Berberine is a natural substance found in herbs like barberry, goldenseal and Oregon grape. Research now shows that this remarkable phytochemical can be used to control blood sugar in diabetics and moderate problematic blood fats.
Can This Herb Completely Replace Drugs For Type-2 Diabetics?
a diabetic patient who had been working hard to control his blood sugar wrote this : “Hi Frank, I have some very good news that I’m excited to tell you. I’ve been following your program closely and was a little discouraged. Although my A1C levels [average blood sugar levels] have been dropping, my fasting blood sugar has not. It was still at 123. About two to three weeks ago, I began taking berberine (500 mg, three times daily) and my fasting blood sugar dropped into the 90s. I’m stoked! Sincerely, Rich.”
Berberine is a phytochemical (plant chemical) found in many different plants. When used in herbal medicine, the usual sources are barberry, goldenseal or Oregon grape. It’s the main alkaloid of Coptis chinensis, which Asian folk medicine uses to treat diabetes. You also may hear people refer to Coptis chinensis as Chinese Goldthread and Huang-Lian.
Berberine has a lot of uses. It can treat heart disease, immune disorders, digestive problems, eye infections and other infections. I had never heard of it being all that effective in diabetes. It seems that you can use it as a substitute for insulin.
One study, published just last year, looked at the effect of berberine on how well muscle cells take in sugar. Except when we are actively exercising, sugar cannot get into muscle cells unless insulin is present to escort it in. That’s why blood sugar goes up when patients either don’t have enough insulin or when the insulin they do have doesn’t work effectively, a condition called insulin resistance.
In the study, the researchers exposed rats’ muscle cells to berberine and then examined what happened. What they discovered was amazing.
The berberine solution had the same effect on the cells as insulin.
Just like insulin, the berberine solution activated the same biochemical pathway (protein kinase phosphorylation activation of GLUT-4) that signals cells to take up more sugar. And just like insulin, the greater the amount of berberine they exposed the cells to, the more sugar they took up. All this happened in the absence of any insulin. Insulin blood levels of all diabetic patients should always be checked. This helps determine who will be able to control their diabetes without needing insulin injections. As a general rule, patients with an insulin level greater than 10 micromols per milliliter have enough insulin to get the job done. They should respond really well to natural therapies.
However, there is one small problem with measuring blood insulin levels: They are not always accurate. So even though Rich’s levels looked adequate, they weren’t. That’s why he didn’t respond fully until he added the berberine supplement. Rich needed an insulin-like effect in order to achieve complete control of his sugar levels. This study shows that this is exactly what berberine has to offer.
Many patients who are taking insulin or drugs designed to increase insulin may be able to either stop them or reduce them after starting berberine.
Better Than Metformin For Diabetes
In fact another study that proves berberine might just be the best medication there is, natural or otherwise, for diabetes.
This study looked at the effect of berberine on 36 patients. All of them were newly diagnosed cases of type-2 diabetes.
Half of the patients took 500 mg, three times daily of the drug metformin (also known as Glucophage). The other half took berberine (berberine hydrochloride) in the same dose: 500 mg, three times a day. The researchers measured the participants’ blood sugar levels for the next three months. Here’s what happened:
In terms of blood sugar control, both treatments worked equally as well. The fasting blood sugars went down 30 percent. And the sugar levels after eating (called the postprandial levels) went down even more: 45 percent.
But here’s the really astounding thing about berberine. All of this happened within the first two to four weeks of taking the treatment. And unlike with metformin, there were no side effects at all in any of the patients taking berberine. In addition to the sugar levels, the A1C levels went down as well: a full 20 percent. That may not sound like a lot. But it’s a very significant improvement.
In addition to the remarkable effects it had on blood sugar control, berberine had another important effect that metformin did not have.
Triglycerides are the fats found in the bloodstream that the cells metabolize for energy. Since type-2 diabetics do not effectively burn fat (that’s why they get fat), their triglyceride levels are always elevated.
In this study, those patients taking berberine had a reduction in their triglyceride levels of 21 percent. Those taking metformin had no reduction at all. This indicates that berberine not only improves sugar metabolism, it also improves fat metabolism. This might make berberine the most effective overall medication for diabetes that exists today, including pharmaceuticals. In fact, the authors of the study stated that berberine “can serve as a new class of anti-diabetic medication.”
Sources for Story:
Jun Yina, Huili Xinga, and Jianping Yeb. “Efficacy of Berberine in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes” Metabolism. 2008 May; 57(5): 712-717.
Ma, X., T. Egawa, H. Kimura, K. Karaike, S. Masuda, N. Iwanaka, and T. Hayashi. “Berberine-induced activation of 5′-adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase and glucose transport in rat skeletal muscles.” Metabolism. 2010 November;59(11):1619-27. Epub 2010 April 27.–