Berberine, a natural compound found in plants, has been creating quite a stir online due to its promising ability to enhance weight loss and reduce blood sugar levels. But does berberine work, and who might be able to benefit from it?
In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the world of berberine supplementation and its benefits to help you determine if berberine is a good addition to your supplement routine. But before we explore the science-backed benefits of berberine, let’s first start by understanding what it is and how it works.
Berberine is a type of bioactive compound called an alkaloid that is found in the bark, roots, stems, and leaves of certain plants, including barberry, goldenseal, Oregon grape, and tree turmeric [ 1
Plants that contain berberine have been used for centuries in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine. With potent antimicrobial and antidiarrheal properties, berberine has been used to naturally treat infections and gastrointestinal disorders caused by various bacteria, fungi, and viruses and promote wound healing [ 1 2
Today, berberine is available as a dietary supplement. It is most often used by people with diabetes, high cholesterol and triglycerides, and high blood pressure, as research shows it may have certain benefits for people with these health conditions [ 1 3
Experts believe many of berberine’s benefits are tied to its ability to act on enzymes involved in energy balance (like AMPK, PKC, and SIRT 1), which help regulate metabolism, inflammation, and immunity [ 1
From regulating blood sugar to improving cholesterol levels, berberine has shown several promising health benefits. Here’s a closer look at some of the science-backed health benefits of berberine.
Managing blood sugar is crucial for overall health. However, in type 2 diabetes (T2D), the body doesn't use insulin as well, making it tougher to control blood sugar levels.
A growing body of research shows supplementing with berberine can effectively help people with T2D manage their blood sugar by lowering blood sugar levels (including fasting blood glucose) and hemoglobin A1c, a long-term marker of blood sugar control [ 1 6 1 4 5
6]. Some clinical trials have even shown that taking 500-1,500 mg of berberine daily for 8-24 weeks may be as effective at lowering blood sugar as some diabetes medications [
For this reason, many experts consider berberine to be one of the most effective supplements for blood sugar control 1 5
effective supplements for blood sugar controland a potential natural treatment option for individuals with diabetes or metabolic syndrome [
Berberine may also be beneficial if you have high cholesterol, as research indicates supplementation can modestly reduce LDL cholesterol total cholesterol triglycerides HDL cholesterol 7
total cholesterol, and
triglycerides, and increase good
HDL cholesterol. Some studies show taking 1,000 mg/day for 3 months may be enough to produce benefits [
Berberine may also be effective in reducing blood pressure; however, the evidence to date is mixed and, therefore, inconclusive. More high-quality studies are needed in this area to explore berberine’s potential benefits for blood pressure management [ 1
If you have high cholesterol, here are some other ways you can help
reduce cholesterol with your diet.
Given its ability to affect metabolism and fat storage, berberine may have the potential to aid in weight loss.
One study in obese individuals found that taking 500 mg of berberine 3x/day for 12 weeks induced a modest 5-pound weight loss and 3.5% loss in body fat compared to a placebo [ 9
Additional research shows berberine may also be beneficial for promoting modest weight loss in individuals with certain metabolic conditions such as T2D, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease (CVD), polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease [ 1 8 8
8]. Scientists believe that these weight loss benefits may be due in part to berberine's ability to manage insulin and other hormones responsible for controlling your body's fat cells [
While berberine might lead to slight weight loss in some, it does not appear beneficial for weight loss in non-obese and otherwise metabolically healthy individuals. Additionally, a healthy diet and lifestyle changes would be essential to maintain or for continued weight loss [ 1
If you’re looking to boost weight loss naturally, here are some other
science-backed weight loss supplementsto consider.
inflammationplays a major role in the development of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. C-reactive protein (CRP) is an important marker of inflammation that increases with inflammation and can be used to determine inflammatory levels in the body.
Studies show berberine supplementation may help lower levels of CRP and thus ameliorate the state of chronic inflammation in those with metabolic conditions, including T2D, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease [ 10 11
If you’re looking for more ways to keep a lid on inflammation, here are the top science-backed
strategies to reduce inflammation.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder in women marked by excess insulin and testosterone production, and chronic low-grade inflammation that can contribute to insulin resistance, infertility, and the development of small ovarian cysts [ 12
While there is no cure for PCOS, studies show berberine supplementation may improve hormonal health in women with PCOS by lowering testosterone, insulin, and fasting blood sugar levels and improving cholesterol health in this population [ 1 13
Preliminary studies suggest berberine’s anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial attributes may support gut health in those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other inflammatory bowel diseases.
