Herb Corner - BerberineHerb Corner: Berberine

By Dr. Mao Shing Ni, L.Ac., D.O.M., Ph.D, Dipl. C.H., ABAAP

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, we have seen an increase incidence of weight gain caused by stress eating and "Zoombies" — those who sit all day participating in Zoom conferences, which has led to a surge in prediabetes, increased cholesterol and blood pressure, and in cases of SIBO—more on this to follow.

For this month’s herb corner, I have chosen to feature berberine, an extract of coptidis root, an herb used in Chinese medicine to support healthy weight; appropriate blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels; and inhibit the proliferation of "bad" bacteria. Interestingly in China, this gold-colored root was once so prized that its price rivaled that of an ounce of gold!

Berberine is a natural compound that is found in coptidis root, or huang lian, and in several other plants including goldenseal, goldthread, and Oregon grape. Berberine has been traditionally used to control diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and certain bacterial infections and has no known side effects.

Some research suggests that taking 500 mg of berberine 2-3 times daily for up to three months may control blood sugar as effectively as metformin, a commonly prescribed drug for type 2 diabetes. Because it decreases the body’s resistance to insulin, berberine can also be helpful for women suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) which predisposes them to belly fat, hormone imbalance, and infertility.

In other studies, taking berberine for up to two years seems to have similar reduction in total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol, and triglyceride levels in people with high cholesterol when compared with standard cholesterol-lowering medications. Due to its fat-lowering action, berberine has also been found to reduce fatty liver as well as help to lower BMI (body mass index) and induce weight loss in obese patients.

In Chinese medicine, coptidis has long been used for infections in the digestive tract. Modern studies show that berberine extracts from coptidis are effective in inhibiting H. pylori, the bacteria responsible for stomach ulcers, E. coli, giardia and salmonella—all of which can cause diarrhea and intestinal dysbiosis, or an imbalance in the gut mircrobiome.

Over the last 20 years, Tao of Wellness pioneered a three-phase treatment program to treat SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth—a condition of dysbiosis or microbiome imbalance with berberine. SIBO causes abdominal pain, bloating, gas, constipation and diarrhea, and is often a result of intestinal infection, dietary indiscretion, or antibiotic use that indiscriminately kills all bacteria, both good and bad, leading to dysbiosis. The benefit of berberine is that it selectively kills only the “bad” bacteria and has no adverse effect on “good” bacteria, thereby allowing the healthy microbiome to be restored.

In summary, berberine should be part of everyone’s health and wellness arsenal. It helps support healthy weight, blood sugar levels, cholesterol and blood pressure, and inhibits the growth of bad bacteria.

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September 2020

Volume 18, Number 9

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