Berberine is a compound, an alkaloid that has been used in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to treat inflammatory disorders, help heal wounds, reduce fevers, and to combat digestive and respiratory disease. The compound is present in and extracted from a variety of plant families. Today it is primarily used to reduce insulin resistance and improve biomarkers of type II diabetes. Berberine activates an enzyme called AMPK (Adenosine Monophosphate-Activated Protein Kinase) and inhibits Protein-Tyrosine Phosphatase 1B (PTP1B), to increase insulin sensitivity.
Berberine is one of the most effective natural supplements available – in clinical trials, it is as effective as prescription pharmaceutical drugs. Berberine supplements lower blood sugar, help with weight loss, and improve heart health.
In this article, we will define Berberine and AMPK, a remarkable enzyme. We will detail the benefits of the compound, address the one drawback to supplementation (bioavailability), and provide an overview of clinical trials. We will give you our suggestions on the optimum dosage and the recommended method for taking Berberine, and provide our objective and unbiased picks for the best Berberine supplements on the market.
What Is Berberine?
Berberine is a bioactive compound, technically an alkaloid, extracted from several different plants, including the berberis shrub family. Modern science has confirmed that Berberine has significant benefits for various health issues with a primary focus on blood glucose support. Berberine has been the subject of hundreds of clinical studies and has been shown to affect different biological systems. Once ingested, Berberine is transported into the bloodstream and travels into your cells. It binds to other molecules and changes their function in a process much like that employed by prescription drugs. One of Berberine’s primary functions is to activate AMPK in your cells.
AMPK – The Metabolic Master Switch
AMPK (Adenosine Monophosphate-Activated Protein Kinase) is an enzyme found in the cells of various organs (think muscle, heart, brain, kidney, and liver), that plays a vital role in energy metabolism. AMPK is sometimes referred to as the “master metabolic switch” as it regulates energy intake and expenditure. Our cells activate AMPK when they are running low on energy, such as after an intense workout or during severe calorie restriction. In response, AMPK alters the activity of other genes and proteins, helping keep cells alive and functioning even when they’re running low on fuel.
In a fascinating clinical study published by NCBI, the National Center for Biotechnology Information scientists examined the effects of exercise on AMPK activation in skeletal muscle. They also observed the impact it has on insulin sensitivity and gene and protein expression in tissue. The conclusion? AMPK activation, through exercise, could reduce morbidity and mortality in an otherwise sedentary population. In short, the trial concluded that exercise-induced AMPK activation could help to prevent and treat various diseases.
Berberine Supplements – Explained
Most dietary supplement products are Berberine HCI (Hydrochloride) – the addition of hydrochloride is to aid in digestion. Although the bioavailability of Berberine is low, due to absorption and losses in the small intestine, studies show that using 1,000-1,500 mg of Berberine per day seems to produce the desired benefits. For better bioavailability, some manufacturers are combining Berberine with other components such as Bioperine, cinnamon, turmeric, milk thistle, ALA Alpha-Lipoic Acid, and Bitter Melon. Better absorption could theoretically reduce the dosage required.
The Benefits Of Berberine Supplements
#1 Support Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
Studies show that Berberine can significantly reduce blood sugar levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes. In our clinical review section, we report that Berberine performs in this area as effectively as the popular diabetes drug Metformin. Type 2 diabetes is characterized by elevated blood sugar (glucose) levels caused by insulin resistance or lack of insulin.
#2 Aids In Weight Loss
Berberine may also help you to lose weight, possibly due to the AMPK activation. Berberine is a key ingredient in many metabolic supplements, such as Active PK. Although preliminary studies are encouraging, more research is needed to reach a definitive conclusion.
#3 Supports Heart Health
Berberine lowers LDL cholesterol, which may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and high blood sugar levels are all precursors of heart disease.