One study found that taking 400 mg of berberine daily, divided into two 200 mg doses, for eight weeks resulted in significant improvements in diarrhea frequency and urgency, and abdominal pain in patients with diarrhea-predominant IBS [ 14
While these preliminary results are promising, more high-quality studies are needed to determine whether berberine might be a good natural treatment option for those with IBS and other inflammatory bowel diseases.
Canker sores are ulcers inside the mouth that have been linked to local trauma, stress, hormone changes, micronutrient deficiencies, and viral infections. They are both common and uncomfortable and affect roughly 10% of individuals [ 1 15
They often heal on their own, but early evidence suggests berberine may help them heal faster. One study found applying a gel with 5 mg/g of berberine 4x/day for 5 days significantly reduced the size and pain of canker sores compared to a placebo [ 1 16
Given this, berberine gelatin may be a safe and effective treatment for helping canker sores heal faster.
Berberine supplementation may be beneficial for individuals with, or at risk for, certain metabolic conditions, including diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and PCOS. Additionally, those looking to support weight loss, improve heart health, or who suffer from PCOS or frequent canker sores may also find berberine beneficial.
It is important to note that berberine should not replace medical treatment for any serious medical condition, and you should consult with your doctor before starting a new supplement of any kind.
Berberine is available in various forms, including capsules, tablets, powders, gels, and liquid extracts. Dosages vary between types and brands, with some providing as little as 100 mg/serving or up to 1,500 mg/serving.
Berberine doses will vary depending on the individual and the condition being treated, therefore you should consult with a healthcare professional for personalized dosage recommendations.
The best berberine supplement is one that provides the appropriate dosage for the desired benefit and has been third-party tested for quality and purity.
If you’re confused about the dosage or quality of berberine supplements, Elo Health takes the guesswork out of the equation by using science to recommend the proper nutrition and supplements. Not only that, but all of our supplements are also third-party tested. Learn more about our personalized supplements Elo’s rigorous testing process
Elo’s rigorous testing process.
For optimal effects on blood glucose and lipid levels, experts recommend consuming berberine alongside a meal or shortly thereafter [ 1
Additionally, consuming excessive berberine in a single dose may lead to stomach discomfort, cramps, and diarrhea. Splitting up larger doses (for example, 300-400 mg 3-4x/day) can reduce the risk of side effects [ 1
Berberine is generally considered safe when used as directed. However, some individuals may experience minor side effects, which are more common in doses above 300 mg [ 1
Common berberine side effects include [ 8
Due to its blood sugar-lowering effects, berberine may also increase your risk for hypoglycemia when taken in high doses [ 1
1]. To avoid this, do not exceed the dose recommended by your health professional.
It is important to follow recommended dosages and consult your healthcare professional if any adverse reactions occur.
While berberine supplements may provide health benefits, supplementation is not right for everyone.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid berberine supplementation as it can cross the placenta and be transferred via breast milk, and cause harm to the baby. A type of brain damage called Kernicterus has developed in newborn infants exposed to berberine [ 8
Berberine may also interact with certain medications, including those for diabetes, high blood pressure, blood clotting, and cholesterol management [ 8 8
8]. It might also change how quickly the liver breaks down certain medications and thus alter the effects and side effects of certain medications and supplements [
Before adding berberine to your routine, check with your doctor or dietitian to see if supplementation is right for you.
Berberine is a natural bioactive compound with a wide range of potential health benefits. While it’s not a magic weight loss pill, it may be beneficial for lowering blood sugar, cholesterol, and inflammation, particularly in individuals with metabolic conditions such as diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and hypertension. Berberine can be safe and effective for some, but it may not be appropriate for everyone, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, children, and individuals taking certain medications. At Elo
Elo, our expert dietitians can help you determine whether berberine supplements might benefit you.
Disclaimer: The text, images, videos, and other media on this page are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to treat, diagnose, or replace personalized medical care.
Berberine is a natural compound found in certain plants, including barberry, goldenseal, and tree turmeric.
Berberine supplements can offer benefits for conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, PCOS, and IBS, as well as individuals who frequently get canker sores.
Berberine supplementation has the potential to aid in modest weight loss and body fat reduction in obese individuals and those with certain metabolic conditions; however, a healthy diet and lifestyle changes would be essential to maintain or for continued weight loss.
