Berberine et al.

A new major player is revealed, with a cast of supporting herbs

Written by Kamal Patel
Last Updated:

Numerous updates this week, one of which is a new major page for Examine while the others are either commonly used supplements with less evidence or, in some cases, random herbs.

Both Cat's Claw and Devil's Claw were added in the past two weeks; the former is purported to be an anti-cancer immune booster while the latter supposedly relieves back pain; both have reasons to be skeptical. In the case of Cat's Claw, not only is the bioactive not known but the structural class it belongs to varies widely; one batch of Cat's Claw can vary widely relative to another. This paired with the fact that there are two chemotypes (different chemical compositions in the same plant) make Cat's Claw a very unreliable supplements. Potentially very useful (has negated Neutropenia during chemotherapy in one study) but in dire need of standardization.

Devil's Claw has a multitude of evidence conducted in German that is not published online, which limits what Examine can investigate. That being said, it appears to be quite effective for arthritis and lower back pain but takes up to 2-4 months to realize maximal benefits. It may have cognitive properties (potent cholinesterase inhibitor according to one study) but further study is needed on that claim before it can be used. Devil's Claw does seem to have ample evidence to support its usage as long-term therapy for back pain; the flaw with this claw appears to be how traditional users warn against long-term usage and we are not sure why (traditional usage, more often than not, is heading in the right direction).

Other updates:

  • Eclipta Alba has been updated as a potentially useful topical hair growth agent with weak pain reducing effects and potentially helping in vision (needs much more research)

  • Benfotiamine was updated as it appears to be a great supplement for attenuating side effects associated with high blood glucose (without significantly 'helping' the state of high blood glucose itself; Benfotiamine appears to be a great adjunct therapy supplement but poor monotherapy)

  • Ascophyllum nodosum was added - it appears to be a fairly unremarkable seaweed but one bioactive (Ascophyllan) could potentially be a potent immune booster.

In regards to the above, Eclipta might be fun to experiment with for balding people with poor eyesight and Benfotiamine appears to be well supported as anti-diabetic adjunct therapy (but not monotherapy); Ascophyllum Nodosum is healthy but not yet supported for usage as a supplement, Cat's Claw is in dire need of standardization before it can be used effectively, and Devil's Claw is currently supported in efficacy but it would be prudent to get some long-term safety data on it

Berberine is our remarkable update this week, and a simple cruise through the blue quote boxes of the complete summary will show you why.

This molecule appears to be a potent AMPK activator, with potency similar to Metformin both in vitro and demonstrated in vivo and established in human interventions and at least one meta-analysis as being as potent as Metformin in the treatment of diabetes on a gram per gram basis (both molecules needing 1-1.5g in divided doses). Berberine does have less evidence to support it relative to Metformin, but this is nicely buffered by Berberine also being able to reduce cholesterol (novel mechanism called PCSK9 inhibition) which can not only reduce cholesterol but prevent the side-effect of statin drugs in increasing cholesterol over time (mediated via PCSK9 induction). Berberine has been noted to reduce body fat fairly potently and via nonstimulant means in two studies on obese persons (no studies in persons of normal weight at this time) and has a cluster of other mechanisms of action with remarkable potency. The overall motif of Berberine's mechanisms of actions are similar in potency and direction to those of resveratrol and curcumin and can potentially be just as potent as those two in preserving health in persons not currently at the peak of health.

Beyond that, Berberine is a powerful gut health supplement and in multiple rat studies (not yet supported with human interventions) Berberine can reduce the symptoms and inflammation associated with colitis in less than a week at reasonable oral doses. Berberine also appears to have historical usage as 'Herbal Imodium' and can reduce the frequency of diarrhea.

The possible usages of Berberine in healthy individuals are less amazing but still present. It should inhibit carbohydrate absorption in the intestines weakly (and to much less of a degree than other supplements) and it can increase glucose/fatty acid uptake into cells including fat cells and muscle cells. It also suppresses the growth of both cells, exerting an anti-obesity effect but also potentially suppressing muscle growth. The abolishment of a protein known as Atrogin-1 can reverse this muscle stasis into growth by allowing the greater nutrient intake to conduct the normal consequences of a nutrient surplus in a cell, and solely pending on whether Atrogin-1 is active or inhibited Berberine can either be an anti-weight gain supplement (Atrogin-1 active) or a powerful body recomposition agent (Atrogin-1 theoretically abolished; no leads for supplements at this time).

Berberine possesses all the other standard phytochemical properties of 'antioxidant, antiinflammatory, cognitive protective, etc.' properties, but is not remarkable in these properties relative to other compounds. Berberine's potential lies in with glucose and fatty acid metabolism (which is, inherently, a huge deal) as well as intestinal health.

Whether this supplement is used or not, Berberine appears to be a new and potent player to the supplement game that should at least be known