That unassuming bush you pass every morning on the way to your car could help you to lose weight and boost your health. How so? It’s berberine.

Berberine is a compound found in evergreen shrubs, and it has been linked to all kinds of health benefits, including heart health, mental health, and more.1

Berberine has been used as a medicine for centuries, but more modern ways to apply it are still being studied.2

The benefits of berberine are many. How does it work? Read on.

Berberine, the Evergreen

Berberine is an extract that can be found within many different plants, but it’s most commonly found in evergreen shrubs known as Berberis.3

Some of the plants include Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), Coptis or Goldenthread (Coptis chinensis), Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium), Barberry (Berberis vulgaris), and Tree turmeric (Berberis aristata).4 Berberine can be found in all of these varieties.

Berberine has been used in both ancient Chinese and Indian medicines for a wide range of symptoms.5,6 It’s known for its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties.7,8

Berberine has also been used in herbal medicine for centuries.9 Given this information, is it any wonder that this medicinal plant deserves a much closer look?

Berberine: A Multi-Use Metabolism Monster

After taking berberine, it’s transported into the bloodstream. It then travels into the body’s cells, binding different targets and changing their functions. It’s how most man-made pharmaceuticals work as well.

One of its main actions is to rev up the metabolism by activating a protein enzyme that’s found throughout the body, from the brain to the kidneys.10

Modern medicine is hopping on the berberine train, too. Berberine has been used in studies focusing on inflammation, infectious diseases, cardiovascular disorders, metabolic disorders, and allergic diseases.11

Berberine Benefits A-Plenty

Berberine has many health benefits, from helping with weight loss to mental health. A lot of scientific studies are ongoing, and further research is needed, but the findings on how this herb can boost our health are promising.

  • Diabetes and Weight Loss

Perhaps the most popular suggested benefit linked to berberine would be with symptoms similar to those of diabetes.12,13

Berberine may help lower glucose levels and regulate lipid metabolism.14,15 (Lipids are just substances found to be insoluble in water.) As a result, berberine has been suggested to be a potent oral hypoglycemic agent.16

It is also believed to be linked to anti-diabetic effects that could possibly lead to organ improvement, but longer trials would be needed to prove this suggestion.

Berberine may also help to lower total cholesterol levels and promote glycemic control.17,18

  • Gut Health

Because of its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, berberine has been suggested to help with gut health as well.19

It may help to increase the presence of beneficial bacterias within the gut, while slowing the breakdown of carbohydrates.20 It is also believed to improve blood lipids, including cholesterol and triglycerides (blood fat).21

In addition, berberine may help fight off parasitic intestinal infections, while also being anti-diarrheal.22

  • Heart Health

Berberine has been linked to cardiovascular studies, too.23,24

It is believed to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood lipids – cholesterol and triglycerides.25 It may also help to lower apolipoproteins, basically lipids that form even bigger lipids like fat and cholesterol, which are big risk factors when it comes to potential heart issues.26

  • Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a common allergic skin disease. If you’ve ever struggled with it, you know the symptoms: dryness, itchiness, and thickening and inflammation of the skin.27 Eosinophils are white blood cells containing granules. When they manage to wriggle into the dermal layer of skin, they can cause all kinds of uncomfortable reactions.28

It’s no surprise then, with its anti-inflammatory properties, that berberine was linked to a study on the skin disease. In combination with other medicinal herbs, berberine was suggested to relieve allergic inflammation, stopping the activation of the pesky eosinophils.29

  • Mental Health

Mental health conditions have also been studied in correlation with berberine.30,31

It has been suggested to affect neurotransmitter activity related to dementia.32 A berberine extract, taken from Goldenthread, was believed to help stop brain cell death as well.33 Berberine was a suggested way to help combat the onset of symptoms linked to dementia.34

The extract has also been linked to studies focusing on mental depression.35

In addition to its potential benefits on dementia and depression, berberine is also being closely studied by the scientific community for its possible effects on neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders.36

Alzheimer’s disease, cerebral ischemia, depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety are all conditions in which more trials are needed to study berberine’s possible beneficial effects.37

At this point, there’s little doubt that berberine offers awesome potential health benefits. To be fair, there is no one simple solution to weight loss, and you can’t always take one supplement to enjoy heart healthy benefits – it’s a combination of things all rolled into, well, one.

Berberine is one of these things. It may be an ancient remedy, but it’s a fairly new, hot topic in the scientific community, with good reason. Given its potential, researchers are understandably clamoring to learn about every single berberine health benefit.

This potent plant extract may hold the key to helping with everything from diabetes to heart disease and even dementia. The buzz about berberine certainly warrants a closer look.

At the very least, the next time you pass by that shrub in the driveway, you’ll pay more attention. It could be exactly what you need for what ails you!

Sources
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2 Gunnars K. Berberine – A Powerful Supplement With Many Benefits. Authority Nutrition. 2016.  Accessed December 20, 2016.

3 Gunnars K. Berberine – A Powerful Supplement With Many Benefits. Authority Nutrition. 2016.  Accessed December 20, 2016.

4 authors n. Berberine. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbinlmnihgov. 2000. Accessed December 20, 2016.

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6 Kulkarni SDhir A. Berberine: a plant alkaloid with therapeutic potential for central nervous system disorders. Phytotherapy Research. 2010;24(3):317-324. doi:10.1002/ptr.2968.

7 SA S, DM M, SS A, HS e, GA S. Evaluation of the effect of a plant alkaloid (berberine derived from Berberis aristata) on Trichomonas vaginalis in vitro. Europepmcorg. 2001. Accessed December 20, 2016.

