The Miraculous Benefits of Berberine – Part 1

Written by Anil Bajnath, MD
Posted September 21, 2021

Dear Longevity Insider, 

Berberine is an alkaloid from barberry. It has been used in traditional Eastern medicine for thousands of years to treat infections and other conditions. Berberine is also known as a "New World" type of drug. In 1874, a French scientist discovered berberine while he was studying the effects of cinchonine (a chemical found in South American cinchona bark).

Berberine has more recently been identified as an ingredient in some weight loss supplements. Berberine is found in many plants, including goldenseal, barberry, Oregon grape, and Chinese coptis (Huanglian), and Japanese berberis (Wubenzhuyu), which are used to treat digestive problems (such as heartburn, diarrhea, and irritable bowel disease), infections (such as vaginal yeast infections), and cold symptoms.  

How Does Berberine Work? 

In a study conducted on mice, berberine was shown to cause the pancreases of mice to release more insulin, increase the number of receptors on cells that are sensitive to insulin, and suppress appetite.1 It was thought that berberine helped thwart sugar cravings in mice by lowering levels of ghrelin (a hormone which stimulates appetite). Since berberine is an alkaloid, that means it is a chemical compound containing mostly basic nitrogen atoms. Alkaloids play a key role in our bodies, as their function is modulated by other enzymes. Berberine is a non-prescription drug to treat various bacteria-associated diarrhea.2

The Berberis plant has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine to treat stomach problems, gastroenteritis, anemia, and other health issues. 

Exploring Potential Health Benefits

Recent research demonstrates how berberine has shown an ability to induce apoptosis in cancer cells which is characterized by blebbing and cell shrinkage. Berberine does this by activating caspase-3 through upregulation of the p53 tumor suppressor protein.3 New research has shown that berberine can induce cell cycle arrest of G2/M phase and inhibit TNF-α-mediated NF-κB activation in human leukemia HL60 cells, which is a gene that regulates apoptosis, or programmed cell death.4

Berberine has also been tested to treat tumors in mice and was found to reduce the size of the tumors.5 Berberine has also been suggested to induce apoptosis in cancerous cells by upregulating the expression of certain proteins while down-regulating others, which leads to the cancerous cell's own destruction.6 While its efficacy in conjunction with an anti-cancer treatment is yet to be known, researchers believe berberine holds great promise. 

Berberine has several other mechanisms of action including inhibiting the bacterial enzyme, hyaluronidase, which helps prevent urinary tract infections.7 Berberine also inhibits pro-inflammatory proteins called COX 2 and 5-LOX.8 COX 2 and 5-LOX are responsible for promoting inflammation. 

What can't berberine do?

Here's more research early aging, berberine, and a few other key compounds.

To your longevity,

Anil Bajnath MD
CEO/Founder, Institute for Human Optimization
Chief Medical Officer, Longevity Insider HQ