Berberine is most commonly taken for diabetes, high levels of cholesterol or other fats (lipids) in the blood (hyperlipidemia), and high blood pressure. It is also used for burns, canker sores, liver disease, and many other conditions but there is no good scientific evidence to support many of these uses.
How does it work ?
Uses & Effectiveness ?
Possibly Effective for
- Canker sores. Research shows that applying a gel containing berberine can reduce pain, redness, oozing, and the size of ulcers in people with canker sores.
- Diabetes. Berberine seems to slightly reduce blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Also, some early research shows that taking 500 mg of berberine 2-3 times daily for up to 3 months might control blood sugar as effectively as metformin or rosiglitazone.
- High levels of cholesterol or other fats (lipids) in the blood (hyperlipidemia). Berberine might help lower cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol. Taking berberine for up to 2 years seems to reduce total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol, and triglyceride levels in people with high cholesterol. When compared with standard cholesterol-lowering medications, berberine appears to cause similar changes in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good") cholesterol, and it might be better at reducing triglyceride levels.
- High blood pressure. Taking 0.9 grams of berberine per day along with the blood pressure-lowering drug amlodipine reduces systolic blood pressure (the top number) and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) better than taking amlodipine alone in people with high blood pressure.
- A hormonal disorder that causes enlarged ovaries with cysts (polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS). Research shows that berberine can lower blood sugar, improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reduce testosterone levels, and lower waist-to-hip ratio in women with PCOS. Berberine may even lower blood sugar levels similarly to metformin and may improve cholesterol levels better than metformin. It is unclear if berberine increases pregnancy rates or live birth rates in women with PCOS.
Insufficient Evidence for
- Burns. Early research shows that applying an ointment that contains berberine and beta-sitosterol can treat second-degree burns as effectively as conventional treatment with silver sulfadiazine.
- An infection of the intestines that causes diarrhea (cholera). Some early research shows that taking berberine sulfate can decrease diarrhea by a small amount in people with cholera. However, berberine does not seem to improve the effects of the antibiotic tetracycline in treating diarrhea related to cholera infection.
- Non-cancerous growths in the large intestine and rectum (colorectal adenoma). Early research shows that taking berberine for 2 years seems to prevent regrowth of colorectal adenomas in people who have already been treated for these growths.
- Heart failure and fluid build up in the body (congestive heart failure or CHF). Early research shows that berberine can reduce some of the symptoms and lower the death rate in some people with congestive heart failure.
- Heart disease. Research shows that taking a specific product containing berberine and other ingredients for 3 months lowers cholesterol levels in people with heart disease who had a procedure called a percutaneous intervention (PCI). This product seems to lower cholesterol levels more than the standard medication ezetimibe, which is used to lower cholesterol. Also taking this product in combination with low doses of medicines called "statins" seems to work better than taking low-dose statins alone. It's unclear if the effects of this product are due to berberine, other ingredients, or the combination. It's also unknown whether this product reduces the risk of major adverse heart-related events in people with heart disease.
- Diarrhea. Some early research shows that taking berberine sulfate can decrease diarrhea in people with an E. coli infection.
- A group of eye disorders that can lead to vision loss (glaucoma). Early research shows that using eye drops containing berberine and tetrahydrozoline does not reduce eye pressure in people with glaucoma better than eye drops containing tetrahydrozoline alone.
- A digestive tract infection that can lead to ulcers (Helicobacter pylori or H. pylori). Early research shows that taking berberine is more effective than the drug ranitidine at treating H. pylori infection. But berberine seems less effective at healing ulcers in people with stomach ulcers due to H. pylori. Other research shows that berberine might treat H. pylori infection as well as the medication bismuth when taken in combination with a standard three-drug regimen for H. pylori infection.
- Swelling (inflammation) of the liver caused by the hepatitis B virus (hepatitis B). Early research shows that berberine decreases blood sugar, blood fats called triglycerides, and markers of liver damage in people with diabetes and hepatitis B.
- Swelling (inflammation) of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus (hepatitis C). Early research shows that berberine decreases blood sugar, blood fats called triglycerides, and markers of liver damage in people with diabetes and hepatitis C.
- A long-term disorder of the large intestines that causes stomach pain (irritable bowel syndrome or IBS). Early research shows taking that berberine twice daily for 8 weeks might reduce diarrhea and stomach pain and might improve quality of life in people with IBS with diarrhea.
- Symptoms of menopause. Early research shows that taking a combination of berberine and soy isoflavones can reduce menopausal symptoms. However, it's not clear if berberine reduces menopausal symptoms if used alone.
- A grouping of symptoms that increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke (metabolic syndrome). Early research shows that berberine reduces body mass index (BMI), systolic blood pressure (the top number), blood fats called triglycerides, and blood sugar levels in people with metabolic syndrome. It also seems to improve insulin sensitivity. Other early research suggests that taking a combination product containing berberine, policosanol, red yeast rice, folic acid, coenzyme Q10, and astaxanthin improves blood pressure and blood flow in people with metabolic syndrome.
- Build up of fat in the liver in people who drink little or no alcohol (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD). Early research shows that berberine reduces fat in the blood and markers of liver injury in people with diabetes and NAFLD. Other early research shows that berberine might reduce fat in the liver, markers of liver injury, and weight in people with this condition. Berberine seems to work about as well as the medication pioglitazone.
- Obesity. Early research shows that taking berberine can reduce weight in obese people by about 5 pounds.
- Diarrhea caused by radiation therapy. Some early research shows that taking berberine during radiation therapy can reduce intestinal injury from radiation in patients being treated for cancer.
- Scarring of tissue caused by radiation therapy. Some early research shows that taking berberine during radiation therapy can reduce lung injury from radiation in patients being treated for cancer.
