- Heart Disease: Berberine’s benefits for blood sugar, cholesterol and weight control can reduce risk factors of heart problems. In addition, it triggers the release of nitric oxide. This chemical lowers blood pressure, improves blood flow and protects against atherosclerosis. In one study, patients who took berberine had better heart function and increased capacity for exercise compared to patients on a placebo.
- Cancer: Research involving test tubes and animals indicates berberine can decrease the growth and spread of an array of cancers.
- Depression: Animal studies show berberine increases levels of norepinephrine and serotonin. These are the chemicals associated with happiness.
- Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: Berberine curtails the accumulation of fat in the liver.
Why is Berberine so Beneficial?
Berberine’s myriad of health advantages stem from its ability to activate adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK). This important enzyme is sometimes referred to as a metabolic master switch. It regulates a spectrum of biological processes that normalize glucose, lipid and energy imbalances.
“Berberine activates AMPK in a manner similar to how exercise stimulates increased strength and weight loss,” according to Natural Medicine Journal. “Thus, any condition that would be favorably impacted by a patient losing weight and/or exercising more may be impacted favorably by oral berberine supplementation. It makes sense to consider using berberine in patients with insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, heart disease, dyslipidemia, cancer, depression, and other neuropsychiatric diseases.”
What is the Dosage?
Dr. Julian Whitaker recommends 500 mg two to three times per day. It’s best taken half an hour before meals.
What Are the Side Effects?
Berberine is generally well tolerated. However, it can cause constipation. If you experience this disorder, reduce the dosage. Other possible side effects may include diarrhea, cramping and stomach pain.
The compound also lowers blood pressure. This is beneficial for most people. However, it can be a problem for those who already have low blood pressure. So discontinue the supplement if you feel symptoms of this condition such as dizziness or lightheadedness.
Joshua Corn — Editor-in-Chief
Josh is a health freedom advocate and veteran of the natural health industry. He has been actively involved in the natural health movement for over 15 years, and has been dedicated to the promotion of health, vitality, longevity and natural living throughout his career. Josh has successfully overcome several personal health challenges through natural means, and believes that sharing information can empower people to take control of their health so they can solve their own problems and live life to its fullest potential. Josh is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Live in the Now. Additionally he serves as CEO of Stop Aging Now, a company that has been formulating premium dietary supplements since 1995. Josh is currently working on his first book about natural health, and is gearing up to launch the Live in the Now radio show. In addition to his work in the natural health field, Josh is an avid outdoorsman, animal lover and enjoys “living in the now” with his wife and two sons.