J.D. Moyer

sci-fi writer, beat maker, self-experimenter

Berberine as an Alternative to Statins?

Illegal to pick–get your berberine from somewhere else.

In the course of researching various supplements to cure my gastritis, I’ve come across quite a few interesting chemicals. One of them is berberine, a benzylisoquinoline alkaloid found in goldenseal, Oregon-grape, Californian poppy, and a number of other plants. Berberine lowers LDL cholesterol without any effect on HDL cholesterol. Could berberine be an alternative to statins? The linked study used large amounts (100mg/kg), but smaller amounts may also be beneficial.

It’s arguable if lowering LDL cholesterol actually leads to a reduced risk of cardiac disease, but if you want to lower LDL, berberine might come with fewer side effects than statins (which may result in muscle pain, liver damage, and an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes). Berberine has other positive physiological effects as well, including lowering blood pressure (at least in diabetic rats), and (when used in combination with other nutraceuticals) assisting weight loss.

Berberine also appears to reduce leaky gut and alleviate colitis (someone should give some to George St. Pierre–I’d like to see him fight again soon). Berberine may also improve glucolipid metabolism and prevent or even help reverse nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (again, in rats, but results may carry over to people). Berberine may even protect against Alzheimer’s disease. Berberine used with cinnamon may help prevent lung cancer.

Berberine appears to activate AMPK, a kind of metabolic master switch, which may be the reason it’s helpful in treating so many conditions. It might be the closest thing we have to exercise in a pill.

Here’s a good article reviewing many of the benefits of berberine, as well as dosing recommendations, and links to more research.

And here’s the link if you want to go down the PubMed berberine rabbit hole yourself!

What Are The Risks?

Berberine has a slight laxative effects, and there are some reports of GI distress at higher doses.

One note of concern is this study in regards to an increased risk of liver cancer in male rats and mice with longterm use of goldenseal powder. Goldenseal contains berberine, but it also contains quite a few other things, so its hard to know what to make of this study.

This study raises concerns in regards to the potential neurotoxicity of berberine with higher doses and accumulation in tissues. Berberine, like many phytochemicals, may be protective at lower doses, but toxic in higher doses. More is not better. As with all supplements, use the minimum effective dose.

Berberine can interact with a number of medications, and can increase the cardiotoxicity of microlide antibiotics such as azithromycin and clarithromycin. Here’s another article re: berberine side effects.

Overall berberine appears to be quite safe at doses up to 1500mg/day, best taken in divided doses before meals.

I’m currently experimenting taking berberine 400mg twice a day. I haven’t yet decided if I’m going to include it as a regular part of my supplement regimen, but I’ll report back at a later date.

Please feel free to share your experience using berberine in the comments.

Wishing you health and happiness over the holidays!

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7 Comments

  1. Hey JD, long time reader, first time commenter. I’ve been having challenges with GERD, acid reflux and have experimented with a bunch of the same tactics you’ve tried. The PPIs appear to be effective, but feels a bit like using a bazooka to swat a fly. I’d really rather get to the bottom of why my stomach is unhappy, you know? I’ve also got borderline high blood pressure, so all of these berberine benefits have my undivided attention. Dietary changes have seemed to help, and I know I’ve been under a pretty intense amount of stress these last 2-3 years, but damn. Anyhoo, all of this to say, I’m grateful for your diligent and informed approach to this, resonate with your frustrations with our current medical system, and am super curious about your continued feedback in reference to berberine. Have you noticed any negative side effects? What particular supplement did you decide to try?

    • Hi Rich. I haven’t noticed any negative side effects with berberine (but see comment below). I’m taking it as part of an anti-h. pylori protocol (even though I tested negative–but the tests aren’t always accurate). Overall I’m feeling much better, and I’ve been off PPIs and antacids for about two months now. I’ll definitely write about gastritis remedies more in the future, but if GERD is your main issue, I’d highly recommend d-limonene after dinner. D-limonene has both gastroprotective effects and gastroregenerative effects, and is especially effective against GERD.

      https://fixyourgut.com/the-magic-bullet-treatment-for-gerd-d-limonene/
      https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2012/509451/

      If you do have some success with alternative therapies, taper off the PPIs super slowly. Your gastrin levels will take some time to adjust and reduce acid production. If you need to break up a pill to take a partial dose, use an empty vitamin capsule and take it on an empty stomach (PPIs are destroyed by stomach acid).

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19362552

      I wish my GP had known about PPI tapering. Going cold turkey caused me a lot of pain, and it took about six weeks for my stomach acid levels to normalize. Gamma oryzanol can also help regulate gastrin production.

      Here’s berberine I’m using:
      https://www.swansonvitamins.com/swanson-premium-berberine-400-mg-60-caps

      Good health to you, and feel free to report back.

  2. Shari C.

    Great contribution. I have been helping a family member lower his cholesterol with berberine over the past few months. Total C dropped from 274 to 174 with only 600mg of berberine plus 100 mg resveratrol and CoQ10. Tackling cholesterol by lowering systemic inflammation makes most sense. I used berberine to lower blood sugar on another family member last year, 500 mg in mornings with fantastic results except for behavior changes.

    Berberine inhibits MAO, BChE, and AChE – important enzymes that affect the brain and behavior. Lowering MAO may help retain serotonin and dopamine, but certain people are negatively impacted by accumulated neurotransmitters. Anyone taking berberine should be aware if their genetic profile hints at a higher or lower baseline MAO. In my experience, people who were genetically higher MAO-producers had more favorable side effects to berberine (calming) than those with lower MAO (more anxious and agitated). Be sure to take berberine away from probiotics for best results, as it is a natural antibiotic.

    • Thanks for the comment Shari. Fantastic results with your family members, and an interesting note of caution re: MAO. My understanding is that MAO degrades serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, so high MAO producers will be less vulnerable to agitation from neurotransmitter accumulation.

      http://www.snpedia.com/index.php/Rs6323

      I’m a low MAO producer, but I haven’t noticed any negative psychological effects (possibly because I’m GG at rs4680, which means I degrade dopamine quickly).

  3. Barry Brolley

    Great post. I have been using berberine for about 2 years, to lower blood glucose with good results. I first started with a product called Glycosolve, via Jimmy Moore blog. but decided it was too expensive and quit. I have since found a much cheaper bulk supplement, but that tastes ghastly and stains everything yellow. I have since bought a Kingmatic pill filler and have continued taking . Morning bg is around 10 points lower. I’ve not noticed any deleterious effects even at higher doses.

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