Berberine: A multipurpose therapeutic remedy

Berberine: A multipurpose therapeutic remedy

Berberine does not lead the rankings of the best known therapeutic remedies, and so we are going to deceive ourselves, but it so happens that in that list, in terms of effectiveness, “Not everything is as it seems”.

A good example is berberine, a chemical compound attributed to strong biological activity inside the body. With presence in the animal kingdom, once it is extracted and purified, it is presented to us as “ten” phytotherapic.

And that’s why Western medicine focused on it several decades ago.

We tell you what it can do for your health!

Plant berberia

What is Berberine?

Its chemical identification reveals that we are dealing with an isoquinoline alkaloid.

In certain plant types they make this a part of their strategies of defence against threatening pests.

You may not know that, under the alkaloid denomination, the list of organic compounds of plant origin is the most extensive. The common denominator of all of them is possession of a nitrogen base in its molecule. Such nitrogen atoms are those that are attributed to their physiological and therapeutic actions, very interesting from a medical point of view.

For some time now, studies derived from research have intensified, regarding the possibilities of this plant as an instrument of therapeutic action. It is not a trivial question, since there are more than 2,500 articles related to a topic that is considered to be of the utmost topicality.

But what exactly is this voluminous scientific literature referring to? It is initially limited to its interesting antidiarrheal and antiparasitic properties. Many people have their eyes on berberine as a great hope for its potential benefits against type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, Cancer, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia.

However, the core of research is still on the Asian continent, where it has been given praise and has been used for more than 3.000 years.

Anecdotally, we are faced with a substance recognized for its ability for pigmenting, giving a yellow colour to different textiles.

¿What are the types of plants that synthesize it?

The plant in charge is a metabolic component of a restricted ramillete of plant families and genres. In this universe of samples, the genus Berberís stands out on its own merits, covering around 500 species, nothing more and nothing less.

Within it, the most representative of the species is Berberis vulgaris, a shrub popularly known as barberry and which can reach three meters.

We are talking about a shrub whose natural habitat is in the Himalayas, between India and Nepal, in which a yellow hue prevails, which provides its bark and flowers.

Berberine in supplements

However, there are other species whose composition is generous in berberine and they are:

  • Berberis aristata (Indian agracejo or turmeric tree)
  • Berberis aquifolium (Oregon grape or mahonia)
  • Hydrastis canadensis (Golden thread, Gold seal or Canadian turmeric)
  • Coptis chinensis
  • Rhizome
  • Japonica
  • Phellodendron amurense
  • Phellodendron chinense

Among them, the most commonly used as a source of this raw material to make supplements is Berberis aristata.

Experts agree that it would be the Golden seal or Canadian turmeric, Hydrastis canadensis which would provide the highest purity premium raw material.

However, there is no shortage of those who point to such a conclusion being conditioned by readings concerning the complexities of the collection of this species. The environment of the Golden seal is configured by very abrupt and difficult-to-reach regions, which give it almost mythical value.

Let’s delve a little deeper into its history

For centuries, ancestral healing techniques have counted on extracts and infusions of these plant species as one of their main assets, primarily in terms of their antimicrobial and vasoconstrictive effects.

A good example of this is traditional chinese medicine, Japanese kampo and Ayurvedic medicine, which combine extensive experience using this phytotherapic to treat infectious diarrhoea among others, those that stand out are dysentery, kidney and urinary tract conditions.

The first news of its arrival in Europe is from the second half of the 18th century. As evidence of its popularity in the Western world, we can say that today it is one of the most commercially available medicinal plants in the United States of all those intended to be used as a raw material for supplements.

Hystory of berberine

What are its main functions for the body?

