As the number of people living with cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cancer, and other health scourges continues to skyrocket, so too does the demand for safe, effective treatments. People don’t just want to pop pills that mask symptoms and make it possible to “live with” a disease. And as much as we know that diet and lifestyle changes—being less sedentary, sleeping more, reducing stress—are needed to make real, sweeping public health impacts, implementation is a huge challenge. In the meantime, people need remedies that get to the root causes of their chronic health woes—ideally without a laundry list of possible side effects. Enter berberine, an alkaloid compound found in various plants. This is a textbook example of modern science confirming ancient wisdom. Chinese and ayurvedic medicine have valued berberine-containing plants like barberry, goldenseal, and tree turmeric for hundreds of years, using them to treat everything from gout to indigestion to hemorrhoids to skin infections to cancer. Now, research is uncovering exactly how berberine works—and it turns out to be quite a remarkable little substance. To date, there is pretty good evidence that berberine is useful for two applications in particular, and there are hints that it might serve other purposes as well. Let’s dive in. Likely Benefits of Berberine For Managing Blood Sugar, Insulin, and Type 2 Diabetes In type 2 diabetics, berberine seems to lower fasting blood sugar and fasting insulin, decrease HbA1c (a three-month blood glucose average), and improve insulin sensitivity. Some studies even suggest that berberine can be as effective as the drugs that are currently considered standard of care, notably metformin. There is also an additive benefit: administering metformin with berberine seems to be more effective than metformin alone. However, as the authors of one review pointed out, studies comparing the two tend to be of less-than-ideal quality. Shockingly, drug companies aren’t exactly falling all over themselves to fund research to see if an herb can replace one of their lucrative products. Nevertheless, this is a big deal. Insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, and the resulting inflammation are the common threads connecting numerous chronic diseases. It’s possible, even likely, that berberine could be used as a primary or adjunct therapy for many diseases that run rampant today. Take PCOS as an example. Insulin resistance is a hallmark of PCOS, and metformin is often prescribed to manage symptoms and encourage ovulation. In one study, 150 women received berberine, metformin, or a placebo before undergoing IVF. Women in both treatment groups showed similar improvements in metabolic health (lower BMI, less insulin resistance, lower fasting glucose and insulin), but 18 of those who took berberine had a successful pregnancy, compared to 14 in the metformin group and 7 in the placebo group. For Blood Lipids Studies in rodents and humans with high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes pretty consistently find that berberine lowers LDL-C and triglycerides, usually while boosting HDL. It may also lower ApoB. ApoB is a lipoprotein that many cardiovascular disease experts now recognize is a more accurate … Continue reading “What is Berberine and Should You Take It?”
Black seed oil is the perfect example of a medicinal whole food. It’s the cold pressed oil of the black cumin seed nigella sativa, which grows widely across Southern Europe, Western Asia and South Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East. In the majority of those regions, black seed oil has extensive traditional use as a medicine or “cure-all.”
In ancient Egypt, the black cumin seed was a primary first-line medicine against an entire host of maladies. When archaeologists unearthed King Tut’s tomb, they found traces of black seed and black seed oil—ostensibly placed there to protect him as he made his way to the underworld. The Prophet Muhammad was reported to have said that “the black seed can heal every disease, except death.” For thousands of years, Indian Ayurvedic medicine prescribed black seed oil to treat hypertension, high blood sugar, eczema, asthma, and general diseases of inflammation.