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Berberine: The Golden Alkaloid of Traditional Chinese Medicine

If you fell asleep during chemistry class, alkaloids are organic molecules with nitrogen atoms. Why should you stay awake reading this, caring at all about alkaloids? Well, they tend to be abundant in plants that have medicinal properties. And there’s one alkaloid in particular that may support your health in several ways, according to the latest research. 

Berberine is one of the most well-studied alkaloids and a handful of legendary traditional Chinese herbs are rich sources. Do the TCM formulas you take contain berberine? Let’s find out…

Berberine In Traditional Chinese Medicine

According to a research study published in the journal, Chinese Medicine, berberine was first discovered in 1830. Since then, berberine has been the “most studied among the protoberberine alkaloids in nature [and] has a long history of application,” write the study authors. For instance, in the early 1960s, Indian researchers demonstrated that berberine and its salts were valuable for supporting a healthy elimination during cholera outbreaks. 

Berberine is one of the most well-studied alkaloids, abundant in several legendary traditional Chinese herbs.  

Even today, the researchers state, “Because of its effectiveness, especially [for occasional loose stools], berberine has become an essential medicine for every family in China.” But there’s more to berberine than protecting against occasional loose stools

In fact, research studies support berberine for:

  • Blood sugar levels (in people who already have normal blood sugar levels)
  • Normal inflammation levels 
  • Circulation and cardiovascular health
  • The immune system
  • The nervous system
  • The gut microbiome
  • Digestive function
  • Cognitive function
  • A healthy aging process

Is Berberine Like Ozempic?

Make no mistake about it, berberine is NOT a surrogate for Ozempic, the FDA-approved drug for adults with type 2 diabetes that has been misused for weight loss. But that hasn’t kept viral TikTok videos from hailing berberine as Mother Nature’s Ozempic. However, research studies such as a 2022 study in Molecules suggest, berberine may support metabolic health in certain populations. 

The mechanism behind berberine may be its effect on an enzyme, AMP-activated protein kinase, or AMPK. This enzyme activates cellular energy and metabolism and may support insulin sensitivity. Another 2022 study, published in the journal, Nutrients, says that berberine is one of the most promising bioactive compounds for supporting liver health.  

Which TCM Herbs Contain Berberine? 

Huang Lian

Huang Lian (Coptis Rhizome) is one of the most well-regarded TCM herbs that contain berberine. With its cooling and drying properties, Huang Lian’s application in TCM is mainly for digestive upsets and to support the immune system by driving out toxins from the body. 

Huang Lian is included in the fire-purging formula, CoptisClear.

Huang Bo (Huang Bai)

Known in English as Amur Cork Tree Bark (Cortex Phellodendri), Huang Bo, like Huang Lian, has bitter properties that clear heat, dry dampness, purge fire, resolve toxicity, and close sores. 

Huang Bo is an ingredient in the Dampness-removing formula, FlemClear, and the immune-supporting formula, Bupleuri Relaxe

Huang Qin

Chinese Skullcap Root (Scutellaria baicalensis) supports healthy cellular metabolism and shares the bitter, cold properties of the other berberine-containing TCM herbs. In TCM applications, Huang Qin is used for toxic fire conditions of the skin, such as furuncles (infected hair follicles). 

Huang Qin is included in FlemClear and Bupleuri Relaxe

The ActiveHerb Berberine Difference

So why not just purchase a berberine supplement? The answer is that best-in-class TCM formulas and single-herb extracts are made with full-spectrum extraction. This means you benefit from other active compounds in the formula, not just one. Learn more about our strict standards of excellence regarding quality assurance here

Berberine in Traditional Chinese Medicine: Conclusion

Numerous research studies demonstrate that berberine may support blood sugar, and may support the cardiovascular system, among other benefits. These studies are another example of modern science confirming the ancient wisdom of Chinese herbal formulas. 

If you’d like to go down the research rabbit hole regarding berberine studies, The National Library of Medicine’s PubMed database features 7,627 results.