Berberine is an extract used in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine.
It is supplemented primarily for its anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic effects, but can also improve intestinal health and lower cholesterol levels.
Type 2 diabetes is an international health problem. All existing oral hypoglycemic (blood sugar-lowering) medications have failure after long-term use. Thus, new oral medications are needed for long-term continued control of blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Berberine is the main active component of the ancient Chinese herb Coptis chinensis French used to treat diabetes for thousands of years as an over-the-counter drug also used to treat gastrointestinal infections in China as an anti-microbial, anti-protazoal, and anti-diarrheal.
In a study of adult Chinese volunteers with type 2 diabetes, berberine was shown to reduce blood glucose and lipid levels in newly-diagnosed diabetic patients. Compared with metformin, the leading oral hypoglycemic medication used today, berberine exhibited identical effect in the regulation of glucose metabolism. In the regulation of lipid metabolism, berberine performed better than metformin.
Berberine is able to reduce glucose production in the liver. Human and animal research has shown that a 1500mg dose of berberine (3x500mg) is equally as effective as taking 1500mg of metformin or 4mg glibenclamide (Glybride) – another oral pharmaceutical used to treat type 2 diabetes. (Among the patients that I see, 1000mg metformin daily is a common dose.)
Berberine’s main mechanism is partly responsible for its anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory effects. Berberine appears to be able to active the AMP-K enzyme and inhibits another enzyme called PTP1B.
Berberine lowers blood sugar only in those with elevated blood sugar levels – so if taken alone there is little danger of blood sugar levels coming down to a dangerously low level, which is a potential concern with other diabetic medications such as insulin.
In most persons, berberine appears to be relatively safe to use (see note below for potentially serious interaction).
Adenosine Monophosphate Kinase (AMP-K)
AMP-K is a nutrient sensor protein that is central to the actions of other anti-diabetic medications, such as metformin, and for the actions of berberine. AMP-K activation is also a mechanism by which triglycerides can be reduced – providing beneficial effects on lipid parameters in diabetics.
As always, TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE TAKING ANY NEW SUPPLEMENTS…
Berberine should be taken in divided doses to reduce the possibility of intestinal cramping or diarrhea. Berberine should be taken with a meal or shortly after to take advantage of the blood sugar and lipid elevation associated with eating.
If you take macrolide antibiotics such as azithromycin or clarithromycin, cardiotoxicity is a serious potential concern.