By: Marlene Affeld ~
Berberine, a natural, herbal, botanical dietary supplement commonly available in tablet or capsule form can be a great way to “jump-start” a diet. Berberine helps improve insulin sensitivity, lowers cholesterol, improves glucose metabolism, provides cardiac support, and assists in weight management.
Research studies recently conducted to study berberine effect on weight loss showed promising results. Participants lost on average more than doctors expected. However, the biggest surprise was results that showed participants had an average 12 percent decline in total cholesterol and as much as a 23 percent drop in triglyceride levels. To confirm results, the study was replicated in a lab animal study, which yielded similar test results.
What Is Berberine?
Berberine, a quaternary ammonium crystalline salt from the protoberberine group of isoquinolline alkaloids, is an extract isolated from the stem bark, roots, and rhizomes of several dissimilar medicinal plants such as California poppy, Oregon grape, European barberry, goldthread, goldenseal, philodendron, Chinese Goldthread, and tree turmeric.
Berberine and Diabetes
During the past decade, exciting new research studies have discovered the many other properties of berberine. While these studies indicate that berberine has a wide range of applications including treating heart disease, weight loss, eye infections, digestive problems and immune disorders, one of its most intriguing uses is as a substitute for insulin.
Berberine reduces glucose production in the liver. Animal and human research studies demonstrate 1500mg of berberine, taken over three time-spaced doses of 500mg each, proved to be equally effective as taking 4mg of glibenclamide or 1500 of metformin, two pharmaceuticals widely prescribed for treating Type II diabetes. The studies measured how effectively the drugs reduced biomarkers of Type II diabetes.
A diverse array of research studies offer strong evidence supporting the argument, that for diabetic patients with low insulin levels, supplements of berberine may be the best medication, natural or otherwise.
This opinion was strengthened by the findings of a study of 36 patients, all of who were recently diagnosed with Type II diabetes. Half of the study group took 500 mg. of metformin (Glucophage) while the other half of the group took 500-mg. berberine (berberine hydrochloride), three times a day. Participant’s blood sugar levels were monitored over a three-month period. Both treatments worked equally well with fasting blood sugars down 30 percent and sugar levels after eating (known as post prandial levels) decreased by as much as 45 percent.
Scientists believe berberine works by activating a primal metabolic regulating enzyme in the body, Adenosine Monophosphate-Activated Protein Kinase, commonly known as AMPK. When ATP (energy) production in our cells is reduced, AMPK kicks in to ensure survival during times of crisis. This same enzyme is triggered by severe calorie reduction, which studies have shown to have life-extending benefits in animals.
AMPK stimulates the body’s cells to absorb more blood sugar, thus improving insulin sensitivity. At the same time, AMPK slows the liver’s production of extra blood sugar, a key issue for Type II diabetics. Berberine supports the liver by slowing the release of fatty acids into the bloodstream (triglycerides) and improves natural fat burning in the mitochondria, turning fuel into energy.
Berberine Fights Infections
Berberine-containing plant extracts have been used for more than 3,000 years in traditional herbal medicine as a natural defense against health problems like parasites, worms and yeast infections as well as viral and bacterial infections.
Berberine has also proven effective against a variety of organisms including fungi, helminthes, protozoans, and chlamydia. In India and China, berberine is useful as an herbal remedy for problems related to the intestines and lungs. Throughout Asia it is also applied topically to heal skin irritations and infections.
WebMD.com reports, “Some people apply berberine directly to the skin to treat burns and to the eye to treat trachoma, a bacterial infection that frequently causes blindness.” In “third-word” countries, trachoma is a major infectious eye disease that leads to severe visual impairment and vision loss. A large number of eye drop brands contain berberine in their formulations.
Berberine Acts as a Powerful Antibacterial Agent Against Multi-Drug Resistant E. coli
When scientists selected ten multi-drug resistant isolates for a recent research study they drew samples from yaks with hemorrhagic diarrhea. In both categories of entero-virulent (Escherichia coli E.) isolates, berberine showed positive antibacterial effects against drug resistant E. Coli. This latest study enforced berberine’s effectiveness as shown in other studies against multi-drug resistant isolates of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA.)
A scourge worldwide in prisons, hospitals and nursing homes, MRSA, also known as oxacillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is responsible for several difficult-to-treat infections in persons with open wounds or invasive devices and where persons with weakened immune systems live in close proximity to each other.
Berberine Possesses Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Clinical tests show that berberine reduces cigarette smoke induced inflammation in the lungs and improves smoke induced acute lung injury via its anti-inflammatory properties. When mice were exposed to amounts of cigarette smoke sufficient to cause acute lung injury and were then given berberine (50 mg/kg. intragastrically), researcher found that cigarette smoke caused infiltration of inflammatory cells into alveolar spaces together with interstitial edema. When mice were given pretreatment with berberine, lung inflammation was significantly less. In the study, the total number of cells, neutrophils and macrophages in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid decreased by as much as 53 percent. There was also a noted decrease in myeloperoxidase activity, a marker of a neutrophil accumulation.
The result from the mouse study validated a previous study that showed berberine reduces smoke-induced acute lung injury in humans. In this study, berberine was added to cigarette filters. Resulting tests showed that the amount of hydrogen cyanide in the cigarette smoke was decreased and amount of oral peroxidase, a major antioxidant in the oral cavity, increased in amounts dependent on dosage. The greater the amount of berberine in the filter, the greater amount of protection it provides.
Berberine and Heart Health
Research studies also show Berberine offers cardiovascular benefits that include lowering blood press. The properties of berberine make the plant alkaloid a useful treatment for arrhythmia and heart failure.
Berberine Cautions and Concerns
Berberine may decrease triglycerides, as well as total and LDL cholesterol and should be used with caution under a doctor’s supervision in patients taking supplements, herbs or prescription medications with cholesterol-lowering effects.
Wellness.com advises caution when taking berberine supplements, noting, “Berberine bisulfate may stimulate platelet formation, and berberine may have an anti-heparin action. Thus, berberine may interact with certain drugs that increase the risk of bleeding, and reduce their effectiveness. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants (“blood thinners”) such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, anti-platelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®). However, berberine may be hepato-protective (liver protective) when administered before toxic doses of acetaminophen.”
Because berberine may lower blood sugar levels, caution is warranted when taking medications that may also lower blood sugar. Their healthcare provider should monitor patients taking drugs for diabetes by mouth or insulin closely as medication adjustments may become necessary.
Women who plan to become pregnant, or are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take berberine due to lack of available medical evidence. Some studies suggest that berberine may have anti-fertility and uterine stimulating properties and may be an abortifacient (abortion inducing).
By; Marlene Affeld