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BERBERINE (Alkaloid)

Berberine is a crystalline plant alkaloid used in medicine in a number of cultures for its natural antibiotic activity. The alkaloid is yellow in colour and has a bitter taste. The substance does not dissolve well in water, but can be dissolved effectively in alcohol as well as in ether. The dried alkaloid can be consumed internally, but can also sometimes be used in a poultice. Different schools of alternative healing make use of this substance in different forms, sometimes as a tincture or in conjunction with other herbal products.

It is useful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, hepatitis, kidney stones, ulcerative colitis, bacterial diarrhoea, leishmaniasis (parasitic disease), rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, obesity and depression and has cholesterol lowering properties. It has also been found to inhibit colon, oral and thyroid cancer cells growth.

Berberine has also shown antimicrobial activity against bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoans, helminths (worms), candida, cholera, Chlamydia (STD), Clostridium diplococcus pneumonia, diphtheria, giardia lamblia, malaria, pseudomonas, Salmonella, Shigella staphylococci, Streptococcus, Trichomonas vaginalis and many others

An 0.2 percent solution of berberine has been found effective against trachoma in third world countries, a major infectious cause of visual impairment and blindness, as well as many other types of conjunctivitis. It can also treat of various types of fungal infections.

It can deal with different types of yeast, as well as parasites that bore into the skin. There is also some evidence that berberine is helpful in the resolution of viral and bacterial infections. The substance has long been considered an effective tool in battling cholera.

Berberine has been also been found to be more effective than aspirin in relieving fever and is able to stimulate some parts of the immune system. It is also a stimulant for bile secretion.

Berberine is a major active component of the herb Huang-lian (coptis chinensis), which has been used in China to treat type 2 diabetes for thousands of years. Berberine improves the action of insulin by activating an enzyme which helps regulate the cellular uptake of glucose, the oxidation (burning) of fatty acids and the synthesis of glucose, the insulin-regulated glucose carrier found in fat and skeletal and cardiac muscle that is responsible for moving glucose from the bloodstream into cells. This is found only in muscle and fat cells, the major tissues in the body that respond to insulin.

 

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Berberine increases the expression (number and activity) of insulin receptors. The increase in number and activity enables the same amount of insulin to be more effective than before. Berberine also decreases insulin resistance. It inhibits an enzyme (protein tyrosine phosphatase) which in turn inhibits the insulin receptor. When the insulin receptor isn’t inhibited as much, it can function better and the insulin can work better.

Incretins are hormones secreted by the stomach and intestines that simultaneously increase the amount of insulin and inhibit the amount of glucagon (a pancreatic hormone which opposes insulin) released from the pancreatic islet cells after eating, even before blood sugar levels rise. It’s like an anticipatory action so more insulin and less glucagon will be immediately available when the glucose starts to rise in the blood.

Incretins also slow the rate of absorption of nutrients into the blood stream by slowing stomach emptying; this may indirectly reduce food intake. Another way in which berberine regulates blood sugar is by increasing the secretion of one of the major incretins, glucagon-like peptide.

In 2008 it was found that the natural plant alkaloid known as berberine is just as effective and much safer than Metformin, the patent medicine most commonly now prescribed to help re-regulate blood sugar in type 2 diabetes and can lower LDL cholesterol. Berberine is a potent oral hypoglycaemic (blood sugar lowering) agent with modest effect on lipid metabolism. It is safe and the cost of treatment by berberine is very low but long term tests have not yet been carried out to evaluate its safeness.

NOTE: There may be an interaction between berberine and many prescription medications, including Metformin, and it should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women due to potential for adverse effects in the newborn. Excess berberine can cause brain, kidney and liver problems and should never be taken as a supplement on its own. It has been shown to cause liver tumours in rats and people with heart problems can be induced by berberine to have arrhythmia attacks.

Natural sources of berberine

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"Nature cures not the physician..." Hippocrates 460 BC

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