- Low levels of platelets in the blood (thrombocytopenia). Blood platelets are important for blood clotting. Early research shows that taking berberine either alone or with prednisolone, can increase the number of blood platelets in people with low blood platelet counts.
- An eye infection caused by Chlamydia trachomatis (trachoma). There is some evidence that eye drops containing berberine might be useful for treating trachoma, a common cause of blindness in developing countries.
- A type of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis). Early research shows that taking berberine does not seem to improve symptoms in people with ulcerative colitis who take the drug mesalamine.
- Other conditions.
When applied to the skin: Berberine is POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults when used short-term.
Special Precautions and Warnings
It's also LIKELY UNSAFE to take berberine if you are breast-feeding. Berberine can be transferred to the infant through breast milk, and it might cause harm.
Children: It's LIKELY UNSAFE to give berberine to newborns. It can cause kernicterus, a rare type of brain damage that can occur in newborns who have severe jaundice. Jaundice is yellowing of the skin caused by too much bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is a chemical that is produced when the old red cells break down. It is normally removed by the liver. Berberine may keep the liver from removing bilirubin fast enough. There isn't enough reliable information to know if berberine is safe in older children.
Diabetes: Berberine can lower blood sugar. Theoretically, berberine may cause blood sugar to become too low if taken by diabetics who are controlling their blood sugar with insulin or medications. Use with caution in people with diabetes.
High bilirubin levels in the blood in infants: Bilirubin is a chemical that is produced when the old red blood cells break down. It is normally removed by the liver. Berberine may keep the liver from removing bilirubin fast enough. This can cause brain problems, especially in infants with high levels of bilirubin in the blood. Avoid using.
Low blood pressure: Berberine can lower blood pressure. Theoretically, berberine might increase the risk of blood pressure becoming too low in people who already have low blood pressure. Use with caution.
Cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune) interacts with BERBERINE
The body breaks down cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune) to get rid of it. Berberine might decrease how fast the body breaks down cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune). This might cause there to be too much cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune) in the body and potentially cause side effects.
Do not take this combination
Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) substrates) interacts with BERBERINE
Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver.
Berberine might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking berberine along with some medications that are broken down by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Before taking berberine, talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking any medications that are changed by the liver. Some medications changed by the liver include cyclosporin (Neoral, Sandimmune), lovastatin (Mevacor), clarithromycin (Biaxin), indinavir (Crixivan), sildenafil (Viagra), triazolam (Halcion), and many others.
Be cautious with this combination
- For diabetes: 0.9-1.5 grams of berberine has been taken in divided doses daily for 2-4 months.
- For high levels of cholesterol or other fats (lipids) in the blood (hyperlipidemia): 0.6-1.5 grams of berberine has been taken in divided doses daily for 6 to 24 months. Combination products containing 500 mg of berberine, 10 mg of policosanol, and 200 mg of red yeast rice, along with other ingredients, have been taken daily for up to 12 months.
- For high blood pressure: 0.9 grams of berberine has been taken daily for 2 months.
- For a hormonal disorder that causes enlarged ovaries with cysts (polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS): 1.5 grams of berberine has been taken daily for 3-6 months.
- For canker sores: Gel containing 5 mg of berberine per gram has been applied four times per day for 5 days.
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Marazzi G, Campolongo G, Pelliccia F, Quattrino S, Vitale C, Cacciotti L, et al. Comparison of low-dose statin versus low-dose statin + Armolipid plus in high-intensity statin-intolerant patients with a previous coronary event and percutaneous coronary intervention (ADHERENCE trial). Am J Cardiol. 2017 Sep 15;120(6):893-897. doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2017.06.015. View abstract.
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Ruscica M, Gomaraschi M, Mombelli G, Macchi C, Bosisio R, Pazzucconi F, Pavanello C, Calabresi L, Arnoldi A, Sirtori CR, Magni P. Nutraceutical approach to moderate cardiometabolic risk: results of a randomized, double-blind and crossover study with Armolipid Plus. J Clin Lipidol. 2014;8(1):61-8. View abstract.
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Sun D, Abraham SN, Beachey EH. Influence of berberine sulfate on synthesis and expression of Pap fimbrial adhesin in uropathogenic Escherichia coli. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 1988;32:1274-7. View abstract.
Sun D, Courtney HS, Beachey EH. Berberine sulfate blocks adherence of Streptococcus pyogenes to epithelial cells, fibronectin, and hexadecane. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 1988;32:1370-4. View abstract.
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Wen C, Wu L, Fu L, Zhang X, Zhou H. Berberine enhances the anti tumor activity of tamoxifen in drug sensitive MCF 7 and drug resistant MCF 7/TAM cells. Mol Med Rep. 2016;14(3):2250-6. View abstract.
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Yan HM, Xia MF, Wang Y, Chang XX, Yao XZ, Rao SX, et al. Efficacy of berberine in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. PLoS One. 2015 Aug 7;10(8):e0134172. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0134172. View abstract.
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Zhang D, Ke L, Ni Z, Chen Y, Zhang LH, Zhu SH, et al. Berberine containing quadruple therapy for initial Helicobacter pylori eradication: An open-label randomized phase IV trial. Medicine (Baltimore). 2017;96(32):e7697. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000007697. View abstract.
Zhang LS, Zhang JH, Feng R, et al. Efficacy and safety of berberine alone or combined with statins for the treatment of hyperlipidemia: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Am J Chin Med 2019;47(4):751-67. View abstract.
Zhang Y, Li X, Zou D, et al. Treatment of type 2 diabetes and dyslipidemia with the natural plant alkaloid berberine. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2008;93:2559-65. View abstract.
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