Berberine – All Natural Diabetes Treatment?

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Berberine Review

Berberine is a unique compound extracted from a variety of herbs and plants. Widely praised for its anti-diabetic effects, berberine has been linked to powerful health benefits. Berberine is showing up at health food stores across the country and scientific research is indicating some surprising benefits of this ancient Chinese plant extract.

What Is Berberine?

Berberine, also known as BBR, is an alkaloid which is extracted from various plants. Many of these plants have been commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine. It’s found naturally in the wild and has been studied numerous times over the years in both scientific journals and clinical settings.

Berberine has actually been used for thousands of years in Ayurveda and ancient Chinese medicine. In ancient times, it was used as an anti-microbial agent or as an energy booster – often in combination with other herbs.

What Are The Health Benefits Of Berberine?

Berberine has been connected to a number of powerful health benefits. Many of these health benefits have been identified in scientific studies or clinical testing. So if you thought berberine was “just another” wonder drug with limited scientific evidence, that’s not the case.

Nobody is calling berberine a miracle drug. However, berberine has been linked to some important physiological changes.

Berberine has been found to limit weight gain, for example, and enhance brown adipose tissue (BAT) activity in obese mice. It’s also been linked to an improved cold tolerance.

Some also use berberine for its anti-diabetic effects. Specifically, berberine has been shown to reduce glucose production in the liver.

In fact, in one recent test, berberine was shown to be equally as effective at regulating blood glucose as a popular diabetes medication. When tested on humans and animals, a 1500mg daily dose of berberine was found to be equally as effective as taking 1500mg of metformin or 4mg of glibenclamide – two popular modern pharmaceuticals used to treat diabetes.

There is also evidence that berberine has anti-depressive effects and works in synergy with anti-depressant medication. There may also be a link between berberine and anti-inflammation.

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How Does Berberine Work?

Berberine’s mechanisms have been extensively studied over the years. Thus, we know a considerable amount about berberine and how it works.

Berberine primarily works by targeting an enzyme called AMPK. AMPK, which stands for AMP-activated protein kinase, is a primal metabolism-regulating enzyme in the body. Our bodies naturally secrete AMPK to boost our energy – especially during times when our natural energy levels are low, like in a time of crisis or when we experience a “fight or flight” response.

After berberine raises our AMPK levels, it lets the AMPK enzyme take over the rest of the way. AMPK signals your cells to start taking in more blood sugar, which in turn improves their insulin sensitivity.

At the same time, AMPK reduces your liver’s production of extra blood sugar. Type II diabetic livers typically overproduce blood sugar. This same mechanism also reduces the release of free fatty acids, also known as triglycerides, into the bloodstream while boosting natural fat-burning in your mitochondria, which are the energy factories of your cells.

If I lost you somewhere along the way, then that’s all right. Here’s the short version:

— Berberine increases the body’s AMPK levels. Higher AMPK levels boost our energy, regulate blood glucose in the liver, and improve insulin sensitivity. These mechanisms have been linked with weight loss, healthier blood glucose levels, and other benefits.

One of the interesting qualities of berberine is its low bioavailability. In lab testing on rats, berberine has been shown to have bioavailability as low as 5%. However, even with that low absorption rate, the effects of berberine are still noticeable on most users.

How To Use Berberine

Berberine doses typically range between 900 and 2,000mg per day, split into three or four doses. You should take berberine with a meal – or shortly after – to maximize the effects of the blood glucose and lipid spike which typically occurs during digestion.

When taking berberine for blood sugar management, the typical dose is 400mg to 500mg taken once, twice, or three times per day.

Avoid taking more than 500mg of berberine in a single dose. Higher doses of berberine taken at a single time have been linked with upset stomachs, cramping, and diarrhea.

Berberine Side Effects

One of the major berberine side effects is constipation caused by large dosages. Because berberine has a low absorption rate, taking too much of it at any one time can cause constipation, cramping, and other digestive issues.

Of course, some people also see this quality as a benefit: berberine can be used to reduce watery diarrhea, for example.

Berberine Studies

As mentioned above, there have been a number of berberine studies performed over the years. However, two of the most important studies were performed in 2008, which is when berberine turned from an “interesting Chinese plant extract” to “miraculous anti-diabetic plant extract.”

2008 Study — Berberine Is More Effective Than Modern Diabetes Medication

The first relevant berberine study was published in a journal called Metabolism in May 2008. That study examined the efficacy of berberine in patients with type II diabetes. The study involved 74 patients. Some patients received berberine, while others received the common anti-diabetic drug metformin. The study concluded by stating, “…berberine is a potent oral hypoglycemic agent with modest effect on lipid metabolism. It is safe and the cost of treatment by berberine is very low. It may serve as a new drug candidate in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.” (Source).

2012 Study — Reinforces Berberine’s Anti-Diabetic Effects

A similar study performed in 2012 followed groups of patients for 90 days of treatment. All patients had suboptimal glycemic control, which is typical among type 2 diabetics. After 90 days, the study concluded by stating that “Berberol could be considered a good candidate as an adjunctive treatment option in diabetes, especially in patients with suboptimal glycemic control.” (Source).

Ultimately, there are over 2,800 berberine studies currently listed on PubMed. The herb has been extensively researched over the years and is currently gaining popularity due to its anti-diabetic properties and weight loss benefits.

Conclusion: Is Berberine The Right Choice For You?

