by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN
Berberine supplements are one of the most popular natural supplements on the market today. With so many people looking for a way to improve their health, it’s not hard to see why.
Berberine is an alkaloid that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. It’s found in several plants, including goldenseal and Oregon grape root, which is why you’ll find it in many herbal tea blends.
Berberine is also found in several plants that grow in North America, like barberry and goldthread (Coptis Chinensis). In fact, some of these plants have been used by Native Americans for centuries as part of their healing practices!
What is Berberine?
Berberine is a bioactive compound extracted from various plants, including a group of shrubs known as Berberis.
Berberine is a yellow, bitter-tasting alkaloid with a long history of medicinal uses to back up its use. As mentioned before, it is found in several herbs, including barberry and Oregon grape root.
Berberine has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years to treat diarrhea and other gastrointestinal conditions.
In recent modern studies, it has been confirmed that berberine has impressive benefits for many different health problems.
Benefits of Berberine Supplements
Berberine supplements have some promising health benefits, out of which these three are the most important ones:
1. It may help lower blood sugar levels
Type 2 diabetes is an acute health issue that has become quite common in recent times, causing millions of deaths each and every year.
According to many studies, berberine can reduce blood sugar levels in individuals having type 2 diabetes.
It seems to work via many different mechanisms such as:
- Increases glycolysis, which helps the body to break down sugars inside cells.
- Decreases insulin resistance, causing the blood sugar lowering hormone insulin to be more effective.
- Increases the number of advantageous bacteria in your gut.
- Decreases the breakdown of carbs in the gut.
- Lowers sugar production in the liver.
2. It may help with weight loss
Berberine can help you lose weight by reducing your appetite and increasing your metabolism. It also increases the sensitivity of cells to insulin, which helps your body use glucose for energy instead of storing it as fat.
According to a review, people who took 750 mg of barberry twice a day for three months had a notable reduction in weight. Barberry is a plant that has high amounts of berberine.
3. May reduce cholesterol levels
High levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides may increase the risk of stroke and heart diseases.
Some studies suggest that berberine supplements could help reduce LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. According to a review, studies in both humans and animals indicate that berberine contains cholesterol-lowering characteristics.
It can reduce LDL cholesterol and increase high-density lipoprotein, also known as the “good” cholesterol.
A literature review discovered that berberine, along with some lifestyle changes, works better than doing the latter only to treat high cholesterol.
Other benefits of berberine supplements include:
Dosage of Berberine Supplements
According to most of the studies, berberine dosages should be around the range of 900 to 1500 mg per day.
It is quite common to take 500 mg up to three times a day before meals.
Berberine has a half-life of many hours, so it is vital to spread out your dosages to various times per day to help ensure you achieve stable blood sugar levels.
Special Precautions and Warnings
It’s possible to take berberine supplements safely. However, there are some special precautions and warnings for some people who should refrain from taking berberine supplements.
- When taken by mouth: Berberine is safe for most adults. Common side effects include constipation, diarrhea, upset stomach, and gas.
- Pregnancy: Berberine is not recommended for pregnant women as it can cross the placenta and that might cause harm to the fetus. Kernicterus, a type of brain damage, has been seen in newborn infants who were exposed to berberine.
- Breastfeeding: Same as pregnancy, it is likely unsafe to consume berberine if you are breastfeeding. It can be transferred to the infant through breast milk, which may cause harm.
- Children: It can be unsafe for newborns to take berberine. It can cause kernicterus, a rare type of brain damage that can happen in newborns who are suffering from severe jaundice. There is not enough reliable information to determine if berberine is safe for older children.
- High bilirubin levels in the blood of infants: Bilirubin is a chemical produced when old red blood cells break down. It is generally removed by the liver. Berberine might not let the liver remove bilirubin fast enough. This can lead to brain issues, mostly in infants with high bilirubin levels in their blood.