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.
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.
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.