For the amount of years that I’ve been researching type 2 diabetes reversal using natural means, I am almost shocked that I didn’t come across berberine sooner. Even during the writing of my ebook The 5 Rs of Type 2 Diabetes Reversal the 2 updates I made to it late in 2014, it had not crossed my consciousness. Regardless, I am now educated in this powerful plant based extract and its powers. And yes, it is proven to be as effective as the drug Metformin. You will read about that below.
What is Berberine?
Berberine is a plant alkaloid. Essentially, it is a substance originating from plants that has physiological effects on humans. In this case, and the focus of this article those effects are related to type 2 diabetes and associated conditions such as cholesterol. Berberine is well known and used extensively in traditional Chinese medicine.
In fact, its effects have been documented as early as the year 1500. It has anti-microbial properties. In fact, it’s used to treat infectious diarrhea and fungal infections. Not only that but it is also used to treat non-alcoholic liver disease, diabetes and inflammation. Where have you been all my life berberine?
According to Wikipedia, it’s found in many plants in numerous countries. Some of these plants are: Oregon grape, barberry, tree turmeric, yellow root, prickly poppy and California poppy. It’s bright yellow in color and also has anti-inflammatory effects among many others.
Actions of Berberine
I will discuss specific studies in the next section but I want to briefly list some of berberine’s mechanisms, which lead to the positive effects being discussed.
- Increases adiponectin, which is a fat cell specific protein that is abundant in the blood. However, in obese, insulin resistant and type 2 diabetic people it is noticed to be markedly decreased.
- Suppresses aldose reductase, yet another enzymatic protein involved in the conversion of glucose to fructose that plays a critical role in the formation of diabetic microvascular diseases. These include retinopathy, nephropathy and neuropathy.
- Induces glycolysis, the conversion of glucose into usable energy.
- Stimulates insulin receptor expression, which is a fancy way of saying it increases insulin sensitivity.
- It acts like incretins, hormones that stimulate increased insulin release by the presence of carbohydrates. Two of the main incretins are located in the small intestine. This means that as soon we begin ingesting and digesting carbs insulin is released in an anticipatory response.
I found plenty of information on berberine. In fact, after the amount of studies I reference here I just decided to stop. There is more research information that I can realistically use because the results are pretty much the same and it all looks good from here. I’ll list all the studies I consulted in the References section at the end of this article.
In this study, researchers found that in type 2 diabetics, berberine lowered (improved)
- Fasting blood glucose
- Hemoglobin A1c
- Insulin levels
They also found liver function to be improved through a reduction of liver enzymes. This is a good thing because it is the liver that spits out glucose during the night causing us type 2s to wake up with abnormally high blood sugars (dawn phenomenon). The researchers recommend berberine as a treatment for type 2 diabetes.
In this particular study from the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 116 patients with type 2 diabetes and dyslipidemia (abnormal lipid profile: LDL, HDL, triglycerides) were chosen.
They were randomly chosen to receive either 1-gram daily of berberine or a placebo for 3 months. The berberine was extracted from a Chinese herb called coptis chinensis. They measured:
- 20% decrease in fasting blood glucose in the berberine group
- Hemoglobin A1c was reduced by 12%
- Triglycerides were lowered 35.8%
- 18% reduction in total cholesterol
- LDL (lousy) cholesterol reduced by 21%
On the website for the National Institutes of Health, I found this research. It actually consists of 2 individual studies. In study A, 36 newly diagnosed type 2 diabetic adults were randomly given Metformin or berberine for 3 months. Researchers state: “The hypoglycemic (glucose lowering) effect of berberine was similar to that of metformin.” These are numbers for study A:
- A1c down 20%
- Fasting blood glucose down 35%
- Post-meal glucose down 44%
- Triglycerides down 21%
In study B, 48 adults with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes were given berberine for 3 months and this was the outcome:
- 9.9% reduction in A1c
- Fasting blood sugar down 28%
- HOMA-IR down 44.7% (measurement of insulin producing pancreatic B-cell function and insulin resistance)
This study sheds some light on one of the mechanisms in which berberine does its handiwork. It activates a regulator enzyme in cells called AMPK or AMP-activated protein kinase. This critical component in the human body acts as a kind of “master switch” that regulates cell longevity, fat storage, glucose utilization, mitochondria, cell cleansing and signaling. All of these are considerations not just for type 2 diabetics but essentially all human beings, at the very least older folks.
