Natural Glucose Regulation
Natural medicine is gaining in popularity and increasingly supported by scientific research. In the not too distant past, natural remedies were criticized by the authorities of medical orthodoxy as being “unproven” because of a lack of controlled studies. This may have been true in the 20th Century, but science in the 21st Century is catching up to support time honored natural approaches to health care.
Berberine is a common herbal extract derived from one of several plants including goldenseal, barberry and Oregon grape. It has over a 3000-year history in both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine as a natural antimicrobial agent effective against bacteria, fungi, yeast, parasites and viruses. Berberine can stimulate parts of the immune system as well as bile secretion for better digestion in those suffering from numerous digestive problems including irritable bowel syndrome. Additionally, berberine has been documented to lower abnormally high cholesterol levels and improve symptoms of cardiovascular disease.
Reported with very little publicity in 2008, berberine was shown to be as effective as the commonly prescribed type-2 diabetes drug Metformin. This information was published in a respected “peer reviewed” medical journal and was largely ignored by mainstream media. There were actually two studies done on berberine and type-2 Diabetes in 2008, both reported in the same medical journal.
In the first study, 36 newly diagnosed type-2 diabetics were randomly assigned to one of two treatment groups: 500 mg, three times daily of berberine or 500 mg, three times daily of Metformin. This was done for 13 weeks and at the end of that time, blood sugar, Hemoglobin A1C (a measure of the average level of blood glucose over the life of a red blood cell) and triglyceride levels in both groups fell equally to near normal levels.
The researchers were quoted as saying, “Compared with metformin, berberine exhibited an identical effect in the regulation of glucose metabolism, such as HbA1c, FBG [fasting blood glucose], PBG [blood sugar after eating], fasting insulin and postprandial insulin [insulin level after eating]. In the regulation of lipid metabolism, berberine activity is better than metformin. By week 13, triglycerides and total cholesterol in the berberine group had decreased and were significantly lower than in the metformin group (P<0.05).”
Insulin resistance, the main cause of type-2 diabetes, was reduced by 45% by berberine. For an inexpensive, non-prescription drug, this is more than impressive. Even more amazing is the fact that this was accomplished without any side effects.
A second study from the same publication reporting on 48 adults with type-2 diabetes showed similar results with berberine improving blood sugar levels as early as seven days after starting supplementation and lasting the duration of the three month study.
Researchers concluded, “In summary, berberine is a potent oral hypoglycemic [blood sugar lowering] agent with modest effect on lipid metabolism. It is safe and the cost of treatment by berberine is very low.”
In a different publication, other researchers in a double-blind trial reported that 116 individuals with type-2 diabetes and high cholesterol and triglycerides were able to decrease their blood sugars and lipid levels significantly with berberine as compared to a placebo. Other effects of berberine included weight loss and a lowering of high blood pressure readings.
Berberine lowers blood sugar by influencing how insulin works and by regulating hormones in the gastrointestinal tract called incretins. The biochemical effects are complex but the net effect is that there is less insulin resistance and more efficient metabolism of glucose
. If you have type-2 diabetes and are taking prescription drugs or insulin to control your blood sugar levels, consider using berberine at a dose of 500 mg or more three times daily. As blood sugar levels drop to more normal levels, the doses of the medications can be slowly lowered. Ideally, work with a natural health care practitioner familiar with the use of all these remedies.
Dr. Zoltan P. Rona practices Complementary Medicine in Toronto and is the medical editor of The Encyclopedia of Natural Healing. He has also published several Canadian best-selling books, including Return to The Joy of Health. www.highlevelwellness.ca and http://mydoctor.ca/drzoltanrona
1.Jun Yin,ab* Huili Xing,a and Jianping Yeb Efficacy of Berberine in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Metabolism. 2008 May; 57(5): 712–717. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2410097/
2.Jonathan V. Wright. Get Your Type 2 Diabetes Under Control….Without a Single Drug http://tahomaclinicblog.com/berberine-diabetes/
3.Ronald Teriti, ND, PhD Berberine for Diabetes Type 2. Natural Medicine Journal on line; 10/1/2010 http://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/article_content.asp?article=61
4. Zhang, Y., X. Li, et al. (2008). Treatment of type 2 diabetes and dyslipidemia with the natural plant alkaloid berberine. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 93(7): 2559-65.