The field of modern diabetes medicine is constantly changing. Some diabetics have grown tired of their old medications and their associated side effects. If you feel that way about your medication, then talk to your doctor about potentially supplementing your diet with berberine.

As mentioned above, berberine was shown to be equally as effective at regulating blood glucose as two other type II diabetes medications, including metformin and glibenclamide.

Of course, there are other benefits to consider – including enhanced cold adaptation and weight loss.

Whether you’re interested in the anti-diabetic properties of berberine or the many other benefits, it’s easy to buy berberine online today. If possible, try ordering a pure berberine extract as opposed to a berberine formulation. This helps you maximize the benefits of berberine.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. I started taking Berberine and found that my incidents of blood sugar crashes increased significantly. What does that indicate?

  2. I’ve found some interesting information/research on goldenseal and its predominant and most active alkaloid berberine. It looks to me like there is a significant danger of carcinoma/adenoma in the commonly used dosage range for hyperglycemia.

    Let me summarize first. In the 2010/2011 timeframe a long term 2 year rat/mouse study was undertaken by the National Toxicology Program at NIH. They ran 2 week, 3 month and 2 year studies. Liver Hypertrophy was found in both the 2 week and 3 month trials but the 2 year trials showed even more significant damage.

    In the two year study male rats fed 25,000 ppm of goldenseal powder ad libitum showed a 20+% incidence of liver hepatocellular adenoma or carcinoma. This was the most signifcant effect. The concentration of berberine in the goldenseal powder was 3.9% by weight. When all the calculations of converting the amounts taken daily by the rats to a human equivalent dose are done it turns out that the rats with the 20% rate of carcinoma/adenoma were consuming the equivalent of a 100 kg human consuming @880mg/day of berberine. Interestingly there was no carcinoma in the female rats and only 2 with hepatocellular adenoma.

    Jumping from goldenseal powder to berberine as the culprit is a big jump but reading the paper you will see that the researchers, even though avoiding saying it was definitively berberine that was the cause, did talk a lot about berberine in the discussion.
That first paper is here:http://tpx.sagepub.com/content/39/2/398.long

    Subsequent to the paper and motivated by the paper a second in vitro study was done to try to ascertain how that cancer in the rats might have been caused. In that study the researchers examined 5 alkaloids from goldenseal and found two that were active. Both were topoisomerase I and II interruptors and the researchers felt that this may have been the cause of the cancer in the first experiment. One of those alkaloids palmatine was of much lower concentration and somewhat weaker than that of berberine.
That paper is here:http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378427413008412

    As I said the NTP of the NIH actually ran 3 different trials. A paper containing all the work is here:
http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/htdocs/lt_rpts/tr562.pdf (190 pp)

    There is a summary of the long report immediatley above here:
http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/results/pubs/longterm/reports/longterm/tr500580/listedreports/tr562/index.html

    I know it is difficult to get supplements tested but it certainly does seem that another longer term in vivo study of berberine itself is in order.

    • this study does not even touch doses close to what human doses would be, some of the doses trialled are 9,000, to 25000 ppm in mice, that is 9000mg/kg, or 25000mg/kg. for a 100kg person, that is 900g a day and 2.5kg a day respectively …. this is insane… even considering the alkaloid content of berberine was 3.89% in the extract, that leaves atleast 300g of berberine equiv a day for the lower level concentration. anything in this concentration is likely to cause adverse effects. It is a common error to attribute these preliminary Massive dose toxicity trials in rats to what occurs in therapeutic doses to humans (where you got your estimated 880mg dose from I don't know but i would like to see your answer), please leave me an email if you have honest answers, as all it seems at the moment is a downplayand defamation of a chemical that is perhaps more influential in T 2 diabetes than any other pharmaceutical in production to date.

    • An independent peer reviewed study of Berberine showed chemotherapeutic benefits of this AMPK activator.
      One interesting aspect of AMPK activators revealed by preclinical studies is the enhanced therapeutic effects of the combination of different AMPK activators. As a master regulator of lipogenic pathway,25 AMPK may be an additional chemotherapeutic target because the upregulation of fatty-acid synthesis is a hallmark of many cancers.124 Evidence has shown that the combination of aspirin (salicylate) and Metformin effectively decreases clonogenic survival of prostate and lung cancer cells.104 Consistently with this finding, the addition of fatty acids and/or cholesterol into the culture medium reverses the suppressive effects of salicylate and metformin on cell survival, indicating that the inhibition of de novo lipogenesis is important.105, 106 Similarly, direct AMPK activators may open new therapeutic avenues for antichemotherapeutic reagents. In the case of the conventional indirect AMPK activators, the mechanism of action requires the upstream kinase LKB1 for physiological AMPK activation. Therefore, the potential of indirect AMPK activators as anticancer drugs is limited to LKB1-deficient tumors, especially for non-small cell lung cancers, of which more than 30% have LKB1-inactivating mutations. In this aspect, direct AMPK activators may overcome this limitation. The evidence shows that the growth-inhibitory response to the AMPK activator, MT 63–78, is not affected by the status of the upstream AMPK-activating kinase LKB1.

  3. Take Berberine extract or Coptidis [full spectrum herb] with ginger tea [warming herb], or some licorice as recommended in TCM. This will help balance the very cold properties of Berberine, which can be damaging to the stomach, spleen and digestion. Long term ingestion without this balancing can eventually damage the Qi in the body and wreak havoc to the system, so be careful.

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