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Metformin vs Berberine for Diabetes (Plus this yellow herb lowers blood pressure, fights parasites, and more)

By: Cat Ebeling, co-author of the best-sellers:  The Fat Burning KitchenThe Top 101 Foods that Fight Aging & The Diabetes Fix

Type 2 diabetes is fast becoming a real epidemic in civilized countries. The statistics show an ever-increasing trend of obesity, diabetes and its related complications like heart disease, kidney disease and peripheral neuropathy. Many experts are convinced that this fast-growing tidal wave of diabetes is the result of the global expansion of sugar, sugary soft drinks and major food corporations getting people addicted to terrible processed foods that are cheaper than most healthy foods and are heavily advertised to the masses.

However, type 2 diabetes has the potential to be completely reversed following dietary and lifestyle changes that dramatically reduce or eliminate sugar and starches.

Relying on lowering blood sugar with medication or insulin will not improve one’s health, nor will it counteract the effects of diabetes. In fact, relying on medications to lower blood sugar actually does NOT reduce the risk of death from any of the related health complications of diabetes of stroke, heart attacks, infections, and kidney disease. Aside from the fact that diabetes drugs do not actually do anything positive for a diabetic’s health, there are many negative side effects, many of which can be downright deadly.

In one large study, called the ACCORD study, that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2008, the 10,000 patients who were being treated with insulin or blood sugar-lowering drugs were monitored and evaluated for their risk of heart attack, strokes and death. The National Institutes of Health ended the study early because the medical intervention was leading to MORE deaths, heart attacks, and strokes.

Many of the conventional medical methods for lowering blood sugar actually increase insulin levels, which in turn causes more harm overall. Avandia, one of the world’s best-selling diabetes drugs, has over 50,000 lawsuits filed in the United States alone, because the drug makers failed to inform patients about possible life-threatening side-effects that include stroke, heart failure, heart attack, bone fractures, vision loss and death.

While many of these drugs do lower blood glucose levels, there seems to be no real evidence that any of the diabetes drugs actually reduce the risk of the complications of diabetes.

Most diabetes medications aim to increase insulin in the body to counteract the ever-rising levels of glucose. One of the big issues with this conventional treatment is the negative side effects that actually seem to exacerbate the complications of diabetes. Below is a list of most used diabetes meds and their primary side effects:

  • Metformin — Metformin increases insulin sensitivity. Metformin also lowers glucose production in the liver. Side effects include nausea and diarrhea, and weight gain. Another significant, documented side effect of Metformin is Vitamin B12 depletion, further increasing the chances of neuropathy.
  • Sulfonylureas—This class of medications help your body secrete more insulin. Side effects include low blood sugar and weight gain.
  • Meglitinides – These medications stimulate the pancreas to secrete more insulin. Side effects include low blood sugar and weight gain.
  • Thiazolidinediones – Like metformin, these medications make the body’s tissues more sensitive to insulin. This class of medications has been linked to weight gain and increased risk of heart failure and fractures. Rosiglitazone (Avandia) and pioglitazone (Actos) are examples of thiazolidinediones.
  • SGLT2 inhibitors. They prevent the kidneys from reabsorbing sugar into the blood. Instead, the sugar is excreted in the urine. Side effects may include yeast infections, urinary tract infections, increased urination and hypotension.
  • Insulin therapy. Some people need insulin therapy as well. Insulin lowers blood glucose and is a fat storing hormone, so it causes weight gain. Insulin promotes inflammation in the body when used in excess, causes hormone imbalance and increases body fat storage.

Keep in mind, however, that while most of these diabetes medications may lower blood sugar levels, increase insulin, or make the body more sensitive to insulin, they still do not prevent the serious and life-threatening complications of diabetes: High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, poor sex drive, infertility, blood clots, kidney failure, infections and amputations, cancer, depression, heart disease, strokes, and Alzheimer’s, and more.

Insulin treatment also creates a greater susceptibility to cancer. The connection between diabetes and cancer is fairly clear—in fact, several studies have shown up to a 30% great likelihood that diabetic patients on supplemental insulin can develop colon, breast or prostate cancers.

