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When it comes to high blood sugar and pressure, it seems every day there’s a new treatment being touted for hypoglycemic properties. But one such herb — berberine — may have some real science to support its use in lowering blood sugar and ongoing management.
What Is Berberine?
Berberine is a compound that’s naturally found in plants like European barberry, goldenseal, and goldthread, according to MedlinePlus. And it’s nothing new — a study published in December 2014 in Biochemistry and Cell Biology notes berberine has been used in Chinese, Indian, and Middle Eastern folk medicine for at least four centuries.
In more recent years, the supplement has gained a foothold in the United States as an over-the-counter supplement. “It might be hitting the mainstream now, but the herb itself has been used for thousands of years,” says Robin Foroutan, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in integrative medicine, functional medicine, and holistic healing modalities with the Morrison Center in New York City. “It’s almost as though our research is catching up with something that ancient healers knew about for a long, long time.”
Proposed Health Benefits of Berberine
Research has shown berberine may help with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and skin issues like burns and canker sores, according to MedlinePlus. It’s also been shown to help people with high blood sugar because it appears to help reduce high blood sugar levels and regulate it, according to MedlinePlus. Researchers have found this effect, but aren’t exactly sure why it has these anti-diabetic properties, per the aforementioned study in Biochemistry and Cell Biology.
Research About Whether Berberine Can Help Reduce High Blood Sugar
Much of the research that’s been done on berberine has explored the effect it has on people with type 2 diabetes. Below are some of the studies and their findings.
Can Help Lower Blood Sugar
The Biochemistry and Cell Biology study notes that not only does berberine have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, but it may also help reduce insulin resistance, which is the hallmark of type 2 diabetes. The researchers note that it appears taking berberine on its own or as an add-on therapy to other diabetes treatments may be beneficial. The researchers concluded that berberine may be a good treatment option to try before insulin therapy (under a doctor’s supervision, of course) and may offer better results than metformin, which is generally the first-line treatment for type 2 diabetes.
Could Reduce A1C
About a decade ago, a study published in Metabolism found that berberine not only lowered blood glucose levels, but it also lowered levels of hemoglobin A1C, triglycerides, and insulin in people with type 2 diabetes. A1C is a two- to three-month average of blood sugar levels and a test used to diagnose diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Has the Potential to Improve Fasting and Postprandial Glucose
Berberine may reduce fasting and postprandial, or post-meal, glucose levels by more than 30 percent, according to a one study. These are other markers for blood glucose control.
A Bonus Benefit: Affordability
Science-Backed Benefits of Berberine for Blood Sugar Management
“Nobody just wakes up one day with diabetes — it’s a slow process,” Foroutan says. “People can start to take action when their hemoglobin [A1C] levels are starting to approach the prediabetes range.” According to the Mayo Clinic, hemoglobin is a protein in your red blood cells that transports oxygen, and A1C measures how much of your hemoglobin is covered in sugar (glycated hemoglobin).
A study on rats found berberine may help protect against diabetes because it can increase insulin expression, regenerate B cells (which lose function as diabetes progresses), provides antioxidant properties, and decreases lipid peroxidation, which is a marker for oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is linked to cell damage and various chronic health conditions, notes past research. This study on berberine was also done on rats, and this protective factor hasn’t been studied well among humans.
No, You Don’t Have To Eat The Actual Plant To Get The Benefits
Innovative companies like Nootropics Depot have extracted the most potent parts of Berberine and put into a convenient powder you can take with your meals. They’re currently expediting shipping so if you’re looking for something to help manage your blood sugar levels check them out.
*More information on Berberine clinical trials found here: https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03976336