Over 2,800 studies are available on PubMed about the alkaloid berberine, a constituent of many herbs traditionally used to fight fevers and infections. More than half of these studies have been put up on PubMed in the past five years. This research not only confirms the traditional value of berberine-containing plants for infections, it also shows it has many other potential benefits for human health.
Berberine is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and immune-enhancing. It is effective against a wide range of bacteria, protozoa, and fungi. It may also have efficacy in the treatment of insulin resistance, diabetes, arthritis, and cancer. There is evidence it may be helpful in preventing heart disease by lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Berberine may even be helpful for hypertension (high blood pressure), brain health, immune dysfunction, low bone density, and weight control.
We discuss some of this research in this month's Herbal Hour, but we also look at herbs that contain this alkaloid, such as goldenseal, Oregon grape, barberry, yellow root, Chinese golden thread (also known as coptis) and amor cork tree bark (known also as phellodendron). We look at some differential uses for these various herbs with berberine as they are unique and have subtle differences in the way they are used.