Berberine for Type 2 Diabetes Shown to be as Effective as Diabetes Medication

There are a few natural solutions to helping to treat type 2 diabetes, and berberine is one that has a strong background of being especially effective for type 2 diabetes.

Berberine is a powerful plant extract with several impressive health benefits. It can effectively lower blood sugar, help with weight loss and improve heart health—two things that most pharmaceutical diabetic medications cannot do. It is also anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial and is effective against diarrhea, intestinal parasites, Candida albicans, and possibly Methicillin-resistant staph aureus.

Berberine works to:

  • Decrease insulin resistance, making the blood sugar lowering hormone insulin more effective.
  • Increase glycolysis, the breakdown of glucose inside cells.
  • Decrease glucose production in the liver.
  • Slow the digestion of carbohydrates.
  • Increase the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

Berberine is a bioactive plant extract that comes from several different types of plants, including goldthread, Oregon grape root, barberry, tree turmeric and goldenseal. It has been used in both Ayruvedic and Chinese medicine for more than 2500 years and is now being used and studied extensively in the modern world.

Several impressive studies show that berberine can lower blood glucose as effectively as the drug metformin, without the negative side effects. Two of the best-known peer-reviewed studies published in the journals Metabolism and the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology compared berberine in one group to metformin (Glucophage) in another group. The berberine group had very similar blood sugar-lowering effects as the metformin group. In addition, the berberine also effectively reduced the patients’ A1C, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and blood pressure… Three things that metformin cannot do!

  • Hemoglobin A1c decreased from 9.5% to 7.5% (about a 21% reduction)
  • Fasting blood glucose (FBG) decreased from 190.8 to 124.2 mg/dl
  • Postprandial blood glucose (PBG) decreased from 356.4 to 199.8 mg/dl
  • Triglycerides from 100.5 to 79.2 mg/dl

Berberine works by stimulating uptake of glucose into the cells, improves insulin sensitivity, and reducing glucose production in the liver. This review published in the International Journal of Endocrinology further expanded on berberine’s role in treating type diabetes:

            “BBR [berberine] is used to treat diabetic nephropathy (DPN), diabetic neuropathy (DN), and diabetic cardiomyopathy due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities.”

How does berberine work?

Berberine works by activating a metabolism-regulating enzyme within the body’s cells called AMPK (adenosine monophosphate activated protein kinase).  Yes, that’s a mouthful! AMPK regulates a variety of biological activities that normalize lipid, glucose, and energy imbalances. Think of AMPK as your metabolic master switch. Definitely something you want to keep switched to ‘ON’!

Metabolic syndrome, a precursor to diabetes, occurs when these AMPK pathways are switched off. This triggers high blood sugar, high cholesterol, high triglycerides and energy issues. AMPK shifts energy to cellular repair and maintenance. Activating AMPK produces similar benefits for diabetes and metabolic syndrome as exercise, dieting and weight loss.

Berberine and Weight Loss

When overweight adults took 500mg of berberine 3 times daily for 12 weeks, they easily lost an average of 5 pounds. The researchers note that,

“…berberine has potential clinical application in reducing visceral fat and controlling obesity.”

Berberine has the ability to inhibit fat storage and also improves insulin function, leptin and adiponectin. Leptin is a very powerful hormone produced by fat cells. It tells your brain whether you should eat or not. Leptin is the way your fat cells speak to your brain. If Leptin signaling is working, when fat stores are full, they cause a surge in leptin which tells your brain to stop eating and storing fat. The problem is of course, when this signaling goes awry, it causes excessive eating and fat storage.

Adonipectin is a hormone secreted by fat cells that helps control glucose regulation and fatty acid oxidation. Obese people are often low in adonipectin, but berberine helps to increase adonipectin which helps to normalize metabolic function.

So, the bottom line here is that berberine could reduce the size of your fat cells and cut down on the number of them as well.

