What You Should Know About the Health Benefits of Berberine

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Berberine is an alkaloid extracted from various plants, providing health benefits with its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Berberine has been utilized for thousands of years in both healing practices and in textile dyes for its yellow hue, with the oldest written records of its use dating back to 650 B.C. In recent decades, berberine's popularity as a supplement has grown alongside the collection of research on how it supports health.

In ancient times, berberine was used most often for ailments ranging from snake bites to stomach aches. Today, the majority of research focuses on its role in supporting metabolic, cardiovascular, brain, and liver health. 

In this article, we’ll detail how berberine works in the body, the top benefits of the compound, and how combining berberine with trans-resveratrol and NMN (nicotinamide mononucleotide) leads to a synergistic supplement stack that supports health and longevity

What is Berberine? 

Berberine is an alkaloid compound that is most commonly extracted from plants of the barberry family or the perennial herb goldenseal. However, berberine can be obtained from dozens of other plant families and genera. 

Berberine’s health-supporting powers come primarily from its chemical structure as an alkaloid — a nitrogen-containing, plant-derived compound that supports antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory activity. Alkaloids in plants are produced as a defense response to environmental stressors, providing pharmacological-like support in the human body. 

How Does Berberine Work?

As an antioxidant, berberine scavenges for free radicals and reactive oxygen species, which are damaging compounds that create an inflammatory environment that accelerates aging. Berberine may also increase levels of other antioxidants in the body, including glutathione and superoxide dismutase. 

Berberine impacts various systems in the body through its activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), an enzyme that acts as a sensor for low levels of energy, or ATP, inside cells. When this occurs, AMPK works quickly to restore intracellular energy levels, which it does by redirecting metabolism and taking glucose from the blood and pulling it into cells. 

Essentially, AMPK acts as a master metabolic regulator in the body, and berberine supports this process. 

Top 5 Ways Berberine Supports Health

1. Supports Healthy Blood Sugar

Through its activation of the AMPK pathway, which pulls glucose (sugar) from the blood into cells for energy, berberine has been shown to support healthy blood sugar levels in those who are already in the normal range. 

In addition, berberine has been found to increase the activity of glucokinase, an enzyme that supports healthy glucose metabolism. 

In an April 2019 study published in Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, individuals who took berberine for one month experienced significant reductions in fasting blood glucose and blood glucose two hours after a meal compared to those taking a placebo. 

These results indicate that berberine supplementation does not need to be taken for a long time before seeing supported blood sugar management.

Berberine has been shown to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

2. Supports Cardiovascular Health

Berberine increases the production of nitric oxide — a vasodilator that relaxes blood vessels and supports healthy blood pressure — and may lower arterial plaque buildup by supporting a healthier antioxidant and inflammatory response. Berberine may also encourage the expression of the sirtuin called SIRT1, which plays a role in supporting longevity and heart health. 

In a randomized controlled trial published in Expert Opinion on Biological Therapy, healthy individuals who took 500 mg of berberine twice a day for three months saw significant reductions in total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol, with increases in HDL cholesterol, compared to a placebo. 

3. Supports Healthy Liver Function

Berberine has been shown to reduce buildup of hepatic fat, also known as fatty liver. 

A clinical trial found that 16 weeks of berberine supplementation, combined with lifestyle interventions, led to significant reductions in hepatic fat levels and metabolic support, as measured by weight, blood glucose, and lipid profiles.

In addition to reducing hepatic fat levels, berberine may also support liver health by encouraging a healthy inflammatory response and acting as an antioxidant.

4. Supports Brain Health

There are several mechanisms behind berberine’s ability to support brain health, beginning with its role as an antioxidant that can support a healthy neuroinflammatory response. 

As outlined in a June 2019 review published in Current Neuropharmacology, berberine can cross the blood-brain barrier and clear out dysfunctional neuronal proteins by inducing autophagy — our body’s way of removing damaged cells and cell parts. 

In a systematic review of 15 animal studies, berberine was associated with supporting a healthy memory and inflammatory response. However, we don’t know for sure if these results would translate to humans.

Berberine has been studied for its effects on brain health through improving mood disorders and neurodegenerative diseases.

5. Supports a Healthy Weight

Similarly to how berberine improves metabolism and liver health, the compound may also support a healthy weight.

Although the development of obesity is multifactorial, inflammation and dysregulated glucose metabolism are both known to play a role, which berberine helps to support. In addition, berberine has been found to reduce adipocyte (fat cell) maturation by modulating gene activity. 

A study with mildly overweight adults found that those who took berberine for one month had reductions in body weight and increases in brown adipose tissue activity. Also known as brown fat, this type of tissue is more metabolically active and increases energy expenditure — essentially, having more brown fat supports a healthier body weight. 

Power-Packed Trio: Berberine, Trans-Resveratrol, and NMN

The health-supporting effects of berberine can become even more pronounced when combined with trans-resveratrol and NMN (nicotinamide mononucleotide). Both NMN and trans-resveratrol activate the expression of sirtuins, and both berberine and trans-resveratrol activate the AMPK pathway. 

Trans-resveratrol — the most bioavailable form of the polyphenolic compound found primarily in red grapes and wine — increases NMN's effectiveness. NMN is a precursor to the essential coenzyme NAD+, a compound that supports healthy aging. When taken together, this powerful trio works synergistically to support various health-promoting and anti-aging pathways. . 

Key Takeaway:

  • The plant alkaloid berberine is most well-known for its ability to support healthy blood sugar and lipid levels, which then supports cardiovascular and metabolic health. 
  • In addition, berberine has been studied for its beneficial support to liver function, brain health, and maintaining a healthy weight. 
  • Combining berberine with trans-resveratrol and nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) may further support health, as this trio activates several anti-aging and longevity pathways.
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