One of the most exciting natural products in current medical research is berberine, an alkaloid found in goldenseal root, barberry bark, Oregon grape root, and coptis (goldthread) root. I previously wrote a newsletter back in 2015 titled “Berberine: An Ancient Remedy for Modern Humans.” A new study showing berberine exerts significant anti-stress effects adds even more support for this opinion. If you are not familiar with berberine, let me tell you that I think it is poised to be the biggest thing in the natural product industry – EVER. Here is why:
Berberine has been shown to:
- Produce results in clinical trials in improving type 2 diabetes on par or better than conventional drugs including metformin.
- Improve blood lipid levels better than statins.
- Lower blood pressure in many subjects as well as any class of anti-hypertensive medication.
- Improve liver function and promote anti-obesity effects.
- Exert significant beneficial effects on digestive health and the “microbiome.”
- Produce very encouraging experimental data in a wide range of modern health issues including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and others.
Berberine should be a much more popular herbal remedy than curcumin. Not to discredit curcumin, but the existing clinical research with berberine is just so much stronger. It is not even close.
Berberine-containing plants have been revered for a number of clinical applications through the years. Perhaps most important have been there use in fighting infections, but they have also been used in diabetes. Since the early 1900s, purified berberine has also emerged as a popular natural medicine, especially in China.
What scientific research has focused on in the last decade is building an impressive amount of clinical research in the use of berberine in lowering blood lipids and blood pressure, and improving blood sugar control in type 2 diabetes. Berberine exhibits a number of beneficial mechanisms to produce these effects including an ability to activate the important enzyme called AMP-activated protein kinase or AMPk for short. AMPk is found inside every cell and serves as a “master regulating switch” in energy metabolism. Overall, the activity of this enzyme plays a major role in determining body fat composition and especially the amount of visceral “belly” fat. Here are some of the consequences of low AMPk activity:
- Accelerated aging
- Chronic inflammation
- High blood cholesterol and triglycerides
- Increased visceral “belly” fat
- Insulin resistance
- Mitochondrial insufficiency and dysfunction
- Poor blood sugar control
Obviously, as an effective activator of AMPk, berberine offers great promise in dealing with all of the consequences of low AMPk activity, as well as other health conditions. In particularl, berberine exerts
Berberine exerts many other mechanisms as well, especially in the digestive tract where it improves the composition of the microbiome. Berberine appears to be effective in treating the majority of common gastrointestinal infections with results comparable to standard antibiotics in most cases. Double-blind studies have shown berberine to be effective against diarrheas caused by a number of different types of parasites and infectious organisms including E. coli (traveler’s diarrhea), Shigella dysenteriae (shigellosis), Salmonella paratyphi (food poisoning), B. Klebsiella, Giardia lamblia (giardiasis), Entamoeba histolytica (amebiasis), and Vibrio cholerae (cholera). The advantage of berberine over conventional antibiotics is that it exerts selective antimicrobial action as it targets a wide range of disease causing organisms including Candida albicans, yet exerts no action against health promoting bacterial species such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacter species.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a stress-induced psychiatric disorder that can develop in response to a traumatic, life-threatening event. The characteristic signs of PTSD include anxiety, fear, and nightmares. The central biochemical feature of PTSD is the result of powerful memories of an extreme fear response. For preclinical research purposes, there is an animal model of PTSD. It involves a maze test and increased fear conditioning.
Researchers at a major university in Seoul, South Korea, had found that berberine may be useful for treating drug addiction, such as cocaine and morphine, and through this mechanism thought it might also be helpful in PTSD. To test their hypothesis, they utilized the animal models for the main underlying features of PTSD. Specifically, they measured several anxiety-related behavioral responses to examine the effects of berberine on symptoms of anxiety in rats after single prolonged stress exposure. What they found was that berberine administration significantly reduced anxiety behaviors as well as improved the ability of rats to navigate the maze and open field tests. Furthermore, berberine was shown to restore the main neurochemical abnormalities in the brains of rats in the PTSD model. This effect was quite novel and supports a central mechanism of action that berberine heals brains damaged by severe stress or fear.
The results from this study are simply incredible. And, further support the promise of berberine as an ancient remedy for modern humans.
The typical dosage for berberine is 500 mg two to three times daily before meals.
Berberine is extremely safe and well-tolerated. However, there are some drug interactions that are important to know about. Berberine may interfere with the absorption of tetracycline and related antibiotics. Berberine also produces significant inhibition of CYP3A enzymes in humans. Because most drugs are metabolized by these enzymes, berberine may decrease the clearance of many medications thereby potentiating their effect.
Berberine-containing plants may enhance the effects of oral hypoglycemic drugs used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes through its multitude of anti-diabetic effects. People on oral hypoglycemic drugs should monitor blood glucose levels if taking berberine and adjust their dosage of their medications as needed and under the care of a medical professional.
Lee B, Shim I, Lee H, Hahm DH. Berberine alleviates symptoms of anxiety by enhancing dopamine expression in rats with post-traumatic stress disorder. Korean J Physiol Pharmacol. 2018 Mar;22(2):183-192.