Deep inside your body, there are so many cellular factories doing amazing work. Some systems are in the manufacturing business (generating hormones, for instance). Some are in the delivery business (bringing fuel to your organs). And some are in the clean-up business (that’s what autophagy does—cleaning up and repairing your cells). A whole world of biological wonder is happening inside each of us.
Now, one of the most important systems to understand is that of inflammation. You’ve likely heard the word a lot. Inflammation is the underlying cause of many of our health problems. And that’s because chronic inflammation is sort of like a cellular firefight that damages the systems and tissues around it.
Acute inflammation, by the way, is a good thing, because that’s the signal that your immune system is fighting some kind of threat to your system. But when inflammation never calms down, that’s when real trouble begins.
So one of your health goals would be to keep inflammation low. That can happen in a number of ways, such as eating healthy and anti-inflammatory foods. Another way I like to quiet inflammation is through supplements that have been shown to have these properties. Here, I’ll explore one of my favorites: Berberine.
What is Berberine?
Berberine is a polyphenol or, as we call it, a powerphenol because of its exceptional effectiveness. Powerphenols are ring-shaped chemicals working as antioxidants found in plant-based foods. All phenols have the ability to reduce internal inflammation and promote anti-aging. Berberine has the ability to reduce inflammation and treat metabolic ailments. Regardless of what is causing inflammation, introducing berberine can help mitigate the problem.11
Derived from an assortment of herbs such as goldenseal, barberry, golden-thread, and Oregon grape, berberine is often used to treat insulin resistance (that occurs when your insulin can’t keep up with the amount of blood sugar in the bloodstream). Berberine has a rich history of medicinal practice in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. A plant-based alkaloid, Berberine presents a powerhouse of healing properties—relieving digestive problems, promoting cardiovascular wellness and mitigating inflammation.
This herbal alternative helps fight metabolic ailments and reduce weight gain via the AMPK compound, which ignites thermogenesis—a process responsible for burning more fat than what is being produced. In fact, berberine is known for positively affecting gut flora health, easing digestive difficulties, limiting bloating and creating a healthier lifestyle.1,2,11
Studies also show that berberine can have a positive effect on the body’s ability to burn calories, as well as keeping the body from creating fat. Plus, by helping with insulin resistance, it can help reduce cravings. In addition, berberine has been shown to help improve your gut flora (having diverse bacteria in your gut is considered to be optimal). The good news is that it not only helps improve any digestive issues (like bloating and gas) but it also has a positive effect on your overall health.
Berberine and Inflammation
Inflammation functions as a protective line of defense in our bodies. If something causes damage or irritation, the immune system sounds an automatic biological alarm, warding off the aggravating source.3
We can see it in action in its fight against Type 2 diabetes, where it helps reduce inflammation, manage blood sugar, and stimulate weight loss.4, 5 Type 2 diabetes is brought on by the body’s inability to create insulin or to appropriately utilize insulin being made. This can lead to irregular blood sugar and obesity. Weight gain associated with Type 2 diabetes results in a propensity to collect fat cells around organs in the abdomen, leading to inflammation in the affected areas.
What causes the weight gain? Chemicals in the body called cytokines, tend to increase when insulin resistance is present. Therefore, as insulin resistance persists, cytokine levels will continue to rise, leading to weight gain, which also results in more inflammation. This becomes a vicious cycle.6,7,8,12 However, introducing berberine into this system can help burn away those additional pounds and bring forth a sense of internal and external beauty.
Berberine’s ability to fight inflammation has also proven successful in controlling acne.
In Iran, a study that looked at natural acne remedies, tested Berberine on adolescents, ranging from 12 to 17 years of age. In order to monitor receptivity, acne lesions were counted before and after subjects introduced barberry extract, the known herb in the composition of berberine, into their system. The results: acne greatly decreased. The natural anti-inflammatory characteristics of barberry functioned as an anti-acne formula by reducing inflammation, as well as performing antibacterial and antilipemic practices on the sebaceous gland—proving a natural option for mitigating breakouts. 4,5
How to Take Berberine
Berberine can be taken in 500mg vegetable capsule form. If used as a dietary supplement, it is best to take one capsule twice daily with food.
As always, when considering buying a supplement, follow these guidelines:
- Only buy from reliable sources: Reputable third-party sources include GMP Quality, USDA Organic, and Non-GMO Project Verified. If you see these organizations, you can be sure that what’s in the bottle matches what’s on the label, as well as that the product is free of contaminants.
- Only buy organic or wildcrafted plant/herbal supplements: Because many herbal supplements are less likely to have third-party verification, buying organic berberine ensures that you’re getting herbs that are free of pesticides. Credible companies often provide information on where their raw ingredients come from but look for the USDA Organic certification seal.
There are so many benefits to Berberine that I consider it a cornerstone supplement. Because chronic inflammation can have such devastating effects over time, berberine could be your key to living a better life. When you consider the added benefit of stabilizing blood sugar and boosting your metabolism, it’s a win-win for your overall health.