Berberine, an alkaloid component found in several botanicals, is drawing the interest of scientists and medical researchers because of its historical use as a healing compound and the number of beneficial elements found by chemical analysis. In the search for natural compounds that can be used as a treatment for common health problems, scientific studies are showing that berberine has significant potential for providing relief of symptoms, without the harsh side effects of commercially manufactured pharmaceutical remedies. As the research, continues, the public may find the more physicians recognize botanical compounds like berberine to treat these illnesses.
Berberine is quaternary alkaloid compounds found in several different kinds of plants, such as goldenseal, berberis, barberry, Oregon grape, Amur cork trees, and Chinese golden thread. It has been found to contain many elements that are beneficial to health and could be useful for managing common disease conditions. Components include flavonoids, polyphenols and curcumin . Because these components are known to have ameliorating effects on inflammation and lipids in the body, berberine has been put under increasing scientific scrutiny to determine if it can be safely used to manage certain diseases, and as a health-promoting adjunct for preventive measures to resist these diseases.
How Berberine Is Used
Traditional Chinese medicine has used berberine for over 3000 years, attesting to its ability to improve a variety of medical problems. This important compound can be extracted from the roots, rhizomes, stems, and bark of a variety of different types of plants found around the world . It is commonly dried and put into capsule form as a supplement.
A study from Shanghai, China found that berberine extract, taken over a period of time, can have a beneficial effect on heart rhythm, heart failure, and blood pressure, reinforcing its effectiveness as a remedy in Traditional Chinese medicine . Berberine appears to work through different mechanisms to improve heart function. The number of studies and strength of evidence for berberine’s effectiveness on heart rhythm regulation is causing health experts to advise its use for general health.
Blood Sugar Management in Diabetes
With the increase in individuals being diagnosed with type-2 diabetes, worldwide, the investigation into natural remedies and supplements to bring down blood glucose levels has increased exponentially. Berberine is one of the compounds known to have beneficial effects on blood sugar, and research studies have been able to prove its value for this purpose. A systematic analysis of these studies from Hubei, China found substantial evidence that berberine was effective in lowering blood sugar levels in test subjects with type-2 diabetes, often with comparable results to common diabetic medications . It is likely that berberine will be a recommended adjunct therapy in the future for individuals being treated for type-2 diabetes.
Lowering High Cholesterol
Berberine also appears to have value as a natural compound for reducing LDL, the “bad” cholesterol that is involved in heart disease. A study from the University of Queensland in Australia found that berberine was able to lower LDL levels in test animals by half . The results suggest that berberine could be of importance in helping to control high cholesterols levels that are often associated with cardiovascular disease. It could provide an alternative method of lowering cholesterol for individuals who are unable to tolerate statin medications.
Berberine also contains anti-inflammatory properties that make it useful for treating inflammatory conditions of the skin and joints. It has long been used as a remedy for arthritis conditions and for treating joint discomfort associated with flu and viral infections.
Inhibiting Staph Infections
Berberine’s anti-bacterial effects have also been shown to be an effective method for fighting infections of the skin and mucous membranes, particularly regarding MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infection and other staph infections, enhancing the effect of standard antibiotic treatments .
Some evidence indicates that berberine can also be used to relieve symptoms of depression by acting on certain neurotransmitter chemicals with the brain. The supplement may also have some use in reducing anxiety reactions. Further study is needed to determine if treatment with berberine supplement can be effective over the long term for problems of depression.
With obesity becoming a worldwide problem, natural extracts that can help to reduce weight have come under intense interest in the scientific community. Some evidence suggests that berberine can help to aid in weight loss, reducing absorption of fat molecules and decreasing waist size.
Traditional Chinese medicine has also used berberine for the treatment of eye conditions. Science again provides some support for this use, with a study from a university in Hunan, China, which found that berberine compounds can be helpful in relieving Behcet’s disease, a common eye condition .
There is also evidence that berberine can be helpful in managing menstrual symptoms, as well as for use in treating polycystic ovary syndrome. Women who have polycystic ovary syndrome, which causes increased levels of androgen and problems with insulin resistance, appear to have improved insulin resistance after a 12-week course of berberine treatment in comparison to a placebo . Also, it has also been found to have a beneficial effect on menstrual patterns and ovulation in these women.
It appears that berberine can have value as an adjunct therapy in the treatment of some types of cancer. One study from the University of Coimbra in Portugal found the ingestion of berberine caused alteration of the mitochondrial cell structure of abnormal cells and death of cancer cells, without toxic effects .
The use of supplements to enhance health and manage medical conditions has become a widespread practice in many countries around the world. As the scientific evidence for berberine’s effectiveness grows, health experts are beginning to recommend its use as an adjunct treatment to improve health. For individuals who look to natural compounds to improve health, or seek alternative therapies to boost the effects of conventional medicine, berberine can offer proven results for a variety of medical conditions.