The Wholesome Journal

5 Benefits of Berberine

Berberine sounds like an exotic, North African spice doesn’t it? At least that’s what we think, since the name is so similar to Berbere Seasoning, the famous spice mixture we just referenced. The two are not actually related at all though, and in this blog post, we’ll be discussing berberine, not Berbere Seasoning.

Berberine is a plant compound, or more specifically, a plant alkaloid, that is found in the tissues of species such as Barberry, Oregon Grape, and Tree Turmeric. It’s a traditional botanical compound used in both Ayurvedic medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine, where it is employed as an antimicrobial and anti-diarrhea agent to combat digestive tract infections. While we cannot attest to the efficacy of these traditional uses, recent research has shown Berberine to exhibit significant, metabolic support effects in certain populations, making it an increasingly popular supplement in Western cultures.

In this blog, we’ll discuss some of Berberine’s supportive properties, as well as share reasons why Berberine may not be an appropriate supplement for you. Let’s dig in and see what’s what!

How Does Berberine Help People?

So, you want to know how Berberine can help you? Well, depending on what you’re looking for support with, it might just be the ticket. While this is not an exhaustive list of Berberine’s uses, these are the most well-studied and scientifically-supported uses at present.

1. Supports Healthy Blood Lipid Levels

Berberine has been shown to support healthy blood lipid levels.1-5 More than one study has shown that supplementing with 1000-1500 milligrams (1-1.5 grams) of Berberine daily can support healthy blood lipid levels by encouraging lower levels of LDL and overall serum cholesterol. While there is no replacement for healthy diet and lifestyle choices in controlling cholesterol levels, Berberine can provide additional support for those who want it.

2. Supports Healthy Blood Glucose Levels

Berberine has also been shown to promote healthy blood glucose levels.1-4 Again, numerous human trials have demonstrated that Berberine supplementation in amounts between 1-1.5 grams per day  may help certain people to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Most studies even report that it’s safe for diabetic patients to take alongside their prescribed medications, but we would never recommend you take it unless you’ve discussed it with your doctor first, since drug-supplement interactions are common and everybody is different. In fact, please don’t combine any supplements with medications without your doctor’s approval.

3. Supports Healthy Blood Pressure

Berberine may also be able to support healthy blood pressure. 2,4 While the evidence for this benefit isn’t as robust as some of the other claims, it’s worth noting. Maintaining healthy blood pressure can benefit your body in more ways than one. You see, blood is what carries nutrients and oxygen throughout the body and supplies your tissues with these essentials, as well as providing those tissues access to your immune system. Blood pressure that is too high or too low can cause health problems. Low blood pressure may result in not enough blood getting to some body tissues,, and high blood pressure can damage your blood vessels over time, resulting in a myriad of possible health concerns. So, as you can see, maintaining healthy blood pressure benefits your overall health.

4. Supports Healthy Weight Loss Efforts

Berberine has been shown to support healthy weight loss efforts, but don’t mistake it for a weight-loss supplement. 2-3,5 Human studies have shown that in combination with diet and lifestyle modifications, Berberine can positively impact body fat percentage in certain populations. The supplement is by no means a weight loss product, and studies examining the amount of weight lost while using Berberine vs not using it showed that the difference wasn’t drastic, but it was clinically significant. It’s important to note though, that we found no studies in which Berberine was found to cause weight loss in the absence of diet and lifestyle modifications. In short, Berberine won’t help you with your weight if you’re not putting in the work, it’s just a supportive tool that seems to work well for some people.

5. Supports Fertility

Berberine can support fertility in certain women.5 Among its many metabolic effects, is the possibility of promoting healthy androgen hormone levels in certain women. Since abnormal hormone levels are often a factor in cases of subfertility/infertility, berberine can be an excellent supplement option to support healthy levels of certain reproductive hormones, thereby promoting healthy fertility.

So now you’re ready to get your Berberine and you’re excited about it! Well just hang on. As mentioned above, there are a few reasons why taking Berberine could be a wrong choice for some people, and we want to make sure you know what those reasons are.

1. Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Don’t take Berberine if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.6 You may take Berberine if you are trying to conceive, but please stop using it once you find that you’re pregnant. Experts note that it can be a safe and helpful fertility supplement for some women, but discourage use after pregnancy is achieved. Studies show that infant exposure to Berberine, whether in pregnancy or or breastfeeding, can worsen jaundice or even lead to brain disorders.6 Not worth the risk!

2. You take Bosutinib

Bosutinib is a medication commonly used to treat certain kinds of cancer. You see, Berberine can affect the concentration of this drug throughout the body, regardless of the dose your doctor has given you.6 Cancer treatment is hard enough without changing the way chemotherapy behaves in the body, so please don’t take Berberine if you are using this medicine. We want your cancer treatments to work as intended so that you can get better!

3.You take Immunosuppressive Drugs

Berberine can increase blood levels of immunosuppressive drugs, such as tacrolimus and cyclosporine, which isn’t good since your doctor already has you on the appropriate dose for your individual situation. Not to mention that the combination of Berberine and immunosuppressive drugs can lead to kidney toxicity! In short, if you take immunosuppressive drugs, stay away from Berberine.

 As you can see, berberine is a powerful little supplement that’s capable of providing excellent support to a variety of body systems, but it’s not right for everyone. If you want to try Berberine, but you’re not sure it’s a good choice for you, please be cautious and speak with your healthcare provider before taking it.

In parting, remember that eating healthy, whole foods, and lots of plant foods is one of the simplest, safest, and most effective things we can do to promote good health in our bodies. As with every preventative/restorative measure though, sometimes these changes alone are not enough to help our bodies function the way we want or need them to. If you are struggling with health problems, please contact your doctor or other healthcare provider such as a Naturopathic Doctor, Dietitian, or Mental Health Professional, to see if they can offer appropriate guidance and care. We at Wholesome Story believe that healthy communities require community effort, so we advise you to keep your healthcare community aware and involved in your journey as you pursue better health.

Sources:

  1. Dong H, Wang N, Zhao L, Lu F. Berberine in the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus: A systemic review and meta-analysis. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3478874/. Published 2012. Accessed July 29, 2022.
  2. Zhang Y, Li X, Zou D, Liu W. Treatment of type 2 diabetes and dyslipidemia with the natural plant…Research Gate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/5454721_Treatment_of_Type_2_Diabetes_and_Dyslipidemia_with_the_Natural_Plant_Alkaloid_Berberine. Published July 2008. Accessed July 29, 2022
  3. Yan H-M, Xia M-F, Wang Y, et al. Efficacy of berberine in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. PloS one. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4529214/. Published August 7, 2015. Accessed July 29, 2022
  4. Perez-Rubio Kg;Gonzalez-Ortiz M:Martinez-Abundis E;Robles-Cervantes JA;Espinel-Bermudez MC; Effect of berberine administration on metabolic syndrome, insulin sensitivity, and insulin secretion. Metabolic syndrome and related disorders. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23808999/. Published 2013. Accessed July 29, 2022          
  5. Zhao JV;Yeung WF;Chan YH;Vackova D;Leung JYY;Ip DKM;Zhao J;Ho WK:PTse HF;Schooling CM; Effect of berberine on cardiovascular disease risk factors: a Mechanistic randomized controlled trial. Nutrients. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34444711/. Published 2021. Accessed July 29, 2022.
  6. YX C. Berberine. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/berberine. Published October 2020. Accessed July 29, 2022.

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