Although throughout this post we will delve into the breadth of the pharmacological effects attributed to this plant, some with greater solvency and others with less, we can summarize in advance the following:

  • The antimicrobial activity associated with this plant is specific against bacteria but also against fungi. As for its action, it consists in inhibiting the mechanisms developed by bacteria when it comes to looking at their cells and penetrating their cytoplasm. This effect seems to have a particular impact on the mucous membranes of the throat, intestine and urinary tract.
  • Blood sugar-reducing agent.
  • Anti-inflammatory.
  • Anti-tumours. As an alkaloid of plant origin, it has a prolific history in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda medicine. In terms of anticancer activity, it is based on inhibition of tumour cell growth and proliferation.

What is Berberine’s mechanism of action?

To understand the extent to which berberine can benefit the body, it is advisable to develop what is its mechanism of action.

In this sense, once ingested, it is absorbed into the intestinal wall. Already in the circulatory current it is transported and linked to plasma proteins to its target organs. Such organs are those in which the union to their targets will occur inside the cells.

So what is the biochemical mechanism that allows it to deploy its function inside cells?

Again, there seems to be consensus that its role is to modulate the action of an intracellular enzyme, AMPK (AMP-activated protein kinase), an almost absolute protagonist in energy production processes. These processes include glycolysis, lipid oxidation and liver gluconeogenesis.

We could say that its behaviour resembles that of a detector that exerts control of the amount of energy produced and consumed by the organism. Therefore, there is no one who talks about it as a “main metabolism switch”. Its presence has been evident in the cells of almost every organ in the body.

Enzyme ampk

Consequently, AMPK plays a key role in cellular energy balance, because its activation gives the following result:

  • Stimulation of fatty acid oxidation in the liver and muscles as well as the formation of ketones.
  • Inhibiting the synthesis of both cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • Glucose absorption by muscle fibres.
  • Modulation of insulin release by Beta cells of Langerhans islets of the pancreas, being the only ones capable of performing this function.

For what pathologies is it indicated?

Although applications that generate higher expectations among researchers within medical treatments are linked to cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome, the truth is that the uses derived from this extraordinary substance go much further:

Berberine for Diabetes Mellitus type II

Considered a serious public health problem, researchers are constantly searching for new methods and substances to help control them.

Associated with high morbidity and mortality, clinical studies are fortunately abundant, indicating the promising expectations of Berberine in terms of its ability to control diabetes in people with type II diabetes.

Its effects on diabetes are closely linked to increased sensitivity of specific insulin receptors. This results in improved regulation of various biochemical processes and, therefore, overall functioning of the body.

Berberine and its effects on triglycerides

For cholesterol and triglyceride metabolism

The one we are going to address is one of the fields in which the contributions of berberine may be more significant. In fact, there are several studies that to date prove their capacity to reduce blood lipid levels.

In particular, from the results of these studies it seems to be proven that we are faced with a substance of a certain polyvalence to correct the disorders related to the fatty components of the biochemistry of the body.

It is normal that fatty acids, present in sufficient amounts in the body, can be raised as a result of excessive consumption of fats and sugars.

If they are not given attention, they can trigger multiple diseases and, above all, heart diseases.

For statin-intolerant people

Statins are the most commonly prescribed drugs for treating hypercholesterolemia. What happens is that, in parallel, its therapeutic efficacy carries a certain degree of intolerance. One of the most common is generalized muscle pain.

In return and, for those who need to follow a long-term treatment regimen, Berberine is presented as an effective alternative for cholesterol control in these patients. And much less side-effects!

Among the suggested active substances for the control of this blood parameter, in addition to statins, we can point out ezetimibe. Well, some authoritative voices point to a combination of berberine, policosanol and fermented red rice yeast to replace certain drugs that give problems.

For hypertension

The potential of berberine to decrease high blood pressure derives from its ability to inducing a state of vasorelaxation, which it does through two pathways: acting on the vascular endothelium (mucosa or innermost layer of blood vessels) and on the smooth musculature of the arteries.

And it obtains it this way:

  • As for its action on the vascular mucosa, low concentrations of berberine seem enough to dilate the aorta, the artery with the thickest walls.
  • In relation to its effect on the vascular endothelium, in order for the aforementioned relaxation of the smooth musculature to suffer effects, higher concentrations, independent of the first pathway, must occur.

