Ever heard of berberine? If you haven’t, you’re not alone.

Yet, if you haven’t heard of this substance, then it’s likely that you’ve heard of the group of compounds it belongs to — alkaloids. This all-natural bioactive compound that is extracted from a handful of plants in the goldthread family, as well as grouping of shrubs from the Berberis family. In recent years, this compound has hit the western world in a slow-burn fashion and without the massive attraction that many health trends generally do. With that said, berberine is an incredibly powerful health agent aiding in lowering blood sugar levels, maintain healthy cholesterol levels, and helping with weight loss. On top of that, berberine is a powerhouse anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, and has been linked to improved fatty liver disease, thwarting off infections, and has even been found to reduce the growth of certain cancer in preliminary studies.

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Now you know a little about berberine, but I’m sure you want to know more! Here’s what you need to know!

What is Berberine?

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Long before the western world was introduced to berberine as a health supplement, it was used in traditional Chinese medicine, as well as used as a dye due to its natural and rich yellow coloring.

So, what is this wonderful natural healing agent?

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Berberine belongs to a group of compounds called alkaloids — “defined as a class of organic compounds of plant origin containing mostly basic nitrogen atoms” — which, through trials, have been determined to have “pronounce physiological actions on humans.” Yet, berberine is not relegated to one source. In fact, this alkaloid is found in the roots, bark, and stem of “goldenseal, barberry, goldthread, Oregon grape, tree turmeric, and phellodendron.”

One of the most astounding aspects of berberine is its powerful antibacterial properties. These properties are actually so powerful that this supplement can be an all-natural, plant-based alternative to antibiotics, in some cases. This aspect of berberine is referred to as a pharmacological effect. Along with possessing antibacterial powers, this natural agent also has “antimicrobial, antitumor, anti-inflammatory and blood glucose–lowering effects.”

Berberine vs. Pharmaceuticals

One of the most impressive facts about berberine is how similarly it works to pharmaceuticals. Much like chemically-derived pharmaceutical drugs, berberine enters cells, binds to molecular “targets”, and then changes their function.

Yet, berberine is a much safer option than using chemically-derived alternatives.

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A research-based book co-written by health policy experts and published by Columbia University Press entitled The Risks of Prescription Drugsoutlines the dangers of pharmaceutical drugs stating:

“Few people realize that prescription drugs have become a leading cause of death, disease, and disability. Adverse reactions to widely used drugs, such as psychotropics and birth control pills, as well as biologicals, result in FDA warnings against adverse reactions … Drugs cause more than 2.2 million hospitalizations and 110,000 hospital-based deaths a year. Serious drug reactions at home or in nursing homes would significantly raise the total.”

For instance, it was reported that in 2014 over “14,000 Americans died from taking prescription painkillers” — such as OxyContin and Vicodin — and, in the case of anabolic steroids, “several studies found that “men who test positive for steroids had twice the rates of cardiovascular disease and death as those with negative tests, and others showed high rates of accidental drug toxicity.”

While some of us can’t avoid pharmaceutical drugs altogether, supplementing with plant-based alternatives when you can is a great practice. As long as the plant-based supplement you’re taking has been approved by your doctor, that is!

Health Benefits of Berberine

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Why should you be interested in this plant-based alkaloid compound? Turns out berberine is incredibly effective at treating a number of ailments including diabetes, gastrointestinal infections, heart disease, high cholesterol, hypertension, joint pain, low bone density, and has even been shown to help anti-aging and weight management. Berberine sources these healing powers from a molecular formula referred to as “C20H18NO4, and like other protoberberine alkaloids — such as jatrorrhizine — it can do wonders for health.”

Activating Metabolic Master Switch Enzyme

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Berberine has been found to activate an enzyme called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) – alternately known as the “metabolic master switch” – and this enzyme is well-known to regulate metabolism. Yet, the AMPK enzyme exists all over the body including “the brain, muscle, kidney, heart, and liver.”

Reducing Blood Sugar Levels

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One of the leading uses of berberine is to help control blood sugar naturally. This is why berberine is incredibly useful in the treatment of diabetes and has been compared to the effectiveness of “the popular diabetes drug metformin (Glucophage).” Berberine achieves this through a couple of different mechanisms: making insulin more effective, helping “the body break down sugar inside cells,” decreasing sugar “production in the liver,” slows the “breakdown of carbohydrates in the gut,” and “increases the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut.” Along with being comparable to metformin, berberine is also comparable to glipizide and rosiglitazone, two of the most powerful and trusted oral pharmaceutical diabetes meds.

Reduces Risk of Heart Disease

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Along with reducing blood sugar levels, berberine has also been found to have positive effects on healthy weight management. These are two of the main risk factors for coronary heart disease, which means that, by design, berberine is an effective natural agent for a healthy heart and a lower risk of heart disease. Plus, berberine also “stimulates the release of nitric oxide, a signaling molecule that relaxes the arteries, increases blood flow, lowers blood pressure and protects against arteriosclerosis.”

