Berberine is a compound found in plants such as barberry, tree turmeric, Oregon grape, goldenseal, yellowroot and Chinese goldthread, among others. The ancient Chinese were the first to discover the medicinal values of berberine more than 5000 years ago. Berberine is antibiotic and has a potential use against MRSA infections. Many studies have been done to find the efficacy of berberine in treating arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats), high lipid levels in blood and cancer. Berberine for diabetes is one among them.

What Does Research Say About Berberine?

A 2008 study found that berberine was able to lower blood glucose as well as blood lipid levels. The surprising finding was that taking berberine 500 mg 2-3 times daily for a couple of months was as effective in controlling blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes patients as the old “warhorse” metformin. Another study found it as effective as rosiglitazone. Till date, more than 4300 studies have been done on berberine. Out of these, close to 250 have tried to understand the connection between berberine and diabetes.

Other Benefits Of Berberine

Berberine was also found to help lower cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol. It is also effective in:

    • Reducing symptoms of congestive heart failure (CHF) as well as lowering death rate in people with CHF
    • Diarrhea
    • Glaucoma
    • Stomach ulcers
  • Liver disease
  • Hepatitis
  • Menopausal symptoms
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Obesity
  • Osteoporosis
  • PCOS
  • Radiation injury
  • Low blood platelet counts, and
  • Trachoma, an eye disease (a common cause of blindness in developing countries)

How Berberine Works

Berberine stimulates liver cells, muscle cells and fat cells to take up glucose through a process that does not depend upon insulin. This function seems to be similar to that of metformin. The activity of berberine increases dramatically, when insulin is present.

Berberine also increases insulin sensitivity and regulates the function of mitochondria, the “powerhouses” of cells (where energy metabolism occurs). Thus, berberine prevents fatty liver, reduces blood glucose and decreases blood lipids.

Berberine also acts on α-glucosidase, an intestinal enzyme that breaks down carbohydrates into simple sugars. This action leads to the intestines absorbing lesser amounts of carbohydrates from the diet, thus leading to low blood sugar levels after meals.

Berberine also aids fat reduction. It can reduce abdominal fat accumulation and significantly alter waist/hip ratio. It seems to perform this activity by decreasing the activity of certain genes that function to form and store more fats.

Berberine increases the activities of the body’s major antioxidants thus helping reduce oxidative stress and the associated long term health complications.

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