Berberina combat obesity

To lose weight

Demonstration studies show that berberine has a certain ability to reduce both body mass index and waist circumference.

Such a circumstance, in line with the degree of influence in the reduction of lipid levels, insulin resistance and blood pressure, makes berberine a substance most acclaimed for the prevention and treatment of metabolic syndrome.

It is estimated that ingesting berberine, three times a day, contributes to losing about three kilos of weight in ten weeks.

In addition, it has been certified that, while promoting weight loss, berberine regulates hormones such as insulin and leptin, in some ways responsible for the control and distribution of fats consumed in the diet.

For inflammation

The inflammatory phenomenon is one of the main natural mechanisms deployed by the body to external aggressor factors, dependent on the mediation of certain specialised substances, such as prostaglandin E2.

Thus, we are faced with a mediator of the inflammatory response of indispensable contest. Well, berberine has been revealed as a neutraliser of the inflammatory effect of this compound, by virtue of the result of various studies.

Berberine as an antioxidant

A number of researchers believe that this quality, in synergy with anti-inflammatory power, would represent the key to explaining the extensive array of therapeutic properties that berberine manifests. It would also explain the dispersion of pathologies on which it has a recognised preventive or curative role.

Its antioxidant power is the one that guarantees a barrier against cellular deterioration, reinforcing the protective shield that they have in their membrane. In short, a well-known mechanism that prevents formation in these free radical membranes, which oxidize DNA, proteins and lipids, invalidating them for the development of their function and causing genetic mutations.

Natural berberis

For depression

The therapeutic possibilities of berberine reach the medical branch of neuropsychiatry, and that is, from the result of numerous studies, an antidepressant component is extracted.

While some lines of work point to being immersed as mediator, in the arginine-nitric oxide-cyclic guanosine monophosphate (GMPc) system, others point to increased production of adrenaline and dopamine with action in the hippocampus and in the front of the brain cortex.

For infections

The chloride salts and berberine sulphate are those that possess a strong bacteriostatic action against three of the most frequent bacterial species, and are among those recognized as pathogenic: Staphylococcus epidermis, Neisseria meningitidis and Escherichia coli.

However, it is clear from the information collected by Pharmacopoeia Herbal from China that the collection of bacteria under its spectrum of action is numerous. In particular, they are those belonging to the genera Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Salmonella, Klebsiella, Clostridium, Pseudomonas, Proteus, Shigella and Vibrio, among others.

Finally, indicate that other microorganisms such as viruses, single-celled parasites (such as Entamoeba) and yeasts (such as Candida albicans) are also attacked by this substance.

For diarrhoea

The positive effects of berberine on treatment of most infections that usually occur with diarrhoea are known from ancient times. Among them are those caused by Vibrio cholerae, Escherichia coli, Salmonella or Shigella.

Among all, the main danger lies in the loss of water and electrolytes that tend to cause toxins that release these bacteria into the intestinal lumen. Here, the role of berberine is to prevent its adherence to the intestinal epithelium, with antibiotic-comparable results. This is certainly a handicap for the survival of microorganisms.

So a beneficial effect is reinforced once it is known that its action leaves bacteria unscathed called saprophytes. Among them stand out: Lactobacillus, Firmicutes and Bifidobacterium, usual healthy colonisers of the intestine performing a vital role and to whose population it contributes to regulate.

To fight protozoa or single-celled parasites

The golden thread extract and the berberine salts display strong antiprotozoal activity. Within its spectrum, it is worth mentioning highly pathogenic species such as Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia lamblia and Trichomonas vaginalis. Anthelmintic action is also recognised.

Apart from oral and vaginal treatments, topical use for the treatment of cutaneous leishmaniasis, a tropical parasitic infection transmitted by a species of mosquito, is also of great interest.

We cannot finish the analysis of its antiprotozoal activity without talking about the possibilities of berberine against paludism or malaria. It has been shown that, in association with pyrimethamine, it gives better results than the conjunction of this substance with tetracycline.

