Know Your Nutrients: Berberine

This next post in the series by Dr Shane explores key nutrients that are required by our bodies to support our optimal health and wellbeing. Each nutrient will be described in terms of its role, highlighting various key benefits, including our potential for deficiency, dietary sources, and potential benefits for supplementation.

Berberine is a chemical found in several plants including European barberry, goldenseal, goldthread, greater celandine, Oregon grape, phellodendron, and tree turmeric.1 Berberine widely used in traditional medicine and for nutraceutical uses.2

What is berberine?

In recent years, traditional natural products like berberine have received much scientific scrutiny and the therapeutic benefits of been explored. Though not unique to berberine, it has been shown to have remarkable therapeutic diversity.

What are the health benefits of berberine?

Berberine has been shown to be a very safe botanical compound which targets an AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK; is an enzyme that plays a role in cellular energy homeostasis, largely to activate glucose and fatty acid uptake and oxidation when cellular energy is low), common to insulin resistance3. From this research, investigators have studied berberines benefit in the management of dyslipidemia (unhealthy levels of one or more kinds of lipid (fat) in our blood), type 2 diabetes and obesity in order to counteract the cardiovascular risk derived from these metabolic disorders. Furthermore, berberine is the only botanical compound included in European guidelines for the management of dyslipidemia and it is used also in patients who do not tolerate statins4.

In addition to supporting our metabolic health, berberine has also shown benefit through research in other areas of our health including:

Microbial Infections: Berberine is widely used in the treatment of microbial infections and has been documented to enhance the inhibitory efficacy of antibiotics. Present in various plants including Rhizoma coptidis, berberine has been widely used to treat bacterial diarrhoea and gastroenteritis.5

Inflammation: The inhibitory effect of berberine on oxidative stress (inflammation) has been reported. This anti-inflammatory property is critical in helping us manage several health conditions, including heart disease and diabetes.6

Diabetes: The antioxidant activity of berberine has been associated with its inhibitory effect on the development of diabetes mellitus and insulin resistance.7

Cholesterol Management: Our risk of heart disease and stroke are reported to increase with high levels of blood triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Current research suggests that berberine could help lower our blood levels of these two key factors.8

High Blood Pressure: As a leading cause of heart disease, the lowering / normalising of our blood pressure is essential for health. In combination with blood pressure lowering medication, berberine showed a synergistic effect compared to medication alone.9

Obesity: Linked to increasing our risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic health (diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol), reducing our abnormal or excessive fat accumulation is essential. In a clinical trial, supplementation with an extract containing berberine showed a significant decrease in body weight, triglycerides and cholesterol through supplementation over a three month period.10

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): PCOS is identified as a kind of metabolic syndrome and may lead to a long-term risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Since berberine has shown benefit in the management of other metabolic and cardiovascular presented here, it is no surprise that berberine has been investigated in relation to PCOS. A meta-analysis and systematic review (a review of current research) surmised that berberine has promise as a treatment for PCOS with insulin resistance.11

What should I know when taking berberine?

Berberine is predominately available in capsule form. Daily doses of berberine used within studies vary greatly. Though standard doses range between 900 mg and 2000 mg. Recommendations indicated that berberine should be taken with meals and / or shortly afterwards. This protocol will align to the increases in blood glucose (sugar) and lipid (fat) spikes we associate with eating, with which berberine has shown positive benefits. It is also suggested that dividing supplementation into three to four doses would be optimum.

Berberine products

Bigvits are delighted to be able to offer Swanson Premium Berberine Complex to customers. This product is specifically formulated to support our cardiovascular and metabolic health and blood sugar regulation. Swanson achieve this be combining berberine with Cinnamon, Gymnema and Fenugreek, all which have shown to help blood glucose management.

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Berberine is a major active component of the Chinese herbal medicine. Berberine has shown to be effective for helping in optimising our cardiovascular and metabolic health. This has included obesity and the systems and consequences of obesity such as diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammation. More recently, berberine is now been investigated in regards to its ability to have beneficial effects on brain function.12

If you have a specific interest or would like to see a particular product or nutrient reviewed, please email your request to Educating our customers in respect to the importance of nutrients and the idiosyncrasies between formulas and products is at the heart of what we want to achieve.

This post is meant for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical or nutritional advice or act as a substitute for seeking such advice from a qualified health professional. In order to make the blog series easier to read, I have used a conversational tone in many places with personal pronouns, such as “I” and “you.” This is meant only to make it more pleasant to read, and is not meant to imply that the information constitutes any form of advice, whether personal or general.