Berberine Supplements Improve Glucose Metabolism

Can a plant substance with a name that reminds you of carpeting or fleece help treat type 2 diabetes?

Clinical studies indicate it can.

Berberine is extracted from the herb Rhizoma coptidis and is available from several plant sources including goldenseal, barberry, Oregon grape, and tree turmeric. In traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, it has been used to address infections, inflammation, and intestinal issues for centuries.

One of the pluses of berberine is the absence of toxicity at therapeutic doses. An overdose would lead to unpleasant but temporary gastrointestinal discomfort.

Berberine and Type 2 Diabetes

Individuals participating in a recent berberine research study were 25 to 70 years of age and newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. They were randomized to receive either berberine supplements twice per day or a placebo for three months.

“Berberine had a robust glucose-lowering effect by significantly reducing fasting and postprandial plasma glucose from ... initial levels,” the researchers concluded.

The scientists suggested that berberine may be a useful adjunct to standard diabetes treatments. Their research does not recommend berberine as a standalone drug for diabetic patients, since participants in the study had “relatively mild diabetes.”

"Given the benefits of berberine in lowering blood glucose, lipids, body weight, and blood pressures, we speculate that berberine may be used for patients with type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome," wrote researcher Yifei Zhang and colleagues. "Long-term study with a larger sample size is needed to confirm these findings."

Five More Berberine Benefits

Research has established several medicinal uses for berberine.

  1. Germ Killer. Berberine is a proven antimicrobial – a fighter of viruses, bacteria, chlamydia, and parasites. Especially in the throat, urinary tract, and intestines, berberine inhibits bacteria from taking up residence in our cells. It is a supplement frequently recommended in detox programs.
  2. Brain Health. Berberine contains two antioxidants that support our brain by preventing oxidation damage. It also puts the brakes on enzymes that destroy memory molecules, lowers the population of peptides that mess with memory function, and keeps lipids that can inhibit blood flow in check. Research evidence indicates berberine may be effective in treating Alzheimer’s disease.
  3. Fat Loss. In the berberine-diabetes study, scientists discovered this plant derivative lowered participant’s triglycerides by 35.9 percent, lowered their LDL cholesterol by 21 percent, and reduced total cholesterol by 18 percent. There was also a reduction in blood pressure and an increase in weight loss.
  4. Heart Health. Early research suggests berberine, used in conjunction with prescription medications, may increase the heart function and longevity of people with congestive heart failure. One study concluded that the “cardiovascular effects of berberine suggest its possible clinical usefulness in the treatment of arrhythmias and/or heart failure.”
  5. Bones. Berberine may strengthen cartilage and increase bone density.

Berberine and Metformin

You may hear or read that berberine is as effective as the drug Metformin. There is a clinical study comparing the effects of both berberine and metformin on the metabolism of women with polycystic ovary syndrome.

“Berberine in comparison to MET [metformin] showed similar metabolic effects presumably on amelioration of insulin sensitivity and reduction of hyperandrogenemia [high androgen levels],” the researchers concluded.

They also pointed out that research outcomes increasingly suggest berberine improves insulin sensitivity and facilitates glucose absorption, and their own study showed metformin and berberine had “comparable effects on improving glucose metabolism in PCOS.”

Sources: Endocrine; EJE Online; ncbi; ncbi; Life Enhancement

Photo of Oregon grape by The Marmot

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