Barberina staphylococcus anti infection

To treat gastroduodenal ulcer

The next area in which this phytotherapic plays a negligible role is the treatment of ulcers caused by Helicobacter pylori.

Many studies show their ability to move colonies of this microorganism from the intestinal tract. However, studies that confirm their power to eradicate them must be deepened.

To treat other pathologies (probably effective)

Other pathologies in which it also seems to be possible to be effective are:

  • Mouth ulcers: Topical gels can be useful to alleviate pain and liquid production of ulcers, and also minimise them.
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): Based on the fact that women with this syndrome often exhibit insulin resistance, helping to reduce blood glucose and lipid levels could make you fit for action on insulin levels, preventing hormonal imbalances.

To top it off, we want to refer to the researchers’ efforts to test the possible effectiveness of berberine against cancer, inducing what is known as apoptosis or cell death of tumour cells.

This function is carried out by means of inhibition of DNA repair mechanisms. It also shows its ability to collapse mitosis (reproduction) of cancer cells. The result? The cushioning of the invasive growth of the tumour and its metastases, while increasing the sensitivity of malignant cells to specific drugs.

How to take it

As for how berberine is taken so that it is one hundred percent efficient, a different dosage can be distinguished depending on age:

In the case of children

People under the age of twelve should receive a dose of berberine that depends on various factors but we are sorry to tell you that, so far, we do not have the precise information to determine it.

Berberine for adults non children

In the case of adults

Older people may receive a dose of berberine both orally and topically, consisting of:

Oral Dose

  • To treat diabetes: between 1-1.5 grams daily for 2-4 months.
  • To treat high cholesterol: between 0.6-1.5 grams daily during the period the specialist determines based on how severe the metabolic abnormality is. Similarly, and for this purpose, it has been found that 500 mg of berberine combines with 10 mg policosanol and 200 mg of red yeast rice per day.
  • to treat high blood pressure: 1 gram daily for 2 months
  • To treat ovarian disorder called polycystic ovary syndrome (SOP): 500 mg 3 times a day for 3 months.

By topical means

Topical berberine is often very useful for dealing with ulcers in the oral cavity. If you have them, try taking 5 mg of berberine per gram, administered 4 times daily for 5 days.

Berberina dosage

Recommendations for dosage

You may be thinking about how to take berberine in your day to day so you can benefit from its many health properties. Well, the good news is that you have it available on the market in the form of supplements. However, don’t fall into the mistake of confusing it with other substances of similar names like berberobin or berberol

Attention! Its limited average in the body, makes it convenient to distribute a daily dose in two or three separate parts. In any case, do not prolong your administration of berberine beyond three or four months without taking a break.

As for the best time of day to take berberine, it is recommended that you ingest it with one of the main meals or shortly after them.

It is clear from the information that experts have handled so far that the consumption of 1.5 grams daily of berberine, administered in three 500 mg intakes, can be as effective as the required dose of metformin, the most prescribed medicine for the treatment of type II diabetes. A surprising fact.

So far the information we have provided about berberine shows that it is a comprehensive herbal medicine because of the many benefits it offers the body, proven!

However, we encourage you to take a look at our recommendations on the side effects and contraindications of Berberine in this link.

Where can you buy Berberine?

At HSN of course!

You can benefit from all the amazing positive effects of berberine through the use of our Berberine 500mg by HSNessentials.

It contains the purest alkaloid of plants of the genus Berberis, extracted from the species aristata (Berberis aristata L.) which is the only one currently not found in the evaluation group of “high risk toxicity plants” by the European Food Safety Authority, while possessing all the beneficial effects attributed to berberine.

At HSN you will find the highest quality and safety berberine, with all the beneficial effects of the compound without the toxicity reports attributed to other types of Berberine.

Bibliography sources:

Review of Berberine

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About Alberto Ricón
Alberto Ricón
Alberto Ricón is a specialist in nutrition and food hygiene with a lot of experience in this field. He works as a Food Safety Technician in Castilla La Mancha.
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