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Berberine: Another Natural Remedy Too Potent To Ignore

by Carly Neubert, BA, NC on January 05, 2022

If you’ve been reading my blog posts recently, you’ve probably noticed that Thorne has made a pretty big impact on the supplement industry. From human health to canine health, Thorne is a force to be reckoned with. (If you want to learn more about Thorne, check out my tell-all blog post HERE). This blog will focus on one of their most popular formulas, but also one of the most elusive - Berberine-500.

Berberine research has been focused primarily on those with diabetes or heart conditions, but there is evidence coming as of late that those with PCOS and high cholesterol could see some benefits as well. With how different these health conditions are, you might be asking yourself, “is berberine the cure for everything?” Last year alone, over 600 studies involving berberine were performed and published. The jury is still out on that, but I will be taking a deep dive into the benefits that berberine can provide to you. 

You might think you could walk into the forest and find a berberine plant.  Alas, you would be mistaken. Berberine is an extract that is found in many plants including Californian poppy, goldenseal, cork tree, Chinese goldthread, Oregon grape, Barberry shrubs, and several plants in the Berberis genus. 

Historically, shrubs that contain berberine (barberry shrubs) were used in Ancient China and South Asia more than 3000 years ago. Its bright yellow color made it a widely used dye. Even today, it is still used in India as wool dye. The stem, stem bark, roots and root bark were used for inflammatory diseases, healing of wounds, fever reduction, and digestive relief. Today, clinical and experimental studies have determined that berberine has multiple pharmacological properties. According to the American Chemical Society, there are clinical studies being conducted for its efficacy in treatments for diabetes, cancer, hyperlipidemia, congestive heart failure, and HIV. Ancient Indian, Chinese, and Middle-Eastern civilizations used berberine for a number of medical conditions. Today, we can see this natural extract used in supplements for fever reduction, common cold relief, and respiratory issues. 

According to recent research, berberine itself has shown evidence in human or animal studies to help with:

  • Maintaining Healthy Cholesterol
  • Controlling Blood Sugar
  • Weight Loss
  • PCOS Symptom Relief
  • Digestion
  • Inflammation
  • Ampk Activation 

 Quite a variety of health conditions right? Let’s unpack each one and see how Thorne’s formula can help.

Healthy Cholesterol:

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide. Heart health is extremely important, especially because of its genetic and environmental/lifestyle factors. Recently, berberine has been studied as a therapeutic and alternative way to address heart health. One of the reasons people like to utilize berberine for their cholesterol regime is because it works differently than prescription statins. Commonly prescribed statin drugs come with terrible and lasting side effects including muscle atrophy and sexual dysfunction.  

It can be used in combination with or instead of statin drugs. Scientists have not concretely concluded on just how berberine works to lower cholesterol. It doesn’t work in the same way a statin works by blocking enzymes from creating cholesterol. Hence the reason you can take berberine and a statin at the same time. One study hypothesized that berberine increases your liver’s ability to get rid of LDL quickly and efficiently instead of having it build up in your bloodstream.

A study in 2017 suggests that utilizing berberine instead of traditional statins provides positive effects for those who cannot use statins because of intolerance or resistance to utilizing conventional medicine. While this is a positive start for this claim, most studies need to be completed in order to add evidence to this broad claim of “improving” cholesterol. Some supplement brands take this study and beef it up for their marketing claims. Thorne, on the other hand, sets its claims closer to the scientific studies that have been validated by medicine journals. Thorne’s adherence to quality supplements and claims backed by science can be seen, as clear as day, in this context. 

Controlling Blood Sugar:

Berberine studies have shown that those with diabetes have seen a decrease in their glucose levels, increasing the response to insulin. By activating AMP-activated protein kinase, researchers have gathered that this may be a possible way for treatment of diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol. 

Weight Management:

There are multiple aspects of berberine that stimulate weight loss. For example, berberine reduces the secretion of the hormone, leptin, which is responsible for stimulating your appetite. With less leptin, you will experience less hunger pangs and urges. Also, the AMP-activated protein kinase works to regulate metabolism. Some sources even refer to it as a “metabolism master switch.” Thorne’s berberine can be vital in your weight management journey.  I recommend berberine along with a low carbohydrate diet and lifestyle coaching.

PCOS Symptom Relief:

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)  is a hormonal disorder that affects millions of women worldwide. While symptoms can vary in severity from person to person, insulin sensitivity, weight management, and cholesterol can be some of the areas that are heavily affected. Up to 75% of women with PCOS are insulin resistant.  

This contributes to overall risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Recent research has suggested that berberine improves insulin sensitivity through increasing activity of compounds that are responsible for helping carb metabolism. Additionally, increased weight gain around the midsection is common. Primarily due to the increased amount of male hormones and insulin resistance, studies have also shown promise in berberine aiding in weight management. There was even a study done in 2011 with a small number of women where berberine was more effective at decreasing weight to hip ratios and male hormone levels than Metformin, a popular anti-diabetic medication. 