Other Health Benefits Of Berberine
- Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
- May help in healing wounds
- Supports liver health
- Bone health
- Healthy digestive system
- Fights infection from bacteria, viruses, and parasites
- May help guard against cancer
- Supports vision health
Additional research and more clinical trials are required to validate these benefits; however, initial indicators are positive.
And speaking of clinical trials …
Berberine Clinical Trials – An Overview
Many of the Berberine clinical trials have studied its effectiveness in combatting Type 2 Diabetes. There have been additional studies regarding metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular effects, weight management, even as a treatment for patients with Schizophrenia. Berberine added to current antipsychotic drugs could produce significantly higher efficacy in reducing atypical antipsychotic-induced metabolic syndrome.
Efficacy Of Berberine In Patients With Type 2 Diabetes
Below is a synopsis, in laymen’s terms of this study published by NCBI, the National Center for Biotechnology Information:
Berberine has been shown to regulate glucose and lipid metabolism in vitro and in vivo. This pilot study was to determine the efficacy and safety of Berberine in the treatment of type 2 diabetic patients. In study A, the hypoglycemic effect of Berberine was similar to that of Metformin; decreased hemoglobin, fasting blood glucose, postprandial blood glucose, and plasma triglycerides were observed in the Berberine group.
In study B, 48 adults with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes were treated supplemented with Berberine in a 3-month trial. Berberine acted by lowering fasting blood glucose and postprandial blood glucose from one week to the end of the trial. Total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) were decreased significantly as well.
In conclusion, this pilot study indicates that Berberine is a potent oral hypoglycemic agent with beneficial effects on lipid metabolism.
In other studies, Berberine lowered fasting blood sugar levels from diabetic to normal levels, while improving cholesterol and triglycerides. An overview of these blood glucose studies indicates Berberine is as effective as prescription diabetes drugs Metformin, glipizide, and rosiglitazone. It also has additive effects when administered with other blood-sugar-lowering drugs.
Effect Of Berberine On Weight Management
Several studies have examined the effects of Berberine supplementation on body weight. In a 12-week study of obese individuals, 500 mg taken three times per day caused about 5 pounds of weight loss, on average.
Another study, conducted on participants with metabolic syndrome resulted in reduced BMI (Body Mass Index) levels from obese 31.5 to simply overweight 27.4, in three months.
Additional clinical trials were performed to observe the effect of Berberine on cholesterol levels with strong indications it inhibits LDL, the bad cholesterol.
Will Berberine Benefit Me?
Science tells us that Berberine works and that the people who stand to benefit the most are individuals with type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. We also know that it may be used as a prophylactic against other diseases, for weight management, heart health, and as an anti-aging supplement.
Based on anecdotal evidence and online discussions, some people with high blood sugars normalize themselves just by taking this supplement.
Recommended Dosages Of Berberine
Berberine has a half-life of several hours, so we recommend you spread your dosage over several times per day to stabilize blood sugar levels. In both human and animal studies, a total dosage of 1500 mg per day, spread over three 500 mg servings seems to be optimal. In fact, 1500 mg has been scientifically proven to be as effective as taking 1500 mg of Metformin, a pharmaceutical prescribed to people with type II diabetes.
Are Berberine Supplements Safe?
Berberine has an excellent safety profile. The most common side effects noted in clinical studies are related to digestion, cramping, diarrhea, stomach pain, and constipation. There is the potential for a rash or headache as well.
As always, we recommend consulting with your medical professional before adding a Berberine supplement to your regimen. This is especially important for individuals with medical conditions or those on prescription medicines, particularly blood sugar medications, as Berberine has the potential to interact with medications.
Berberine Supplement Alternatives
For those using Berberine to combat Type II diabetes, prescription antidiabetic drugs are an option – with a doctor’s prescription. Other over-the-counter blood glucose supplements contain cinnamon, and several patented forms of cinnamon, chromium, ALA Alpha-Lipoic Acid, Turmeric, and Bitter Melon.
In our search, the only food that contains Berberine is the Oregon Grape. Getting sufficient BerberineBerberine through diet alone is not an option.
