What if there were a natural supplement that was superior to medication for managing hypertension, high glucose, and high cholesterol? According to some experts, there is, and it’s called berberine. This combination of health benefits is critical because all three are associated with heart disease, the number one killer of men.
Berberine is an alkaloid, a chemical that is found in a few plants that have demonstrated medicinal value. Those plants include barberry (Berberis vulgaris), Chinese goldthread (Coptis chinensis), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), and Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium). Historically, barberry and other plants that contain the alkaloid have been used to treat type 2 diabetes, or more specifically, to lower blood glucose levels. Berberine also has demonstrated an ability to help with other health challenges, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
How berberine works
Berberine operates on several levels. As an alkaloid, the substance circulates through the body in two to three different forms, which tends to make it a stronger substance than flavonoids, which are known for their antioxidant properties. Berberine has a positive effect on the function of mitochondria, which are the energy-producing organelles in the body’s cells.
Even though the alkaloid is not well absorbed by the body, the benefits it provides seem to be related to its impact on the microbiome in the gut (aka, intestinal tract). Experts have determined that the gut environment plays a critical role not only in regulating metabolism but on insulin sensitivity as well.
Currently there is much research on how berberine works to lower blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol. According to Michael Murray, ND, “There were 27 double-blind, placebo-controlled trials with berberine for [high glucose, high cholesterol, high blood pressure]. The results were on par with the individual drug for those conditions (metformin, statins and blood pressure-lowering drugs)….The results show [berberine is] very safe [and] a very effective natural alternative to drugs used for these common conditions.”
In one study from January 2018, the authors reported that berberine may lower insulin resistance at least in part by several processes, including modulating the microbiome in the gut as well as inhibiting certain communications in the liver.
An even more recent study noted the impact of a synthesized berberine derivative, berberine8998, which has better absorption and cholesterol-lowering abilities than natural berberine. In this animal study, the authors found that berberine8998 lowered cholesterol and lipids in a manner different than berberine, and that the improved absorption made the newer formulation a promising candidate for treating high cholesterol and obesity.
Another study explored the effect of berberine on both blood glucose and blood pressure in diabetic rats. The results of the study indicated that berberine reduces blood pressure and improves dilation of blood vessels (and thus improves blood pressure) by activating a specific channel in vascular smooth muscle cells. This finding suggested to the authors that “berberine might provide a combinational therapy for controlling hyperglycemia and blood pressure in diabetes.”
If you are thinking about taking a berberine supplement like this one, a suggested dose is 500 mg two to three times daily. Berberine is best taken immediately before meals.
Liu D et al. Berberine modulates gut microbiota and reduces insulin resistance via the TLR4 signaling pathway. Experimental and Clinical Endocrinology & Diabetes 2018 Jan 24
Ma YG et al. Berberine reduced blood pressure and improved vasodilation in diabetic rats. Journal of Molecular Endocrinology 2017 Oct; 59(3): 191-204
Mercola.com. PQQ, berberine, and other mitochondrial enhancers. 2018 Apr 15
Yu CY et al. Proteomics analysis reveals a potential new target protein for the lipid-lowering effect of Berberine8998. Acta Pharmacologica Sin 2018 Apr 12