Berberine has been shown to be safe when taken in doses of up to 1,500 mg/day for six months. However, it is not appropriate for everyone, and pregnant and breastfeeding women, individuals on specific medications, and children should consult a healthcare professional before considering berberine supplementation.
Elo Health’s expert dietitians can help you determine whether berberine supplements might benefit you.
Milazzo, N., & Nault, D. (2023). Berberine. Examine. https://examine.com/supplements/berberine/
In the News: Berberine. (2023b, June). NCCIH. Retrieved August 11, 2023, from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/in-the-news-berberine
Berberine: MedlinePlus Supplements. (2021, September 16). National Library of Medicine. Retrieved August 9, 2023, from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/1126.html#:~:text=Berberine%20is%20a%20bitter%2Dtasting,blood%2C%20and%20help%20reduce%20swelling
Dong, H., Wang, N., Zhao, L., & Lu, F. (2012). Berberine in the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systemic review and meta-analysis. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2012, 591654. https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/591654
Guo, J., Chen, H., Zhang, X., Lou, W., Zhang, P., Qiu, Y., Zhang, C., Wang, Y., & Liu, W. J. (2021). The Effect of Berberine on Metabolic Profiles in Type 2 Diabetic Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2021, 2074610. https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/2074610
Xie, W., Su, F., Wang, G., Peng, Z., Xu, Y., Zhang, Y., Xu, N., Hou, K., Hu, Z., Chen, Y., & Chen, R. (2022). Glucose-lowering effect of berberine on type 2 diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Frontiers in pharmacology, 13, 1015045. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2022.1015045
Zhang, Y., Li, X., Zou, D., Liu, W., Yang, J., Zhu, N., Huo, L., Wang, M., Hong, J., Wu, P., Ren, G., & Ning, G. (2008). Treatment of type 2 diabetes and dyslipidemia with the natural plant alkaloid berberine. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, 93(7), 2559–2565. https://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2007-2404
BERBERINE: Overview, uses, side effects, precautions, interactions, dosing and reviews. (n.d.). Retrieved August 11, 2023, from https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1126/berberine
Hu, Y., Ehli, E. A., Kittelsrud, J., Ronan, P. J., Munger, K., Downey, T., Bohlen, K., Callahan, L., Munson, V., Jahnke, M., Marshall, L. L., Nelson, K., Huizenga, P., Hansen, R., Soundy, T. J., & Davies, G. E. (2012). Lipid-lowering effect of berberine in human subjects and rats. Phytomedicine : international journal of phytotherapy and phytopharmacology, 19(10), 861–867. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phymed.2012.05.009
Xu, X., Yi, H., Wu, J., Kuang, T., Zhang, J., Li, Q., Du, H., Xu, T., Jiang, G., & Fan, G. (2021). Therapeutic effect of berberine on metabolic diseases: Both pharmacological data and clinical evidence. Biomedicine & pharmacotherapy = Biomedecine & pharmacotherapie, 133, 110984. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopha.2020.110984
Beba, M., Djafarian, K., & Shab-Bidar, S. (2019). Effect of Berberine on C-reactive protein: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Complementary therapies in medicine, 46, 81–86. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2019.08.002
Wolf, W. M., Wattick, R. A., Kinkade, O. N., & Olfert, M. D. (2018). Geographical Prevalence of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome as Determined by Region and Race/Ethnicity. International journal of environmental research and public health, 15(11), 2589. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15112589
Zhang, S., Zhou, J., Gober, H., Leung, W. T., & Wang, L. (2021). Effect and mechanism of berberine against polycystic ovary syndrome. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, 138, 111468. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopha.2021.111468
Chen, C., Tao, C., Liu, Z., Lu, M., Pan, Q., Zheng, L., Li, Q., Song, Z., & Fichna, J. (2015). A Randomized Clinical Trial of Berberine Hydrochloride in Patients with Diarrhea-Predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Phytotherapy research : PTR, 29(11), 1822–1827. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.5475
Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). (2019, August 15). Canker sores (mouth ulcers): Overview. InformedHealth.org - NCBI Bookshelf. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK546250/
Jiang, X. W., Zhang, Y., Zhu, Y. L., Zhang, H., Lu, K., Li, F. F., & Peng, H. Y. (2013). Effects of berberine gelatin on recurrent aphthous stomatitis: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial in a Chinese cohort. Oral surgery, oral medicine, oral pathology and oral radiology, 115(2), 212–217. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.oooo.2012.09.009