Prevents and Aids in Fatty Liver Disease

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Another lesser-known health benefit of berberine is its ability to protect, prevent, and aid in fatty liver disease. There are a few types of fatty liver disease: simple fatty liver — in which you have “fat in your liver but little or no inflammation or liver cell damage” — nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) —  in which you have “inflammation and liver cell damage, as well as fat in your liver” — and alcoholic fatty liver disease — caused by the heavy use of alcohol resulting in liver cell damaged, inflammation, and weakening of natural defenses.

All of these conditions require an action of some sort to keep your liver healthy. Berberine has been shown to “reduce fat build-up in the liver, which should help protect against [simple fatty liver and] non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).”

With that said, alcoholic fatty liver disease must be addressed from the alcohol consumption standpoint before any other methods can be used to rectify the liver damage.

Fights Infections

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Berberine has been shown effective at fighting infections as well. In fact, some people use berberine as a healing agent by applying it “directly to the skin to treat burns and also to the eye to treat bacterial infections, like tachoma,” a condition that frequently causes blindness. Berberine is most “effective against a wide range of bacteria, protozoa, and fungi.” Plus, these infection-fighting powers have also been shown to extend internally, fighting gastrointestinal infections.

Vegan-Friendly Berberine SupplementsBestVite Berberine Supplement

BestVite Berberine Supplement/Amazon.com

Berberine can be difficult to find in an organic and natural form. With that said, various companies have been working hard to develop naturally-derived and vegan-friendly supplements. Supplements are not only easy to integrate into your daily life — pop a capsule in the morning and you’re set — but they can oftentimes be cheaper than sourcing this unique food item. Plus, supplements are super easy to obtain online, especially from all inclusive websites such as Amazon. Once you get your doctors approval, here are a few vegan-friendly berberine products to get you started!

EBYSU Vegan Berberine HCl SupplementEBYSU Vegan Berberine HCl Supplement

EBYSU Vegan Berberine HCl Supplement/Amazon.com

This EBYSU Vegan Berberine HCl Supplement promises to use only high-quality, premium ingredients, yet without sacrificing your bank account. EBYSU sources their unique berberine formula from medical industry leaders created in a GMP and FDA compliant facility. This product is vegan and vegetarian-friendly, gluten-free, non-GMO, and free of artificial ingredients, preservatives, and chemicals. A 90-vegan capsule bottle costs $14.87.

aSquared Nutrition Pure Berberine SupplementaSquared Nutrition Pure Berberine Supplement

aSquared Nutrition Pure Berberine Supplement/Amazon.com

This aSquared Nutrition Pure Berberine Supplement aims to provide a unique berberine formula that supports longevity, promotes natural lipid levels, maintains blood sugar levels, decreases insulin resistance and supports gastrointestinal health, to name just a few of this supplements health benefits. This natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory supplement has no unnecessary fillers, binders, or potentially harmful preservatives, is vegan and vegetarian-friendly and offered at its maximum strength of 1000 milligrams. This product is also non-GMO and made in a FDA registered and GMP compliant facility. A 180-vegan capsule bottle costs $39.99.

Intelligent Labs Berberine HCL PlusIntelligent Labs Berberine HCL Plus

Intelligent Labs Berberine HCL Plus/Amazon.com

This Intelligent Labs Berberine HCL Plus supplement is offered at a no risk 100 percent love it or return it guarantee! Every capsule offers a powerful dose of 500 milligrams of berberine. This supplement has zero fillers, is vegan and vegetarian-friendly, and contains no soy, wheat, egg, sugar, salt, maltodextrin, or magnesium stearate. Plus, you can rest assured that your product is of the highest quality as it was made in an FDA registered and GMP compliant facility. A 120-vegan capsule bottle costs $24.99.

Integrative Therapeutics Berberine SupplementsIntegrative Therapeutics Berberine Supplements

Integrative Therapeutics Berberine Supplements/Amazon.com

These Integrative Therapeutics Berberine Supplements are designed to supper healthy insulin, blood sugar metabolism, healthy cardiovascular function, and lipid metabolism. These supplements offer a clinically recommended dose of 500 milligrams per each vegan and vegetarian-friendly capsule. A 60-capsule bottle costs $28.50.

Solaray Berberine SupplementsSolaray Berberine Supplements

Solaray Berberine Supplements/Amazon.com

Solaray is a much loved and vegan-friendly supplement supplier and they don’t disappoint with this berberine supplement! These Solaray Berberine Supplements source their berberine ingredients from the roots and stems of Indian barberry and Oregon grape for a guaranteed high-quality potent dose. This product is 100 percent vegan-friendly using vegetable cellulose and whole rice concentrate to bind. A 60-count bottle costs $17.49.

We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!

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