Turn on Your Metabolic Master Switch with Berberine
By Jen Morganti, ND
Berberine is a specific active phytochemical (plant chemical) that can be found naturally in many different plants, including Phellodendron amurense, Hydrastis Canadensis (best known as goldenseal), Mahonia aquifolium or Berberis aquifolium (also known as Oregon grape), Rhizoma Coptidis, Coptis chinensis (known as goldenthread), and Berberis vulgaris (also known as barberry). Many of these plants that are rich in berberine are native to Asian countries and have been incorporated into Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for hundreds or thousands of years. Berberine is most concentrated in the root and sometimes the berries of a plant. Its bright yellow color is so rich that it can also be used as dye, known as "natural yellow 18".
Berberine is extracted from plants to produce berberine hydrochloride or berberine sulphate. There is also a synthetic form of berberine, which is sold as a medication in other countries for gastrointestinal benefits. Many of the research studies conducted on berberine use the synthetic version; however, some scientists and doctors believe that berberine is best utilized by using the whole herb rather than the isolated extract.
Benefits of Berberine
The research on berberine is impressive and regardless of which plant berberine is extracted from, it performs the same actions. For some medical applications, the therapeutic effects of berberine rival its pharmaceutical counterparts. This is especially true in the case of stabilizing blood sugar levels and treating intestinal infections that include diarrhea.
One of the most interesting and important biochemical roles of berberine is its affect on an enzyme called AMPK. AMPK is an abbreviation for "adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase" which is an enzyme that triggers chemical reactions in the body and controls cellular metabolism. The role of AMPK is extremely important because it acts as a master switch that coordinates various biochemical pathways and functions in the body. Its function is akin to the thermostat in your house, which turns on the heat when it's cold out and turns on the AC when it's hot. AMPK reacts to external factors as well and controls many other functions besides temperature, such as glucose regulation and metabolism. Most of the processes that AMPK controls are directly or indirectly related to how fast or slow we age and how long we live. AMPK is sometimes called the longevity enzyme because it is involved in so many processes that determine our rate of aging!
AMPK and Oxidation
One critical factor of aging that AMPK influences is oxidation. Oxidation is a normal part of metabolism, but it can become excessive and get out of balance. During normal cellular metabolism, free radicals are created through the process of oxidation. Free radicals have the potential for causing cell damage unless antioxidants swoop in to neutralize them. When the antioxidant supply is low, too many free radicals are created and the body has trouble keeping up with the neutralization process. Free radicals cause damage to cells and tissues that can physically manifest as disease and impact any area of the body, which can cause atherosclerosis, joint pain, and a host of other conditions. AMPK is the enzyme that comes to the rescue and helps limit the damage induced by free radicals.
AMPK and Blood Sugar Regulation
AMPK also helps regulate blood sugar levels. In a healthy state, after food is ingested insulin acts as the delivery system for the glucose in your blood to enter into cells—where it's stored or made into energy (ATP). In an unhealthy state, like with insulin resistance, the system is out of balance and blood sugar is poorly regulated. Insulin resistance means cells shut down the insulin delivery and prevent glucose from entering the cells. By keeping the glucose floating around in the blood, sugar levels spike while cells starve and tissues are damaged. AMPK comes to the rescue to counteract insulin resistance by enhancing blood sugar uptake into the cells. Balance is restored as the cells use glucose for energy and lower blood sugar levels.
AMPK also contributes to healthy aging by increasing antioxidant activity, preventing inflammation, and limiting fat storage. By properly managing these key pathways, AMPK can help slow the aging process and enhance healthy functions, but when AMPK activity is diminished the aging process accelerates and visual signs become noticeable.
AMPK Slows Aging Active AMPK may regulate the speed of aging, but ironically, as we age, AMPK loses sensitivity and becomes less responsive to the usual triggers. Although we need more AMPK as we age, it unfortunately becomes less sensitive and less available over time. This is when it is helpful to have an "AMPK-Activator" on hand and berberine is one of the best plantbased solutions available.
Unfortunately, berberine on its own has a low rate of absorption. Some studies have investigated various technologies for enhancing it; however, one of the most simple and effective methods is to take berberine with the whole herb that it came from. This extract is most effective in doses of 500 mg, 2-4 times daily.
Supplement with Berberine
A large number of human and animal studies have shown that berberine enhances AMPK activity, balances blood sugar, and acts as an antioxidant that can promote healthy aging—just to mention a few of it's powerful actions. Support your body with berberine and experience its therapeutic effects for yourself!
• Aging Research Reviews 11(2012): 230-41
• Diabetes 55:2256-2264; 2006
• Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 294: E148- E156, 2008
• Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2012; 5: 213–217
These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.