Many social media users have noticed that berberine is a hot trending topic among content creators and influencers. It is being touted as “nature’s Ozempic®.” With current shortages of various injectable medications for weight loss and diabetes, this can be an intriguing option for those wishing to achieve weight loss goals. It can also benefit many who deal with issues such as type 2 diabetes, heart problems, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or a similar condition. Berberine may be an ideal addition to the health and wellness regimen for many. But what is berberine?

Berberine is the major component in Coptis chinensis French, which is an ancient Chinese herb. The herb has been used in China for millennia to manage diabetes, and it has also been used to treat gastrointestinal diseases. You can buy berberine as an over-the-counter supplement.

How Can Berberine Be Beneficial?

Berberine can treat inflammation, which people with diabetes and heart conditions commonly experience. Additionally, berberine can help lower blood pressure when a patient is also taking another drug to manage high blood pressure.

Also, berberine can lower blood sugar and cholesterol. According to a pilot study from the National Library of Medicine, berberine was effective at lowering the study participants’ blood glucose levels, as well as causing their cholesterol levels to significantly fall. The study concluded that while more research and testing can occur, berberine could be effective to help people manage type 2 diabetes.

Research has shown that patients who take barberry, which is a plant containing a large concentration of berberine, were able to lose weight and obtain lower body mass indexes. This indicates that berberine may potentially improve patients’ metabolism.

Individuals who have PCOS are more likely to be obese and have high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. Berberine can potentially improve all these conditions in patients with PCOS.

Should I Take Berberine?

If you are thinking about taking berberine, talk with your primary care provider first. Your provider can tell you whether or not berberine could benefit you and advise you on the number of milligrams you could take per day if berberine could benefit you.

If you currently take metformin to regulate type 2 diabetes, your provider may still have you continue taking the metformin to see if berberine works well with it or take you off metformin. Do not stop taking metformin or any of your other medications without first talking with your provider.

It is possible that berberine can interact with metformin and other medications, decreasing their effectiveness. Also, side effects from berberine can include:

  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Nausea, vomiting or stomach pain
  • Constipation

To help determine if a particular berberine supplement is safe, you can examine the label to see if it is certified by the National Science Foundation (NSF) or NSF International. Supplements are not regulated by the FDA, and there is no way to 100 percent determine if a supplement will be safe or effective for you. Also, some supplements have different amounts of berberine in them, and the amounts may not be clearly communicated, which could make it easier to overdose on berberine.

If you start taking berberine but experience any allergic reactions or any severe adverse side effects, stop taking it. It is also not recommended to use berberine if you are pregnant or if you are breastfeeding, since it can cause your baby to have jaundice, which could lead to brain damage and other serious health problems.

If you need a primary care provider to help manage obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems or PCOS, or if you are trying to decide whether berberine is right for you, visit UofL Health – Primary Care or call 502-588-4343 to find a provider near you.

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Sondra D. Williams, Pharm.D

Sondra D. Williams, Pharm.D., is a staff clinical pharmacist with UofL Health – Pharmacy. She has been a registered pharmacist for more than 10 years with a background in retail/community and managed care. She has been with UofL Health since February 2023.

All posts by Sondra D. Williams, Pharm.D
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