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Berberine Pros and Cons: The Ultimate Guide

Have you ever come across the tart, red berries of the Berberis vulgaris plant? Known as barberries, these have been used for centuries for their therapeutic benefits. One of the key compounds of barberry is berberine, an antioxidant that is known to help maintain the body’s natural inflammatory responses, as well as supporting various other health functions in the body.*

But is it safe to include a berberine supplement in your diet? What are the health benefits of berberine? Are there any side effects of taking berberine? Get all the answers to common queries about berberine's pros and cons, different berberine supplement forms, and how to determine the efficacy of a berberine supplement. Use the links below to jump ahead to different topics on the page.

Content
Berberine: A ‘Wonder’ MoleculeWhat Are Berberine’s Health Benefits?
Are There Any Side Effects of Berberine?Is Berberine An Appetite Suppressant?
Berberine’s Pros and Cons: An Overview Berberine Supplement Forms
Why Do You Need a Berberine Supplement?Common Challenges of Berberine Supplements
FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions

Berberine: A “Wonder” Molecule

Chemical formula of berberine

Berberine is a bioactive alkaloid — a class of nitrogenous organic compounds of plant origin.  Berberine is found in the roots, rhizomes, stems, and barks of barberry, tree turmeric, Oregon grape, Californian poppy, yellowroot, and similar trees. The therapeutic effects of berberine have been found to mitigate oxidative stress and down-regulate the production of proinflammatory cytokines that can cause unbalanced inflammatory responses.*     

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What Are Berberine’s Health Benefits?

The antioxidative and immunomodulatory properties of berberine are attributed to its role in activating adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK)—an enzyme that regulates energy metabolism.* AMPK activation is further associated with promoting lipid and glucose metabolism and addressing energy imbalances to support a wide range of health functions.* 

SystemBeneficial Applications
Endocrine Health*Berberine’s glucose support properties promote normal glucose metabolism, including promoting insulin secretion, moderating intestinal absorption of glucose, and modulating gut microbiota.* 
Learn more about the potential benefits of berberine for nutritional support in diabetes and how research supports berberine’s benefits for resisting insulin resistance*
Immune Health*Berberine exerts its positive immuno-modulatory effects through the down-regulation of pro-inflammatory T-helper cells that are critical for adaptive immune responses.* Learn more about ‘Berberine vs Turmeric: Which is Right for You?’ 
Hepatic Health*In addition to AMPK signaling, berberine beneficially influences insulin pathway and hepatic lipid transportation, which can decrease glucose generation from non-carbohydrate precursors, and ammonia detoxification in the liver.* Learn more about ‘Berberine’s Liver Detox Benefits’. 
Neuro-Hormonal System*Berberine benefits exercise-induced exhaustion and helps limit muscle damage incurred during exercise.* Learn more about why using berberine in a weight management program can help individuals improve their overall health.*

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Are There Any Side Effects of Berberine?

Berberine has been traditionally used to address various health conditions and is generally considered safe and well-tolerated. However, the delivery route (type of formulation) and the duration of intake of berberine might cause certain side effects. The following table highlights some of the common side effects associated with taking berberine.        

Berberine Side Effects
Gastrointestinal side effects: Taking a berberine supplement might cause side effects such as constipation, diarrhea, flatulence, and stomach pain.  
Potential risk of low glucose level: Prolonged intake of a berberine supplement in high doses might lead to a significant drop in blood glucose levels. 
Contraindications: Because berberine exerts inhibitory effects on human cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes1 that play an important role in detoxification, cellular metabolism, and homeostasis, taking a berberine supplement along with drugs that metabolize CYP enzymes could result in contraindications. 

Also, it should be noted that there is limited data available about the potential effects of taking a berberine supplement on pregnant and breastfeeding women, and infants.  

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 Berberine Pros and Cons: An Overview

Due to berberine’s side effects and potential contraindications, it is always recommended to consult with your healthcare practitioner before taking a berberine supplement. The following table highlights some of berberine’s pros and cons and its role in supporting various health functions.*

Berberine Pros and Cons
Berberine Pros  Berberine Cons
Gastrointestinal health*Berberine promotes gut microbiota, particularly short-chain fatty acid (FCSA)-producing bacteria.* Side effects of berberine supplements can include diarrhea, constipation, and flatulence.  
Endocrine health*Berberine promotes glucose metabolism.*Prolonged usage of a berberine supplement might be associated with a drop in normal blood glucose levels. 
Cardiovascular health*Berberine supports normal lipid metabolism, which can lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels and promote cardiovascular health.* Intake of berberine supplements in high amounts has been associated2 with low blood pressure. 

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Is Berberine An Appetite Suppressant?

Berberine is not an appetite suppressant. Please consult with your health-care provider before taking berberine for appetite suppression or weight management. 

However, berberine might play a potential role in down-regulating appetite that can be linked to:  

  • Its side effects, such as nausea, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and vomiting. These adverse effects might result in gradual weight loss.
  • Its beneficial impact on gut microbiota, which further influences glucose metabolism, fat storage, and appetite.  

