Barberry for diabetes: an effective remedy but be aware of some adverse effects
arberry, berberis or Berberis vulgaris is a evergreen shrub measuring 3 – 16 ft tall. Barberry comes from a large family of species, being the most commonly known: Berberis vulgaris. It is common in Europe, North Africa, Middle East, central Asia, and throughout temperate and subtropical regions. The berries are about 1/2 inch long presenting an oblong and slightly curved wit. Barberry is a non-native American plant. It was probably brought to America by European settlers for it’s food, ornamental and medicinal purposes. Barberry was considered a invasive weed in Massachusetts in 1754. It caused wheat failure by facilitating outbreaks of stem rust disease in the United States, prompting the deployment of an eradication program in 1918.
Barberry’s glucose lowering effects were first noted when used to treat diarrhea in diabetic patients. Barberry has a long history of medicinal use in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. There are no lack of studies concerning barbarry. The vast majority are concordant with barberry’s has anti hyperglycemic properties . Berberine is the plant’s alkaloid main compound, commonly used as an antibiotic .
Barberine is also found in Hydrastis canadensis (goldenseal) and Coptis chinensis (Coptis or goldenthread). In China berberine have been used for hundreds of years to treat diarrhea, diabetes and as an antibiotic drug. Only recently its properties have been studied as anti hyperglycemic and anti dyslipidemic. In one study from the Shanghai Clinical Center for Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases, berbarine was found to significantly reduce hyperglycemia and dyslipidemia. Berberine can also reduce obesity and cause a significant improvement in glucose tolerance . Berbarine increases glucose stimulated insulin secretion and increase the proliferation of Min6 cells.
In one study, 500 mg of berberine 3 times each day for 3 months. Berbarine has shown to be as effective as metformin in lowering blood sugar. Hemoglobin A1c was lowered from 9.5% to 7.5%. 
- Fasting blood glucose decreased from 10.6 to 6.9
- Postprandial blood glucose decreased from 19.8 to 11.1 mmol/L
- Plasma triglycerides decreased from 1.13 to 0.89 mmol/L
In another study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology Metabolism one hundred and sixteen patients with T2 diabetes and dyslipidemia were randomly divided in two groups, one received 1 gram of berberine every day for 3 months; the other a control group receiving placebo.
For the berberine group:
- Fasting plasma glucose decreased from 7.0 to 5.6 mm/L
- Post prandial glucose decreased from 12.0 to 8.9 mm/L
- HbA1c decreased from 7.5% to 6.6%
- triglycerides decreased from 2.51 to 1.61 mm/L (220 to
- total cholesterol decreased from 5.31 to 4.35 mm/L
- LDL cholesterol decreased from 3.23 to 2.55 mm/L
Significant difference can be seen in the control group. Mild to moderate constipation was observed in 5 participants in the
Mechanism of Action
The effects of berberine on glucose levels may be attributed to achieving a satisfactory glycemia regulation and an improvement in glucose metabolism. Berberine has been found to act on glucose metabolism through several mechanisms:
• Mimicking insulin action
• Improving insulin action by activating AMPK
• Reducing insulin resistance through protein kinase C-dependent up-regulation of insulin receptor expression
• Inducing glycolysis
• Promoting GLP-1 secretion and modulating its release
• Inhibition of DPP
Even though there are plenty of recent studies showing the positive effects of berberine; more study still needed. Berberine promote glucose and HbA1c lowering in patients with diabetes type II. In addition, berberine has a positive effect on blood glucose regulation, which might be caused by the activation of carbohydrate metabolism enzymes. Therefore the use of berberine from the plant barberry can be seen as useful tool or a substitute for oral anti hyperglycemic drugs such as metformin. The precise mechanism on how berberine works is not fully understood. Berberine might be particularly useful for diabetics needing to control or lower blood glucose if infection is present since one of its chief properties is of a antibiotic. Berberine may cause gastrointestinal disturbances and may be used with caution.
Berberine Herbs Warnings
- Berberis Fruit Extract and Biochemical Parameters in Patients With Type II Diabetes
- Berberine for Diabetes Mellitus Type 2
- Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes and Dyslipidemia with the Natural Plant Alkaloid Berberine
- Efficacy of Berberine in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes
- Pilot study on the additive effects of berberine and oral type 2 diabetes agents for patients with suboptimal glycemic control
- Preliminary study about the possible glycemic clinical advantage in using a fixed combination of Berberis aristata and Silybum marianum
standardized extracts versus only Berberis aristata in patients with type 2 diabetes
- Berberine improves glucose metabolism through induction of glycolysis