Berberine is also thought to enhance brown fat, which is a heat-generating special type of fat that burns energy instead of storing it. It is loaded with active mitochondria cells that convert this fat into energy which produces heat. This animal study shows how berberine increases energy expenditure, helps burn fat, improves cold tolerance and enhances active brown adipose tissue.

Berberine for Memory and Cognitive Function

Blood sugar levels, insulin sensitivity and diabetes go hand in hand with memory and cognitive dysfunction. In fact, it is now thought that high blood sugar and diabetes are connected to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Berberine has been found to enhance memory function in some animal studies, by preserving a brain chemical, acetylcholine, that is important for memory, focus and cognition. The result for berberine was improved learning and memory, along with lower oxidative stress.

How to take Berberine

According to Dr. Josh Axe, berberine should be taken two to three times a day. Generally, most studies have used safe dosages starting at 500 mg a dose. So, 500 mg two to three times a day is a good place to start. Take berberine with a meal or on a full stomach to avoid any stomach upset and to take advantage of the post meal glucose and lipid spike that often occurs. It is best to start with just one dose/day and increase slowly to ensure they can stay in control.

When you take berberine, please note that insulin may need to be cut back significantly, so monitor blood sugar frequently.  Many diabetics have been able to totally stop their other pharmaceutical diabetes medications, with the inclusion of berberine. Be sure to monitor blood sugar regularly and consult your physician. Look for a berberine product with a standardized berberine extract so that the dosages and strength are consistent.

Berberine Side Effects

If you have a medical condition or are on any medications, including antibiotics, then it is highly recommended that you speak to your doctor. This is especially important if you are currently taking blood sugar-lowering medications, so that your physician can monitor your blood sugar and current medication levels.

Diabetics who are using other medications must use caution when using this supplement to avoid dangerously low blood sugar levels. People with low blood pressure should also be careful when using it since it can naturally lower blood pressure. Pregnant and nursing women should not take berberine.

Overall, this natural compound has an outstanding safety profile. Primary side effects are minor, but could result in some cramping, diarrhea, flatulence, constipation or mild stomach pain. Stay with the smaller dosages — spread out through your day and after meals — to avoid most of these side effects.

In addition to its huge benefits for diabetes, berberine is helpful for other health issues as well including:

  • Anti-aging
  • Gastrointestinal infections
  • Heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Immune challenges
  • Joint problems
  • Low bone density

Stay tuned for more info on berberine, as there are many ongoing studies on its effectiveness as a powerful natural health aid.

Speaking of Diabetes, make sure to read this page next:

1 Simple trick to REVERSE your Diabetes (this also helps reduce abdominal fat)


About The Watchdog

Mike Geary has been a Certified Nutrition Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer for over 15 years now. He has been studying nutrition and exercise for almost 25 years, ever since being a young teenager. Mike is originally from Pennsylvania, but has fallen in love with mountain life and now resides in the picturesque mountains of Utah. Mike is an avid adventurist and when he’s not spending his time skiing, mountain biking, hiking, or paddleboarding on the lake, he has enjoyed skydiving, whitewater rafting, piloting an Italian fighter plane (seriously), scuba diving, heli-skiing, and traveling all around the world, enjoying learning about different cultures. At the age of 40, Mike now feels healthier, stronger, and more energetic than when he was 20... All because of a healthy lifestyle and great nutrition!

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  1. How do you buy Berberine, and is it available in Australia. I am 81 years of age and mu blood sugars are rather high even though I take two 500 mgs of metformin everyday, plus Januvia half tablet at night.