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Berberine Supplement Forms

Different supplement forms of berberine

As a commercially available nutritional supplement, berberine is available in the form of tablets, capsules, topical gels, fluid extracts, etc. Although berberine is available in different chemical forms, including berberine sulfate, berberine citrate, and berberine hydrochloride, berberine displays natural poor absorption with an absolute bioavailability as low as 0.68 percent. However, the reduced derivative of berberine—dihydroberberine (dhBBR), produced by the gut microbiota under the activity of the enzyme nitroreductases, displays a 5-fold greater intestinal absorption rate than berberine. 

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Why Do You Need A Berberine Supplement?

Given berberine’s pros and cons, you might wonder whether you really need a berberine supplement. The antioxidant properties of berberine and its role in helping to maintain the body’s natural inflammatory responses help address several pathological conditions.* Various clinical studies have established the beneficial effects of berberine in promoting various health functions, including endocrine health, immune health, and cardiovascular health.* 

Furthermore, nutritional supplements containing formulated berberine display enhanced efficacy than unformulated berberine. The following table highlights the need for a berberine supplement in your diet to promote your overall health.* 

Why Do You Need A Berberine Supplement?
For enhanced bioavailability: Berberine undergoes extensive metabolism and rapid efflux that results in its poor bioavailability. Nutritional supplements can be formulated to enhance berberine’s bioavailability.    
For enhanced palatability: Berberine has an intensely bitter taste that inhibits patient compliance. Newer supplement formulations can enhance the palatability of berberine for oral intake.    
For better absorption: Berberine is mostly lipophobic with poor membrane permeability. Berberine supplements address the shortcomings of unformulated berberine to optimize its absorption and efficacy.  

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Common Challenges of Berberine Supplements

Owing to the poor absorption of berberine, a majority of commercially available nutritional supplements contain high amounts of berberine to achieve the desired therapeutic effects. However, ingesting a high amount of berberine can have downsides. Furthermore, the berberine chloride salt has high aqueous solubility, making it difficult to mask the bitter taste of berberine in most nutritional supplements.  

A nano-formulated berberine supplement is relatively better absorbed even in relatively lesser amounts than previously required while masking the unpalatability of berberine to achieve patient compliance. 

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FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions About Berberine Supplements 

How much berberine should I take daily?

A single supplement capsule usually contains 400-500 mg of berberine, with berberine hydrochloride salt as the key ingredient. Clinical studies over 8-12 weeks duration have shown that daily intake of 1,000-1,500 mg of berberine provides significant benefit to LDL cholesterol levels.* However, due to berberine’s possible side effects, it is strongly recommended to ask your health-care practitioner about the right amount of daily berberine intake.

Is it safe to take a berberine supplement every day?

Berberine has a reasonably short-term safety profile and there is limited data on the daily intake of berberine over a prolonged period. Also, the effects of berberine in pregnant and breastfeeding women, and in infants and children are still being researched.    

How do I determine the efficacy of a berberine supplement formulation?

The efficacy of a berberine supplement depends on its enhanced palatability and better absorption of the active ingredient molecules in lesser amounts than previously required to achieve the desired effects. 

Tesseract’s BerberActiv® is an innovative, palatable, and hypoallergenic berberine supplement formulation that utilizes the proprietary CyLoc® - DexKey® nutrient delivery nanotechnology for unprecedented absorption of billions of berberine molecules in the intestinal tract. Enhanced absorption of berberine means micro-dosing—the ingestion of a lesser amount of berberine to achieve a powerful and rapid physiological response to support your overall health.*   

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The power of Tesseract supplements lies in enhancing palatability, maximizing bioavailability and absorption, and micro-dosing multiple nutrients in a single, highly effective capsule. Visit our website for more information about how Tesseract’s products can help support your endocrine health.* 

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Citations:

1Rad SZK, et al. Toxicology effects of Berberis vulgaris (barberry) and its active constituent, berberine: a review. Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences vol. 20,5 (2017):516-529. doi:10.22038/IJBMS.2017.86762Chun YT, et al. A biochemical study on the hypotensive effect of berberine in rats. General pharmacology vol. 10,3 (1979):177-182. doi:10.1016/0306-3623(79)90085-5

Al Czap, Founder | Tesseract

Al Czap has more than four decades of professional experience in preventative medicine. He founded Thorne Research in 1984 (sold in 2010) and he published Alternative Medicine Review for 17 years beginning in 1996. AMR was a highly acclaimed, peer-reviewed, and indexed medical journal. Al was the first to recognize the need for hypoallergenic ingredients and to devise methods of manufacture for and delivery of hypoallergenic products to underserved patient populations. His work has greatly impacted those with impaired immune and digestive systems and compromised health due to environmental exposures.

The advanced formulations based on our revolutionary, patented, and patent-pending technology are only available through Tesseract. No other medical, pharmaceutical, or supplement company is licensed to utilize our proprietary technology.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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