Berberines to the Rescue

by Natural Health

Berberines to the Rescue

Berberine is a natural alkaloid present in plants from the Berberis genus which includes approximately 450-500 species. Its earliest recorded use was in Assyria in 650 BC as a blood-purifying agent. Asian cultures have used plants from the Berberis species for over 3000 years. Traditional uses of berberine included using it in a variety of infections, to heal wounds quicker, for weight loss, dysentery, and to heal hemorrhoids and ulcers. In modern times, supplements containing berberines are used for reducing fever, the flu, the common cold, and other respiratory infections.

There are several plants commonly used to obtain berberine including the Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium), barberry (Berberis vulgaris), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), and Chinese goldthread (Coptis chinensis). Berberines as a whole are antioxidant in several different ways including binding with oxidant molecules, binding with metals that increase oxidation, and even increasing some of the body’s own antioxidant mechanisms. Berberines have been compared to vitamin C in effectiveness. Additionally, berberine helps lower damage caused by high blood sugar levels. High blood sugar leads to oxidative damage and impairs the body’s ability to deal with oxidation, and berberines interfere with sugar’s damaging processes.

Berberines are also beneficial for the cardiovascular system. One study found berberines, in addition to conventional therapies, helped increase the heart’s effectiveness in heart failure patients as well as reducing premature ventricular contractions. Berberines also have a positive effect on the arteries by improving lipid metabolism and increasing nitric oxide production. Nitric oxide is a natural vasodilator produced by the body which helps maintain a healthy blood pressure. They help increase “good” cholesterol (HDL) and lower “bad” cholesterol as well as improve obesity. Berberines also appear to have a protective effect on the kidneys, especially in people with high blood pressure and diabetes.

As always, consult with your doctor before using any new supplements. This is especially true if you are taking any sort of medication. It’s generally recommended in research studies to take somewhere between 300 mg once a day to 1500 mg in divided doses. Berberines should be used with caution for those with diabetes or who are pregnant unless under a doctor’s supervision. Berberines are generally well-tolerated, and side effects could include gastrointestinal distress such as diarrhea, constipation, gas, and upset stomach.

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