8 Kulkarni SDhir A. Berberine: a plant alkaloid with therapeutic potential for central nervous system disorders. Phytotherapy Research. 2010;24(3):317-324. doi:10.1002/ptr.2968.

9 Hu Y, Liu Y, Xiao X. Investigation of the Interaction between Berberine and Human Serum Albumin. Biomacromolecules. 2009;10(3):517-521. doi:10.1021/bm801120k.

10  Gunnars K. Berberine – A Powerful Supplement With Many Benefits. Authority Nutrition. 2016.  Accessed December 20, 2016.

11 authors n. Berberine. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbinlmnihgov. 2000. Accessed December 20, 2016.

12 Lan J, Zhao Y, Dong F et al. Meta-analysis of the effect and safety of berberine in the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus, hyperlipemia and hypertension. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2015;161:69-81. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2014.09.049.

13 Zhang Y, Li X, Zou D et al. Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes and Dyslipidemia with the Natural Plant Alkaloid Berberine. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008;93(7):2559-2565.

14 Yin J, Xing H, Ye J. Efficacy of berberine in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metabolism. 2008;57(5):712-717. doi:10.1016/j.metabol.2008.01.013.

15 Yin J, Xing H, Ye J. Efficacy of berberine in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metabolism. 2008;57(5):712-717. doi:10.1016/j.metabol.2008.01.013.

16 Yin J, Xing H, Ye J. Efficacy of berberine in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metabolism. 2008;57(5):712-717. doi:10.1016/j.metabol.2008.01.013.

17 Yin J, Xing H, Ye J. Efficacy of berberine in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metabolism. 2008;57(5):712-717. doi:10.1016/j.metabol.2008.01.013.

18 Derosa G, Maffioli P, Cicero A. Berberine on metabolic and cardiovascular risk factors: an analysis from preclinical evidences to clinical trials. Expert Opinion on Biological Therapy. 2012;12(8):1113-1124. doi:10.1517/14712598.2012.704014.

19 Gunnars K. Berberine – A Powerful Supplement With Many Benefits. Authority Nutrition. 2016.  Accessed December 20, 2016.

20 Gunnars K. Berberine – A Powerful Supplement With Many Benefits. Authority Nutrition. 2016.  Accessed December 20, 2016.

21 Gunnars K. Berberine – A Powerful Supplement With Many Benefits. Authority Nutrition. 2016.  Accessed December 20, 2016.

22 authors n. Berberine. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbinlmnihgov. 2000. Accessed December 20, 2016.

23 Gunnars K. Berberine – A Powerful Supplement With Many Benefits. Authority Nutrition. 2016.  Accessed December 20, 2016.

24 Singh IMahajan S. Berberine and its derivatives: a patent review (2009 – 2012). Expert Opinion on Therapeutic Patents. 2012;23(2):215-231. doi:10.1517/13543776.2013.746314.

25 Gunnars K. Berberine – A Powerful Supplement With Many Benefits. Authority Nutrition. 2016.  Accessed December 20, 2016.

26 Gunnars K. Berberine – A Powerful Supplement With Many Benefits. Authority Nutrition. 2016.  Accessed December 20, 2016.

27 Tsang M, Jiao D, Chan B et al. Anti-Inflammatory Activities of Pentaherbs Formula, Berberine, Gallic Acid and Chlorogenic Acid in Atopic Dermatitis-Like Skin Inflammation. Molecules. 2016;21(4):519. doi:10.3390/molecules21040519.

28 Tsang M, Jiao D, Chan B et al. Anti-Inflammatory Activities of Pentaherbs Formula, Berberine, Gallic Acid and Chlorogenic Acid in Atopic Dermatitis-Like Skin Inflammation. Molecules. 2016;21(4):519. doi:10.3390/molecules21040519.

29 Tsang M, Jiao D, Chan B et al. Anti-Inflammatory Activities of Pentaherbs Formula, Berberine, Gallic Acid and Chlorogenic Acid in Atopic Dermatitis-Like Skin Inflammation. Molecules. 2016;21(4):519. doi:10.3390/molecules21040519.

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31 Huang M e. The Role of Berberine in the Multi-Target Treatment of Senile Dementia. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbinlmnihgov. 2016. Accessed December 21, 2016.

32 Huang M e. The Role of Berberine in the Multi-Target Treatment of Senile Dementia. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbinlmnihgov. 2016. Accessed December 21, 2016.

33 Huang M e. The Role of Berberine in the Multi-Target Treatment of Senile Dementia. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbinlmnihgov. 2016. Accessed December 21, 2016.

34 Huang M e. The Role of Berberine in the Multi-Target Treatment of Senile Dementia. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbinlmnihgov. 2016. Accessed December 21, 2016.

35 Singh IMahajan S. Berberine and its derivatives: a patent review (2009 – 2012). Expert Opinion on Therapeutic Patents. 2012;23(2):215-231. doi:10.1517/13543776.2013.746314.

36 authors n. Berberine. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbinlmnihgov. 2000. Accessed December 20, 2016.

37 authors n. Berberine. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbinlmnihgov. 2000. Accessed December 20, 2016.

38 Singh IMahajan S. Berberine and its derivatives: a patent review (2009 – 2012). Expert Opinion on Therapeutic Patents. 2012;23(2):215-231. doi:10.1517/13543776.2013.746314.

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About the Author

Dr. Amy Lee

Dr. Amy Lee has board certifications in internal medicine, physician nutrition and obesity medicine specialty. She practices internal medicine with a heavy emphasis on nutrition, wellness and weight management. Her Clinical nutrition fellowship training at UCLA has allowed her to incorporate realistic lifestyle modification in all her medicine patients.