Berberine is a bioactive compound found in various plants, such as Phellodendron amurense (Amur cork tree), Hydrastis canadensis (Goldenseal), and several shrubs from the Berberis genus (
It has been long used in Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat health issues like infections (
Interestingly, research suggests that berberine has powerful blood-sugar-lowering effects (
This article explores the effects of berberine on blood sugar levels and how it may help manage diabetes.
Elevated blood sugar levels characterize conditions like diabetes and prediabetes due to either decreased insulin production or decreased sensitivity to insulin.
Although it’s normal for your blood sugar levels to fluctuate throughout the day, prolonged high blood sugar levels can cause various health problems, including organ damage (
A decent amount of animal research suggests berberine may help lower blood sugar levels via various pathways, including by the following (6,
- increasing insulin sensitivity
- promoting insulin production
- regulating metabolism
- increasing glycolysis, or the breakdown of glucose
- reducing glucose production in the liver
- increasing nitric oxide (NO) production, which helps widen arteries
- slowing carbohydrate absorption from the gut
Several studies among people with type 2 diabetes have shown that taking 600–2,700 mg of berberine daily may lower fasting and long-term blood sugar levels by up to 20% and 12%, respectively, especially when taken alongside blood sugar medication (
Similarly, a review of 14 studies found that berberine lowered blood sugar levels and seemed to be as effective as common blood sugar medications, including metformin (Glucophage), rosiglitazone (Avandia), and glipizide (Glucotrol) (
Furthermore, research suggests berberine may help support the blood-sugar-lowering effects of other diabetes medications when taken alongside them (
Therefore, berberine appears to be a promising blood-sugar-lowering treatment. This may be especially valuable to those who cannot take diabetes medications due to liver, kidney, or heart disease (
Research suggests berberine may lower blood sugar levels and be as effective as some conventional diabetes medications in people with type 2 diabetes.
There’s currently no established dosage for berberine supplements.
However, most studies have administered 1,000–1,500 mg per day (
Berberine has a half-life of several hours, so it doesn’t last in your system for too long. Most berberine supplements contain 500 mg per capsule, and supplement labels often recommend taking berberine 3 times per day before meals (12).
This equates to taking a total of 1,500 mg daily.
Berberine is available in powder or capsule form and can be purchased from health stores and online.
That said, you should always work with your healthcare provider before adding berberine to your daily routine.
Most studies suggest taking 2–3 capsules throughout the day, which equates to taking 1,000–1,500 mg of berberine daily. Always talk with your healthcare provider before trying berberine supplements.
Generally, berberine appears to be safe and well tolerated (
In some situations, berberine may cause digestive side effects, such as diarrhea, constipation, flatulence, and stomach pain (
If you’re taking any medication, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider before taking berberine due to the risk of interactions.
In particular, berberine may interact with medications that lower blood sugar, increasing the risk of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar levels. It may also interact with medications that are processed by the liver.
Berberine appears to be safe and well tolerated, but it may cause digestive issues in some people. If you’re taking medications, make sure to speak with your healthcare provider before taking berberine.
Berberine is an herbal supplement that’s generally safe and well tolerated by people with type 2 diabetes.
Research suggests it has powerful blood-sugar-lowering effects and may be as effective as various conventional type 2 diabetes medications, such as metformin (Glucophage), rosiglitazone (Avandia), and glipizide (Glucotrol).
If you’re currently taking any medications, it’s important to speak with your doctor or healthcare provider before taking berberine due to the risk of interactions and low blood sugar levels.