Men's Health, Women's Health | March 17, 2018 | Author: Naturopath
Berberine is a yellow-coloured alkaloid which is extracted from several different plants such as goldenseal, phellodendron, oregon grape, common barberry, Chinese goldthread and Indian barberry. Popular in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, berberine has a long history of traditional use for a variety of ailments and is even used as a dye.
Berberine has a wide array of health benefits—specifically for diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, heart health, gut health and infection.
Berberine has many actions in the body, including anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour and broad-spectrum antimicrobial against bacteria, fungus, viruses and parasites. It aids in tissue repair, maintaining a healthy heart rhythm and to control lipid and blood sugar regulation.
Berberine is one of the few compounds known to activate AMPK which is an enzyme inside your body's cells. It's sometimes called a "metabolic master switch" because it plays an important role in regulating metabolism.
Diabetes is a chronic health condition characterised by high levels of glucose in the blood. This can lead to serious complications if left untreated. As the rates of diabetes rise, novel ways in which to treat this condition are being researched, one of which includes berberine.
One of the most impressive studies conducted on berberine found it was able to control blood sugar and lipid metabolism.
Not only did it act as a potent hypoglycaemic agent, berberine helped to lower any diabetic complications such as diabetic cardiovascular disease, diabetic neuropathy and kidney damage.
Arteriosclerosis is the term used to describe the build-up of fats, cholesterol and other substances in and on the artery walls. This process contributes to the thickening and hardening of the artery walls which can restrict blood flow and contribute to cardiovascular disease.
Many studies have reported an anti-atherosclerosis effect of berberine and several mechanisms have been suggested to explain this property of berberine. One such mechanism is berberine’s ability to reduce levels of LDLs or “bad cholesterol” quite significantly. In addition to this, berberine stimulates the release of nitric oxide, a signalling molecule that relaxes the arteries, increases blood flow and lowers blood pressure.
Berberine is considered a heart tonic because of its ability to reduce damage and improve cardiac function. In clinical trials it has been found to reduce atrial rate making it beneficial in treating arrhythmias and improving recovery after a heart attack.
Obesity is on the increase worldwide, with limited treatment options apart from dietary and lifestyle changes. In a recent pilot study berberine has delivered pleasing results for weight loss. Over 12 weeks obese participants were administered 500mg of berberine three times a day. Researchers concluded that berberine has a moderate weight loss affect with no detrimental side-effects.
Patients with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) have excess bacteria in the small intestine. SIBO is frequently implicated in gastrointestinal disturbances such as chronic diarrhoea, bloating and nutritional deficiencies. Usual medical treatment involves strong antibiotics which can have unwanted side-effects. A 2014 study published in Global Advances in Health and Medicine found that herbal therapy, which included berberine, worked just as well as antibiotic treatment.
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Studies have evaluated the therapeutic potential of berberine against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and trauma-induced neurodegeneration. One study found that there are multiple positive effects of berberine, some of which enhance neuroprotective pathways and others that counteract nerve damage.
While more research needs to be done in this area, the preliminary studies provide a convincing basis for further scientific exploration.
In Australia, berberine is usually found in phellodendron amurense stem bark supplements. Better quality formulas will list how much berberine is in the formula. Berberine can also be found in other herbs such as goldenseal which naturally contain this alkaloid. Since berberine has a short half-life, you generally need to take this supplement three times a day to keep stable levels in your blood. Many studies use dosages of 900 to 1,500 milligrams per day.
Unfortunately, berberine isn’t an easy supplement to find and you may need to ask your naturopath for assistance.
Generally, berberine shows very low toxicity and side effects. In humans, some clinical studies that evaluated the safety of berberine, reported only mild gastrointestinal reactions, including diarrhoea and constipation.
In pregnancy and breastfeeding and in patients taking immunosuppressive drugs, berberine is strictly contraindicated. Caution should be taken in those with obstructed bile ducts, beta thalassaemia and hyperbilirubinemia.
Since berberine can lower blood sugars, diabetics who are controlling their blood sugar with insulin or other medications must use caution when using this supplement to avoid dangerously low blood sugar levels.