Imagine; a supplement that could help increase exercise ability, help reduce body mass and burn fat, lower blood sugar, reduce insulin resistance, improve heart health, increase brain health, and protect your gut health. Sounds too good to be true? It isn’t.
If you’ve ever spent any appreciable amount of time around an herbalist, or someone who even remotely loves herbalism, you’ve probably heard of Goldenseal. Goldenseal is often sold along with Echinacea as a fantastic over the counter remedy for cold and flu, and has been used in preparations for immunity and for fighting infections for hundreds of years. Cherokee Indians used to use Goldenseal as a treatment for different types of cancers, to treat snakebites as well as a general health tonic. The Iroquois Indians used it for helping with whooping cough, liver issues, fever, pneumonia, and various digestive disorders.
Since that time, our understanding of the plants has come along way. We’ve been able to isolation compounds from plants to increase their effect, and encapsulate them in pill form. Goldenseal actually gets much of it’s healing properties from a chemical called Berberine. Berberine has one of the longest lists of positive effects I’ve seen in a plant based molecule, and what it helps with bordens on miraculous. Research shows that berberine has antifungal, antiviral as well as antibacterial effects. It’s efficacy battling bacterial infections makes it strong enough that it could potentially stop E. coli, by preventing it from attaching to the walls of the urinary tract. Despite all this, in addition to it’s ability to help the heart and brain, you’ll discover several other key benefits of this fantastic nutraceutical powerhouse.
Aside from Goildenseal, it also comes from many plants that are often used in traditional Chinese medicine. It’s particularly effective at reducing insulin resistance, which is key for diabetics, and improve the biomarkers that are found in type 2 diabetes. It can also help with glucose fasting as well as many other aspects of diabetes.
In addition, berberine has been found to activate adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase or AMPK, which is a type of enzyme. At the same time, it inhibits protein-tyrosine phosphatase 1B or PTP1B. This is where it is able to help with insulin sensitivity.
Other research shows that it can help protect blood cells and reduce inflammation in the body.
What is the outline of the benefits of using berberine?
The berberine that comes from goldenseal can provide the user with a wide range of benefits. Research that has been done on both animals and humans shows that using 500 mg a dose of berberine, 3 times a day can be the same as taking 4 mg of glibenclamide or 1500 mg of metformin. These are two of the diabetes treatments that are commonly used. The studies showed that the berberine had positive effects on the biomarkers related to type 2 diabetes. With this being said, more research and studies do still need to be done, to show the long-term effects of type 2 diabetes and other health benefits.
Research also has shown that berberine could help to lower triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, while increasing HDL cholesterol a bit.
Some of the other benefits that should be mentioned regarding berberine include the following:
- Great management of blood glucose levels
- Significant HbA1c reduction for those who have diabetes
- Notable total cholesterol is decreased by daily use of berberine
- Some improvement of HDL-C levels
- Fasting insulin is reduced when using daily berberine
- Moderate positive effects on joint health
- Some improvements in the management of LDL-C levels
- Some levels of reduction in triglycerides
- Some people who used daily berberine noticed canker sore reduction
- Exercise capacity does see some positive effects from regular use of berberine
- Insulin sensitivity is improved somewhat with berberine use
- Those with cardiomyopathy noticed mild positive effects on their quality of life
- Mild systolic blood pressure decrease with regular berberine use over months
What side effects or downsides are there to using berberine?
Research shows that berberine can cause some medication interactions. I think this speaks to the power of the effectiveness of nutraceutical compounds. If something is strong enough that you have to not take it with medicine, it probably is pretty powerful. If someone is taking normal doses of berberine, the likelihood that you’ll experience any side effects is minimal. However, those who are taking higher doses might experience gastrointestinal issues. Higher doses of berberine could lead to hypoglycemia, as well. But again, this goes to show the power of it’s ability to fight blood sugar issues. More research does need to be done on the interactions that berberine could cause.
Is it safe to take berberine regularly?
Berberine is Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS.) However, anyone who chooses to take this should have that conversation with their doctor first. The main reason for this is because there are certain medications that may negatively interact with berberine. If someone is taking those medications, such as blood sugra medication, their doctor will let them know that it isn’t safe to take berberine at the same time. A lot of research has been done on berberine and most people have not had any issues while taking it.
How should berberine be taken?
The most common dose for berberine is between 900 to 2,000 mg daily. The user will divide this into 3 doses each day.
When taking berberine, the user should be eating a meal at the same time or right after. This will improve the lipid and blood glucose effects of the berberine.
If someone takes too high of a dose of berberine, they could experience an upset stomach, diarrhea, and cramping.
What things does berberine go well with?
If someone wants to get the maximum benefits from berberine, it would be helpful to know what it goes well with. Some of these things include the following:
- P-glycoprotein or P-Gp (this helps improve absorption rate of the berberine)
- Atrogin-1 inhibition (this can help with the weight loss benefits of berberine)
- Sodium caprate (this will help improve the absorption rate of the berberine in different ways than the P-glycoprotein)
If someone is considering maximizing the benefits of berberine, they should still talk to their doctor. They should ask their doctor whether these other things are safe for them to take, even if their doctor has already given the okay to take berberine.
What cautions should be taken with berberine?
It is important to know about the cautions that are associated with berberine use. Some of these cautions include the following:
- Often interacts negatively with drug metabolism enzymes
- Could interact negatively with certain antiobiotics
- Higher doses of berberine could lead to upset stomach
Knowing about these cautions can help people to prevent serious health complications from arising as a result of berberine use.
What are some other things that should be noted with berberine use?
In addition to the above information regarding berberine, there is some other information about this nutraceutical that people should know about. Some of this information includes the following:
- Berberine is a nootropic
- It has been shown to improve joint health.
- Berberine has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging properties
- Helps with weight loss
- Improves gut health
- Offers numerous cardiovascular health benefits
- Offers insulin sensitivity improvements
- Should not be confused with berberol, piperine, or berberrubine
Ultimately, berberine confers a tremendous amount of bang-for-your-buck overall protection of your physical health, and is one supplement I suggest all of my clients consider adding to their regimen.