We would be remiss not to mention that healthy lifestyle habits, a healthy diet, and regular exercise, work exceptionally well in combination with Berberine supplementation.
Best Berberine Supplements
When selecting the best Berberine supplements, we scoured the market for brands that adhere to the following:
- We ensured that products are manufactured in a certified cGMP facility (Good Manufacturing Practices).
- We preferred products that combined Berberine with other ingredients to aid in the availability and absorption.
- We looked for companies and brands that have independent third-party testing and money-back guarantees.
Berberine, from Source Naturals – Gastrointestinal, Healthy Blood Glucose, and Healthy Cholesterol Support
Source Naturals is one of our most trusted companies. Their science-based approach to supplementation gives us added confidence in the brand. They adhere to all our criteria regarding cGMP manufacturing processes and independent third-party testing. Their product contains 500 mg of Berberine HCI – the ideal dosage for using throughout the day.
Suitable for vegans and vegetarians. Contains no yeast, dairy, egg, gluten, corn, soy, or wheat. Contains no sugar, starch, salt, preservatives, or artificial color, flavor, or fragrance.
Thirty capsules retail for $9.09 on Amazon.com.
Berberine+ with Ceylon Cinnamon, from Simple Wonders
Although we are not as familiar with the Simple Wonders company, their Berberine + with Ceylon Cinnamon piqued our interest. The Cinnamon is added to aid in absorption and for potency. The product is all-natural, made in the U.S. in a cGMP facility, is 100% Vegan, certified Non-GMO, Gluten-free, and is third-party tested.
The product is delivered in an easy-to-swallow capsule, delivering 900mg of Berberine HCL and 300mg of Ceylon Cinnamon per dose (2 Capsules).
A one-month supply, 30 capsules are $17.99 on Amazon.com.
Genius Blood Sugar, from The Genius Brand
The Genius Brand is a relatively new supplement company co-created by Rob Oliver, a rising star in the industry. Their products include Genius Mushrooms, Genius Joy, Genius Sleep Aid, Genius Consciousness, and this product – Genius Blood Sugar, among others. The company developed its core beliefs in response to industry issues such as adulterated and misbranded products, products spiked with ingredients not declared on their labels, and misleading claims. We appreciate the company’s core philosophies:
- Trademarked ingredients at clinically tested dosages
- No proprietary blends
- No artificial dyes, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, unnecessary fillers, or banned substances.
Genius Blood Sugar is positioned as Beyond Berberine, with its patented
ingredient, GlucoVantage Dihydroberberine (DHB). DHB is a derivative of Berberine that delivers up to five times the bioactive benefits! The product also delivers 250 mg of Cinnamon.
Available on the company website https://thegeniusbrand.com/ or at Amazon.com for $29.99 for thirty servings.
Premium Berberine with Organic Ceylon Cinnamon, from NutraVein
All NutraVein products are manufactured in cGMP certified facilities in the U.S. We were impressed with the dosage, 1200 mg of Berberine HCI, and 200 mg of Organic Ceylon Cinnamon. These attributes due come at a cost.
NutraVein’s Premium Berberine retails for $20.99 for sixty vegetable capsules (a thirty-day supply) on their website Amazon. The company stands behind all its products with a 100% money-back guarantee.
Stacking Other Supplements With Berberine
There are multiple options for stacking berberine with other supplements based on your objectives. For those addressing blood sugar support, we recommend a combination of the following ingredients known to aid with Berberine’s absorption and bioavailability:
- ALA Alpha-Lipoic Acid
- Bitter Melon
To Summarize: Berberine Supplements And Your Health
If you use supplements, Berberine is one we recommend you add to your regimen. With its breadth of benefits, safety, and its relatively low cost per serving, it doesn’t take a nootropic to know this one makes sense!
- Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
- Weight Loss
- Heart Health
- Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory
- Liver and Bone Health
- Healthy Digestive System
- Protects Against Infections
- May Help Guard Against Cancer