One of the most fascinating things about nutrition and health is the number of times that something old – something really old, even – is found to have new human health applications, or at least relatively new when it comes to medical and nutritional science in America. Case in point: berberine, a plant-based compound that has been used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medical practice dating back more than 1,000 years.
In that sense, berberine is something old, something new. It is a natural alkaloid, per draxe.com, found in many herbs, such as goldenseal, barberry, tree turmeric and phellodendron. Berberine is safe and relatively inexpensive. It is especially popular among health experts because of its usefulness as an antibacterial agent at a time when antibiotic resistance in the U.S. has rendered many such prescription drugs ineffective or at least questionable in the war against bacterial diseases and other conditions requiring medical attention.
Versatility Is Berberine’s Trademark
Although the rise of berberine use in America can be counted on one hand in units of decades, its popular use dating back centuries elsewhere in the world is testament to its ability to provide healthful benefits in so many areas. As an alkaloid, berberine belongs to a class of plant-based, organic compounds made up mostly of nitrogen atoms known to have powerful physiological effects on humans. Mounds of berberine research already conducted in the U.S. have already attested to its beneficial potency across a wide spectrum of health concerns.
Berberine’s Benefits Are Numerous
The list is long, but for now, here are 10 ways in which berberine has been shown to be effective in helping to treat various health issues. Before using any berberine supplement as part of your regimen, it would be wise to discuss this with your physician just to make sure you proceed correctly in using it:
- Diabetes. There has been some evidence that berberine can lower blood-sugar levels in diabetics. Research has also shown that it might be as effective as some prescription medications, such as metformin. in regulating blood sugar if taken two to three times a day for up to three months.
- Obesity. Per webmd.com, early research has shown that taking berberine for 12 weeks can reduce weight in obese people by about five pounds. At least it’s a start.
- High cholesterol. Has been shown to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol as well as total cholesterol. Per draxe.com, berberine has also exhibited an ability to reduce excessively high levels of fats and lipids in the blood by “promoting the excretion of cholesterol from the liver and inhibiting the intestinal absorption of cholesterol.”
- Cognition. An apparent booster of cognitive function, berberine has been shown in diabetic animal studies to enhance learning and memory. Also, studies have shown it to have therapeutic potential for neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
- Gut health. Berberine has been shown to “delay the small intestinal transit”; in other words, it is an anti-diarrheal, per selfhacked.com. It can also diminish leaky gut and protect the gut’s mucosal lining from possible damage resulting from heavy drinking.
- Depression. Studies done with mice – which, just so you know, have, like rats as well, been shown to be reliable test subjects regarding human health – have shown that berberine might helped thwart depression, per National Institutes of Health (NIH).
- Inflammation. Berberine has demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity in both the laboratory environment as well as in living organisms. A Chinese study using mice found that berberine can decrease inflammation caused by dust mite allergens, per NIH.
- Blood pressure. It has been shown to dilate the blood vessels by blocking human platelet alpha-adrenoceptors, per NIH, meaning it can be effective in treating hypertension (high blood pressure).
- Arthritis. Berberine has been shown in animal studies to alleviate the symptoms of both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Liver disease. Per NIH, berberine can help guard against the development of liver fibrosis caused by agents toxic to the liver. Tests have also shown it able to treat non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in a study done with 184 human subjects.