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Newsletter #19: Herbal Focus— Berberine

March 2024

Herbal Focus— Berberine

The Benefits of Berberine: Introduction


Berberine is a bioactive compound found in many plants, including European barberry, philodendron, Oregon grape, goldenseal, and goldthread. Berberine has been used medicinally for more than 3000 years, initially being cultivated in China and South Asia. There are now medical studies supporting its use in a variety of medical conditions. 

Potential Benefits of Berberine


Blood Sugar Regulation. Berberine has been shown to significantly lower blood sugar levels in people with Type 2 Diabetes. It works via multiple mechanisms, such as decreasing insulin resistance, reducing sugar production in the liver, and slowing the breakdown of carbohydrates in the gut. In some studies, berberine has been shown to be as effective as Metformin in lowering blood sugar and improving Hemoglobin A1c, which measures average blood sugar control.


Weight Loss. Berberine may promote weight loss. It activates an enzyme inside cells called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which plays a key role in regulating metabolism and energy levels. Berberine’s effects on insulin and gut bacteria(microbiome) may also be partially responsible for weight loss. At least one study showed that it affected glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). This is the same hormone affected by the new generation of weight-loss drugs such as Victoza, Wegovy and Zepbound. It can be especially helpful when combined with a low-carbohydrate diet or intermittent fasting.


Heart Health. Berberine has been associated with improved heart health. It may help strengthen the heartbeat, which could benefit people with certain heart conditions. It also helps lower total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol, and triglyceride levels in people with high cholesterol.


Dementia. Recent research suggests that dementia may be related to blood sugar metabolism in the brain. The term Type 3 Diabetes has been used to describe this condition and may predispose people to dementia. Because of its ability to improve blood sugar metabolism it is postulated that Berberine may be a potential preventative for dementias.


PCOS. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS, can cause problems such as high cholesterol, insulin resistance, and trouble losing weight. In some studies, berberine helped women with PCOS control their cholesterol, lower their waist-to-hip ratio, and increase their response to insulin.


Other potential benefits. Ongoing research in animals and in-vitro(test-tube) has shown benefits in other conditions including depression, cancer, oxidative stress and inflammation, infections, fatty liver and heart failure.


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