It’s critical that addressing diabetes and its causes become a part of your patient care—and the answer may be berberine
Diabetes and pre-diabetes is a common health problem among the population and most likely, among your patients. It’s estimated that 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes.1 And 1 in 3 have pre-diabetes.1 With these staggering statistics, it’s critical that addressing diabetes and its causes become a part of your patient care—and the answer may be berberine.
History of berberine
Berberine is a plant alkaloid present in many plants, including goldenseal, Oregon grape, barberry, and tree turmeric. It has a long history of use in both Chinese, Aryuvedic and ancient medicine because of its significant antimicrobial properties.2
It was used for the treatment of inflammatory disorders, wound healing, skin ailments, fevers, eye infections, digestive problems and respiratory diseases.2 The earliest known use of a derivative was in 650 B.C. by the Assyrians as a blood purifier.2
But modern research has shown significant benefits of berberine in the treatment of high blood sugar and abnormal lipid profiles, as well as positive benefits for healthy cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
With such a wide variety of uses, berberine may be a natural fit for your practice, and offer tremendous benefits to your patients.
The numerous benefits of berberine
Because you are often at the crossroads of evidence-based care and natural medicine, you may find berberine useful in a wide array of treatment plans. Supplements can be helpful in the treatment of many ailments.
The number of people with diabetes and general blood sugar problems is mounting. It is arguably one of those most common public health issues facing Americans. And with it being so common, it is high likely you’ll have patients who need and want to get their blood sugar under control.
While diet and exercise should always be recommendations for patients, berberine has also been shown to help lower blood sugar.
A 2018 study showed that berberine can be an effective treatment for those struggling with diabetes, especially type 2. It compared the effects of berberine against metformin, a common pharmaceutical prescribed for blood sugar regulation. The study showed that the effects of berberine were comparable to the effects of metformin and the levels of glucose in the participates blood decreased.3
A 2010 study found similar results as well as improved liver function among test participants. They concluded that this increase was due to increased insulin receptor expression in the body’s cells.4
An additional study showed that berberine helps address diabetes because it activates an enzyme called AMP- activated protein kinase or AMPK. This enzyme helps regulate metabolism. By activating AMPK in diabetic patients with berberine, researchers saw reduced bodyweight and improvements in glucose tolerance with altering food intake.5
It has been shown to be very effective when added to a routine with other lifestyle modifications.6
Another benefit of berberine for many people is weight loss.
A study of patients with metabolic syndrome were given 300 mg of berberine, 3 times a day. Over 3 months, they lowered their BMI levels by 4 points and saw overall health benefits.7
The researchers believe that part of the weight loss is caused by lowering blood glucose, improving hormone levels and balancing lipids in the body.
With heart disease being the primary cause of premature death, lowering cholesterol among patients is also a priority.
Studies have shown that berberine can help reduce cholesterol levels in some individuals.
A study was done with obese individuals who were given 500 mg of berberine three times a day for 12 weeks. The results showed mild weight loss and a significant reduction in blood lipid levels. These results were then replicated in rat subjects with similar lipid-lowering results.8
Statins are frequently the medicine of choice for treating high cholesterol. However, as you’ve undoubtedly seen, many patients cannot tolerate the side effects or risks of statins. Berberine, therefore, may be a safe and natural alternative for them.
Berberine affects metabolic function and the stabilization of blood sugar levels. Because of this, it may help in the stabilization of mood swings brought on by changes in blood sugar.
New research is also being done to find out what effect berberine has on depression and anxiety. While positive results were achieved in animal studies, more research needs to be done on the supplement’s effect on human subjects suffering from depression.9
Berberine has also been shown to an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory in some patients.10 As well as being shown to fight off infections.11
When to recommend berberine
Berberine is a good option for patients suffering from diabetes, pre-diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and many other ailments.
While berberine is a great option for many people, there are some who should avoid taking this supplement. In pure form, it is generally safe for adults, but pregnant or lactating women should avoid berberine. Patients should also inform you of any medications they are taking because berberine should not be mixed with other blood sugar lowering medication.
Since it does lower blood sugar levels, it’s important that patients stagger their doses so they can achieve a stable blood sugar.
There is still a lot to be learned about berberine and its impact on a variety of conditions. There are currently new studies being done to decide whether berberine is better tolerated than pharmaceuticals because it has been shown to have similar effects.12
But for your patients who are seeking relief from diabetes, excess fat or high cholesterol, berberine can be a viable option for you to consider.
- Jun Y, Huili X, Jianping Y. Efficacy of Berberine in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes. 2008 May;57(5):712-717.
- Hao Z, Jing W. Berberine lowers blood glucose in type 2 diabetes mellitus patients through increasing insulin receptor expression.2010 Feb;59(2):285-292.
- Hu Y, Ehli EA. Lipid-lowering effect of berberine in human subjects and rats. 2021 Jul 15;19(10):861-7.
- Bombi L. Effect of Berberine on Depression- and Anxiety-like behaviors and activation of noradrenergic system induced by development of morphine dependence in rats. Korean J Physiol Pharmacol. 2012 Dec;16(6):379-386.