As I already noted, berberine improves these processes through AMPK activation. Conversely, a decline in this enzyme leads to the many characteristics we normally associate to not only type 2 diabetes but aging as well. That to me means that even non-diabetics could benefit from berberine supplementation. The fact berberine exerts its power on this cellular powerhouse is truly remarkable. Speaking of mitochondria, it also has an effect for the better on the mitochondrial processes that lead to gluconeogenesis (sugar creation in liver), adipogenesis (fat creation), and cholesterol.
At the time of this writing, I’m going on my 3rd week of berberine supplementation. The link below is to the product that I’m currently using with positive results already. During this time I also started a low-carb kind of diet called a ketogenic diet. I’ll write about that in the near future but I mention it now because prior to it, I was still trying to recover from my end of year/holidays splurge. So I wasn’t my usual good glucose level self. But what does that have to do with berberine?
Well, I’ve eaten low-carbohydrate for 3 years or so and am already familiar with how fast my glucose comes down and how low. Now that I added berberine, I noticed a 20-30-mg/dl reduction on average in my blood sugar compared to previous experience. Not only that, my morning fasting blood sugar upon waking, came down to 120 mg/dl and I don’t use medications. For me, that’s awesome. I’m used to 130-160mg/dl on average.
My best readings are in the evening and I hovered right around 100mg/dl all within two weeks of starting to take berberine! After all this research I’ve read, logic dictates that it can only get better and that’s exciting. My results to me are impressive but I do realize it’s anecdotal evidence reflecting my personal experience. But isn’t it what matters to each of us? What our results and experience tell us?
When I purchased my bottle of berberine, I had it down as a topic in my list of blog subjects for sometime in the future but I came across it on Amazon and started to read all the reviews. They’re virtually all positive. People’s experience varies of course because we’re all in different stages of type 2 diabetes progression. Not only that but reviewers seldom go into about their diets which is certainly having an effect for better or worse.
All those reviews are anecdotal and yet it was enough for me to buy this supplement. I had not written this article yet and much less conducted the research required. But once I did, it was all icing on the cake. The point I’m trying to make is that even though you may not have any experience with berberine, between the research and anecdotal evidence I gave you here today, I hope it will move you to give it a try. After all, what do you really have to lose besides blood sugar and points off your lipid profile?
Before I finish, its imperative you understand one very critical piece of information. In my experience, no amount of supplements or even exercise will overcome the wrong diet. In the case of diabetes in general, the wrong type of diet is one that keeps raising your blood sugar unnecessarily. What that sentence boils down to is really consuming the wrong carbohydrates and the quantity.
If you don’t buy that, it’s ok. Don’t take my word for it, find out for yourself. Keep an eye out for a video I’m in the process of producing titled “The Great Macronutrient Experiment for Diabetics.” My goal for it is to aid diabetics and anyone for that matter how different macronutrients affect blood sugar. It will prove that what we’ve been taught is utterly wrong. If you’d like to keep updated of all my web site updates, and special project releases, sign up at the bottom of this page. You’ll find a red, black and white form. I will also send some tools and information you can put to use immediately.
But back to diet; although extremely critical it is only one piece of the puzzle. Exercise and supplements are most assuredly part of the equation. I learned this the hard way. It turns out the 80/20 rule applies here. But it all makes up the whole.
Once I realized all of that is when I created the 5 Rs of Type 2 Diabetes Reversal, which is just a template, or framework in which all aspects of this disease and its remission fall into. To learn more about the 5 Rs, head over to my home page where you’ll find a short description of them at the top. All of my articles are categorized into at least one of those Rs as well as other categories to help you classify and compartmentalize all the information.
Berberine does have its potential side effects like most supplements and medications. One of the studies I referenced here listed gastrointestinal adverse effects in 34.5% of the participants. These effects were listed as diarrhea, constipation, flatulence and abdominal pain. These were observed only in the first 4 weeks of the study and were not considered severe.
I can attest to some of these effects in my dosing 1 1/2 grams of berberine daily. I now realize I should have started with 500mg a day for a few days and increase that to 1 gram for a few more. Finally, increase that to 1 1/2 grams. But now as I go into my 3rd week, I seem to have settled in to the amount of berberine I take. In any event, that is the way I recommend you take this supplement; ease into it so you can assess how your body reacts.
If you have type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes or are overweight it means there are varying degrees of insulin resistance in your body’s cells. This is evident if you carry a good amount of weight around your midsection. Not only that if you have high triglycerides, or high cholesterol then you too are a perfect candidate to take berberine especially when you take into account the considerable positive evidence presented by all the studies I wrote about herein. Just reread the sections listing those results.
With all that said, here are some links to get you started supplementing with this wonder of nature.