Researchers are finding berberine has a positive effect on metabolic syndrome, which is thought to be a cause of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) for one in three women with PCOS. Many women presenting with high metabolic risk, metabolic syndrome and/or metabolism-related PCOS symptoms are challenged by insulin resistance, high blood sugar, obesity, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure.
What is Berberine?
Berberine is a plant constituent called an isoquinoline alkaloid, which gives several plants a yellow color. Well known berberine-containing plants are – Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium), Barberry (Berberis vulgaris), Chinese Goldthread (Coptis chinensis), Phellodendron chinense and Phellodendron amurense (the latter two common in Traditional Chinese Medicine).
Berberine is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and able to:
- inhibit smooth muscle contraction
- inhibit androgen activity (positively shifting pcos symptoms like acne and hirsutism)
- stimulate bile secretion and improve gut health
- regulate insulin levels (reduce blood sugar) as a natural alternative to Metformin
- regulate metabolism (by activation of the enzyme within cells called AMPK that controls how the body produces and uses energy)
Berberine and PCOS Study Findings
- Researchers from China and Canada presented their findings at the 62nd Annual Meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine that berberine effectively opposes excessive testosterone production and “defective glucose uptake” (Fertility and Sterility, 2011).
- “In January 2012, the European Journal of Endocrinology published results of a clinical trial that found berberine compared favorably with metformin when used to treat women (n=89) with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).27” – Jacob Schor ND, FABNO, graduate of National College of Naturopathic Medicine, Portland, Oregon.
- A 2015 single arm pilot study of 98 women concluded that “berberine alone may improve the menstrual pattern and ovulation rate in anovulatory Chinese women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Berberine can also decrease sex hormone binding globulin, insulin resistance, total cholesterol, triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in normal weight polycystic ovary syndrome women.”
Natural Therapies for PCOS
PCOS is best first addressed by making dietary and lifestyle changes! We know that women who make concerted effort to follow a PCOS Diet, exercise consistently, and lower their exposure to excess estrogen are most able to support the reduction of symptoms and return to balance with herbs, nutritional supplements and natural therapies.
Start learning more from our guide:
How to Reduce the Damaging Effects of PCOS on Fertility Through Diet and Herbs
Berberine-containing herbs can be added to the program outlined there, yet it will be best to work with a practitioner who can suggest the best dose of berberine-containing herb(s) for you. Such herbs or supplements are generally suggested for 2-3 months before taking one month off from taking them, then starting them again if needed. They are best taken with a meal. Practitioners will also suggest prebiotic foods and a probiotic supplement be consumed as well.
Note of caution: Berberine is not intended to replace prescription medication without guidance from a qualified natural or medical healthcare provider, or for use with prescription medications, in pregnancy or while breastfeeding. If you’re interested in adding berberine to your PCOS fertility program and are also on medication, consult your doctor or herbalist. Probiotic supplements are best taken apart from berberine.
- Short, J. (December 2012). Clinical Applications for Berberine; Potential therapeutic applications in metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and dyslipidemia. Vol. 4 Issue 12. Natural Medicine Journal. Retrieved from https://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/2012-12/clinical-applications-berberine
- Li L, Li C, Pan P, Chen X, Wu X, Ng EHY, et al. (2015) A Single Arm Pilot Study of Effects of Berberine on the Menstrual Pattern, Ovulation Rate, Hormonal and Metabolic Profiles in Anovulatory Chinese Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. PLoS ONE 10(12): e0144072. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0144072. Retrieved from https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0144072
- Zhao, Lu et al. (January 2011). Berberine reduces insulin resistance induced by dexamethasone in theca cells in vitro. Fertility and Sterility, Volume 95, Issue 1, 461 – 463. Retrieved from https://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(10)02216-8/fulltext
- Medling, A. (January 19, 2016). 4 Big Benefits of Berberine for PCOS. Retrieved from https://pcosdiva.com/2016/01/berberine-for-pcos-supplement/
- “Berberine,” Examine.com, published on 23 March 2014, last updated on 13 July 2018, https://examine.com/supplements/berberine/