    • Gus,
      I am diabetic and was going through the medical system. I started to do research on this disease and I found out that diet is critical to completely turn your health around. If you really want to help your body to get its health back, cut out all sugars and simple carbohydrates, meaning grains, sodas, rice, and potatoes. There is nothing wrong with your fiber vegetables. I eat a huge salad each night and with no dressing.
      I also started fasting for 24 hour, eating one meal a day. I started this twelve weeks ago and have lost 35 pounds. You can look at You on fasting. But the health improvement that I have seen and felt is unbelievable! No longer do I have that afternoon tiredness. Gus, I am only 69, but I feel alot younger now. It’s is a tough way to start this fasting, but now it is normal to me. I have done 48 hours with little effort. Also, my mind is alot clearer along with my memory since my body has purged alot of toxins built up over many years of eating soo bad. I took berberine three times a day, but had to cut back because my glucose level would go low enough to where I would feel nauseous and become weak.
      Good luck Gus, and try to do away with the simple carbohydrates! I love the saying ” If it’s made by nature, eat it! If it is made by a manufacturer, don’t eat it”.

  2. Hi Gus, you can buy Berberine online at The brand I use is by Divine Bounty which is 600 mgs, non gmo with no additives. By using this daily with meals you should be able to cut down on the pharmaceuticals which are causing you more harm than good. But as with anything it will take time and consistent use.

    • Hi Snowcat, I did a search on but could not find any Berberine product online. I live in Australia. I am very keen to try the Berberine products, my Blod sugar is sky high and the mainstream medications make me feel sick so I ma not taking any medication?

  3. Caroline Rollins

    What are side effects of berberine? I take synthroid, plaquenil, folic acid. Is it ok with any of these medications

    • Caroline, do some research on folate vs folic acid. A lot of people can’t convert folic acid to folate. I suspect you are one of them, because of your thyroid dysfunction.

  4. I am taking Berberine 500 mg tablets twice a day, (1 am and 1 pm). Did so for 5 months and closely watched my diet (Low Carb). Had my blood work done but my fasting was still higher than it was a year ago. 109 last year and 112 this year. A1C last year 6.0 and this year 6.2. I do not understand why. It worries me that it is going up. Went to a functional medicine doctor a few years ago who put me on T3 Free Thyroid medication. My A1C went down to 5.6 but my fasting glucose shot up to 127. Once I stopped the T3 Free my fasting went down to 91 and my A1C went back to 6.0 and has been slowly creeping back up. I also take Alpha Lipoic Acid 600 mg per day. Would really like to find some answers as I do not want to become a diabetic and end up on chemical drugs. Most doctors I have consulted want to push the drugs saying natural treatments are no good.

    • Try using cinnamon water extract Cinnulin PF and the gymnema sylvestre 15 minutes before the meal. Take the 600 mg Alpha lipoic acid after the meal. Always take an activated B complex with each meal, as the b vitamins help process the sugar out of the blood. Many more herbs to use, Mulberry, Bitter Melon or mormordica, ginger, nopal cactus, fenugreek seed (fiber), Curcumin or Turmeric, pygcenol, resveratrol, astaxanthin, vanadium, magnesium. There is a great need to increase the chromium intake each day, I take 1000 mg per day. The pancreas is slowed by fat deposits, same as the liver. Keep the diet low on saturated fat and high in fiber. Eat your greens daily. Diabetics loose much minerals through normal activity, need to replace whats lost to prevent damage tot he body. High blood sugar doesn’t cause as much damage if you have sufficient nutrients and minerals in your system. I’ve been a diabetic for 15 years, no drugs, all natural by diet and exercise. Only go to the doc to test my blood and check my eyes. I’m living proof that you don’t need drugs for any condition, learn yourself how to beat any disease, and keep your money instead of buying drugs that will kill you faster. No money in a cure, only controlling symptoms for a lifetime.

  5. We have realized to accept the imperfections in life.

  6. Prabhat Kumar Shee

    My wife is a diabetic with kidney disfunction (Creatinine 4.97) using 15 medicines daily.Her age is 49) ,period has resumed and she is very weak and
    needs round the clock care. Please advise?

  7. I think there are some important facts left out here. Within the last 2-3 years, both the SGLT2 and GLP1 classes has been shown to provide a reduction in cardiovascular death based on CVOT trials that were completed. These medications used along with diet, exercise, and natural remedies can provide greater benefit than medication or herbal remedy alone.

    I am all for natural products but with the appropriate information being shared so I can make an informed decision.

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