The Spartan Guide to Berberine
Available in pill form, berberine is a chemical derived from plants such as goldenseal, phellodendron, goldthread, and others. Proponents say it can kill harmful bacteria, reduce blood sugar, lower cholesterol, and create stronger heartbeats.
Early but promising evidence suggests that berberine can boost intestinal health by balancing out your microbiome, the collective bacteria living in your gut. “The nice thing about berberine is that it attacks harmful bacteria while sparing the good bacteria,” says Susan Blum, M.D., an integrative physician and founder of the Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, New York. “I use it as my go-to for treating bacterial dysbiosis,” a condition in which your gut has too few good bugs or an overgrowth of parasites, candida, or yeast.
Impressively, in some people with type 2 diabetes, taking 500 milligrams (mg) of berberine two or three times a day for up to three months controls blood sugar as effectively as the diabetes drugs metformin and rosiglitazone. And there’s early evidence that berberine can help treat high cholesterol. In one study, after taking 500 mg twice a day for three months, patients had lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), and triglyceride levels than when they began.
How to Use It
Berberine’s standard dose is 900 to 2,000 mg per day, spread out over three or four doses. “I recommend taking it about 10 to 20 minutes before meals, so that it will have maximum effect,” Dr. Blum says. “For gut treatment, I usually recommend using it for 30 to 60 days. For working with diabetes, I leave people on it for six months and then retest their blood work.” Taking high doses of berberine all at once can lead to diarrhea, cramps, and an upset stomach (which kind of defeats the whole point), so stick with low-and-slow dosing.