I happen to be one of the 25% of PCOS patients that AREN'T insulin resistant.  My menstrual cycle wasn’t regular until I got a non-hormonal copper IUD  and then it was always painful and I suffered tremendously with PMS and PMDD. I vaguely remember the ultrasound technician telling me I had had a cyst on one of my ovaries at the time I was having the IUD implanted. It didn’t register in my 21-year old brain that this might be an indication of a bigger issue.  

Although I am not insulin resistant and not overweight, I have always had a difficult time losing weight and I fit the criteria for abdominal obesity. You read that correctly, you don’t have to be overweight to have abdominal obesity. In simple terms, abdominal obesity is when you store more body fat in your belly than in any other part of your body. Your hip-to-waist ratio is a reliable measurement of abdominal obesity also known as central adiposity.  

One study investigated many of berberine’s superpowers at the same time.  This study measured women with PCOS and their body fat, blood sugar, triglycerides, HDL, LDL, and insulin levels. They were given either metformin or 500mg berberine (3 times per day) for a 3-month long study.  At the end of the study, the results showed that berberine performed better than metformin. 


The gut-brain connection is extremely important in the analysis of your overall health. A healthy gut is good for your heart, mental health, and pretty much your whole body! According to a study done in 2017, antibacterial activity was broadly increased by berberine. Thorne’s berberine formula is recommended to increase a healthy balance of microbes in your GI (gastrointestinal) tract. Interestingly enough, high doses of berberine (more than 500mg at a time) can actually cause diarrhea or constipation. While lower doses, 300mg at a time, were proven to improve diarrhea and other GI symptoms. Dose and timing are important with berberine supplements.

Biohacking your mental health:  

Berberine may not have received all the press it is worth. Besides all of its other benefits, it can support mental health too. You may have heard the term “BDNF” if you are a biohacker or looking to improve your mental and cognitive (brain) health. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor is found to be low in people with anxiety and depression. Berberine increases BDNF in your brain and shows promise for reducing symptoms of mental illness. Human, rat, and mouse studies have all proven that berberine increases brain neurotransmitters norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine. It has several mechanisms of action that are outlined in this study. The doses used were 1200-2400mg per day. 

When I started to take a berberine supplement, I started with one 500mg berberine HCL per day for one week. I watched for signs of digestive distress and didn’t experience any, so I increased to the recommended dose of 2 capsules per day. I take 1 capsule in the morning and one in the evening. I recommend spreading out the dose as opposed to taking it all at once.  

Let’s Look at the Data!

I’m a numbers girl, I love to read the latest studies and clinical work being done on supplements. I have included a list of studies that may help you in your research on berberine:

Here are some FAQ’s 

What is berberine used for?

Most of the studies are used to prove that it lowers cholesterol, helps with fatty liver (NAFLD), PCOS, weight loss, triglycerides, Metabolic Syndrome, Cardiometabolic syndrome, lowers body fat, balances hormones, and improves fertility.  Some of the lesser studied uses are acne, immune support, longevity, GI issues, and antimicrobial strength. 

What does berberine do for the body?

Studies in animals and humans show:

  • Lowered LDL (bad cholesterol)
  • Lowered triglycerides
  • Lower blood sugar
  • Lower insulin
  • Body fat loss
  • Weight loss
  • Reduced liver enzymes
  • Increased fertility
  • Improved gut health
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Longevity
  • Cancer prevention
  • Liver support

 Can berberine be harmful?

No toxic events have been reported. Studies confirm that it can interact with some antibiotics and warfarin. 

 Can berberine damage the liver?

No, doses up to 1500mg have been shown to help with liver function and Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. 

Is berberine safe to take daily?  Can I take berberine forever?

Yes, studies show positive improvements with up to 2400mg per day. Higher doses can cause toxicity in animal experiments. 

 Is berberine the same as metformin?

No, but it can be used to lower blood sugar and help with diabetes and metabolic syndrome.  

Is berberine good for skin?

Yes, it can lower inflammation, regulate hormones, and control Staph aureus on the skin. 

Does berberine cleanse the liver?

Yes, berberine helps to eliminate cholesterol from your liver. In this sense it supports liver health and cleanses the liver. 

How much should I take?

The doses in the medical studies are between 1200 and 2400mg per day in divided doses. That would equal 1-3 capsules of berberine 500mg per day. 

In Conclusion....

Berberine, like many other natural remedies, can seem like a cure-all for many different medical ailments. It is definitely a hot topic right now. The thought of cures for some of our most troublesome and painful medical conditions being found in the natural world is fascinating to me. Taking accountability for your own health is a responsibility that is not to be taken lightly.  

Research your supplements thoroughly, and seek professional advice. 

If you are looking into creating a new regime and are going down a rabbit hole of Google searches with no avail, Schedule a consult with me, Carly Neubert BA, NC.