Been hearing about berberine lately? For years, this plant compound more or less flew under the radar—but recently it’s become a TikTok sensation, with countless creators touting its potential weight-management benefits. And while the words “TikTok sensation” don’t necessarily inspire confidence, the hype is actually well-deserved. Berberine might just be one of the natural supplement world’s best-kept secrets due to its broad range of science-backed, health-boosting qualities. Read on for more about this powerful plant extract.
What Is Berberine?
Let’s start with the basics: Berberine is an alkaloid (a plant compound that causes physiological reactions in humans) extracted from several different plants, including the barberry, tree turmeric, goldenseal, and prickly poppy, among others. Typically, this alkaloid is found in the roots, stems, or bark of the plants that contain it (though it’s present in the fruit and rhizomes of some plants). It’s known for its stunning yellow color and has been prized by ancient Ayurvedic and Chinese medical systems for thousands of years for a whole host of reasons. Today it’s sold as a dietary supplement in capsule form.
The Benefits of Berberine
Berberine has become a hot topic lately due mainly to buzz around its potential to support thermogenesis, but that’s just one of its superpowers. Here are three reasons why berberine’s got star quality.
1. Supports Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
Berberine is popular for its potential in promoting healthy, stable blood sugar levels, according to The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Brittany Michels, R.D.N., L.D.N., C.P.T. In one study published in Evidence Based Complementary Alternative Medicine, patients with metabolic syndrome (which is marked by high blood sugar, weight gain, and high blood pressure) who took berberine for three months experienced improvements in insulin response, as well as lowered body mass index.
Read More: How To Get Off The Blood Sugar Rollercoaster
What’s more, a paper published in Natural Medicine Journal suggests that a combination of berberine supplementation and lifestyle modifications (think exercise and healthy eating) can have a significant impact on blood sugar.
Research has found that berberine may be particularly helpful for those already experiencing issues with blood sugar levels, whether utilized on its own or in conjunction with standard Western treatments. In fact, Michels often recommends that this group of people talk with their healthcare team about whether berberine might be a beneficial addition to their care plan.
2. Supports A Healthy Heart
A number of factors contribute to overall heart health—and there’s reason to believe that berberine can support multiple of these inputs.
One big one? Cholesterol. A meta-analysis of 16 trials published in the journal Phytomedicine, for example, found that berberine had the potential to support healthy cholesterol levels (by modulating both “good” HDL cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol). How, though? Some evidence suggests that berberine may inhibit the enzyme PCSK9, which then influences how the body processes LDL cholesterol.
Berberine has also been shown to support healthy levels of triglycerides (a type of stored fat that can be problematic when present in too-high amounts), according to another study published in Metabolism.
Overall, these results suggest that berberine has powerful potential to promote overall cardiovascular health. Research published in the American Journal of Cardiology even showed that it supports increased life expectancy among those with heart health issues. Considering that heart disease is by far the leading cause of death around the world, plenty of people could stand to reap the heart health benefits of this plant.
3. Supports Weight Management
As previously noted, TikTok is particularly hyped about berberine’s potential for weight management. How does it work, exactly? For one, research suggests that berberine promotes thermogenesis (the process through which the body turns calories into usable energy). Supporting energy usage is one major pathway to reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.
Read More: 5 Ways You Could Be Sabotaging Your Fat Loss
Berberine’s impact on blood sugar and cholesterol can also factor in here. Take one study published in Phytomedicine that looked at obese participants: After 12 weeks, those who took 500 milligrams three times per day lost an average loss of five pounds in addition to notable improvements in triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Talk about a win-win.
Meanwhile, a study published in Evidence Based Alternative Complementary Medicine found that people with metabolic issues who supplemented with berberine extract for three months experienced notable changes in BMI and insulin sensitivity.
It’s no wonder your social feed is packed with berberine! The plant extract is the perfect partner to a healthy lifestyle that includes a nutritious diet and regular physical activity.
Much of the research on berberine focuses on dosages between 500 and 2,000 milligrams per day, typically split up into multiple doses taken two or three times per day. This may be because some people experience digestive side effects like bloating when consuming it. That said, research hasn’t identified any other not-so-pleasant side effects—and suggests that berberine is safe for the liver.
Again, berberine may be most useful for people with metabolic health concerns. If you fall into that bucket, check in with your provider about your current care plan and health goals to determine how berberine might factor in.
If you’re curious about berberine, consider booking a free one-on-one nutrition consult with one of The Vitamin Shoppe’s nutritionists.