You’ve probably heard the age-old hypothetical about how if you were marooned on a remote island and could take only one thing with you, what would it be? In a similar vein, if you wanted to stock only one nutritional supplement in your cupboard, which one would you choose? There are many worthy options out there, but it would be difficult to choose a supplement better than berberine, which can provide health benefits across a wide spectrum.
In many ways, berberine has shown itself as potent and as effective as some prescription drugs. Among the medical conditions for which it has gained a positive reputation are metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, elevated cholesterol and triglycerides, heart disease, cancer, and inflammation, per stayhealthyways.com. It has also been linked to weight loss, warding off infections, helping with female fertility, and acting as an antioxidant.
What Is Berberine?
Berberine is a bioactive compound and alkaloid sourced from the roots, rhizomes, stems, and bark of a variety of different plants, mostly herbs, to include those that belong to the Berberis family of plants, such as barberry. Other plants used for extracting berberine include Oregon grape and tree turmeric, per stayhealthyways.com. Berberine is yellowish in color, and has even been used as a dye, per healthline.com.
Even though berberine has gained household-name status in the western world only in recent years, it has been used for hundreds (if no thousands) of years as a health-treatment staple in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.
How Does Berberine Work?
There has been no shortage of research and tests done on berberine, and in general it has demonstrated potent effects on a variety of different biological systems, per healthline.com, working to affect our bodies at a molecular level.
Once you ingest berberine, it gets carried through your bloodstream to the body’s cells. There, it binds to assorted molecular targets, changing their function in much the same way that pharmaceutical drugs function. Once inside the cells, berberine activates the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), an enzyme found in various organs (to include the brain, muscle, kidney, heart, and liver) and which plays a significant role in regulating your metabolism.
Eight Berberine Health Benefits Explained
Earlier, we touched on some of the ways in which berberine once ingested can promote your health. In no particular order, following are more explanations of how berberine is involved in inducing those health benefits. Note: if you are considering adding berberine to your daily supplementation, be sure to discuss its usage with your physician or other health care professional first:
- Weight loss. Researchers have found that the improved function of fat-regulating hormones such as insulin and leptin – as generated by berberine’s ingestion – can help produce weight loss, per healthline.com. A three-month study with obese test subjects found that giving them 500 milligrams of berberine three times daily brought about an average weight loss of five pounds and a 3.6 percent reduction in body fat.
- Manage blood sugar. The effectiveness of berberine’s ability to reduce blood glucose levels has been compared favorably to metformin, a popular anti-diabetic medication, and as a bonus it does so without producing the drug’s intestinal side effects. Berberine accomplishes this in several ways simultaneously, to include boosting insulin sensitivity, tamping down the liver’s production of glucose, and promoting the cells’ use of sugars, per naturalfoodseries.com.
- Promote liver health. Not only has berberine been shown to reset elevated liver enzymes, per naturalfoodseries.com, it can help diminish fat accumulations around the liver, thus reducing the risk of difficulties such as cirrhosis.
- Bolster female fertility. This should be good news to women suffering from conditions that inhibit their fertility, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). In tandem with prescription fertility drugs, berberine can help regulate ovulation and therefore bolster the chances of a successful pregnancy, per naturalfoodseries.com.
- Alleviate gastrointestinal (GI) issues. This has been one of berberine’s primary uses since its early days in treatment use. It is often prescribed for diarrhea, to include that caused by food poisoning. It can also be helpful in treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and gut flora, per stayhealthyways.com.
- Pacify arthritis symptoms. Credit this to berberine’s anti-inflammatory properties, whereby it can possibly curb the pain and inflammation produced by immune system activity, thus promoting pain-free movement, per naturalfoodseries.com. Turmeric can also be used in combination with berberine in this regard.
- Anti-aging. Want to feel and function younger? Berberine might be able to help. Premature aging has been linked to inflammation and oxidation, and berberine has been shown capable of inhibiting oxidative stress and inflammation in an assortment of tissues, such as those in the liver, kidneys, pancreas, and body fat (adipose tissue), per stayhealthyways.com.
- Heart disease. Berberine has been shown effective in reducing elevated levels of blood pressure as well as bad (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides – all of which are key factors in terms of the risk for heart disease. Per healthline.com, berberine has been shown to lower apolipoprotein B, a risk factor linked to heart disease, by 13-15 percent. Along those same lines, it can thwart an enzyme known as PCSK9, in the process boosting the removal of LDL from the bloodstream. Berberine also can assist in controlling hypertension – or even prevent its development – when consumed concurrent with blood pressure medication, per naturalfoodseries.com.