Berberine Side Effects

Berberine Side Effects

6 minute read

Supplements work alongside medications to provide extra support when you need it. As with all meds, supplements can cause side effects. Berberine is useful in many ailments, but it also comes with risks. In this article, find out which medical conditions Berberine improves.

What Is Berberine?

Berberine is a natural supplement originating from the Berberis, European barberry, Goldenseal, and Goldthread plants. It contains a bioactive compound, or alkaloid, that restores body functions. 


Alkaloids act as buffers and reverse damage to the body, such as inflammation or pain. Berberine was historically a Chinese remedy for a variety of illnesses.


Like other medications, there is a possibility of developing Berberine side effects. To understand how a supplement can be harmful, learn what Berberine does to the body.

Indications for Berberine

Berberine treats a variety of medical conditions. It has anti-inflammatory properties, decreasing the symptoms of multiple ailments, such as diabetes, obesity, hyperlipidemia, and other common diagnoses. 


Berberine has other characteristics that aid in healing. It also functions as an antifungal, antiviral, antimicrobial, and antibacterial agent. 


Berberine plays several crucial roles in the management of Type 2 diabetes. 


  • It normalizes blood sugar levels by promoting glycolysis, the breakdown of sugar inside the cells.

  • It regulates blood sugar by drastically decreasing the level. 

  • It decreases insulin resistance to make it more effective. 

  • A study done with diabetics revealed that Berberine lowered Hgb A1C levels by 12%.

  • It reduces sugar production in the liver.


It can work well with metformin, glipizide, and other oral diabetic medications. Some doctors even recommend trying Berberine alone before starting drugs intended to lower blood sugar. 


Berberine has helped with weight loss. The supplement inhibits the growth of fat cells, which aids in the balancing of BMI (body mass index) levels.

Hyperlipidemia (High Cholesterol)

Berberine lowers bad cholesterol (LDL) and raises good cholesterol (HDL), which helps to decrease the risk of heart disease. Berberine can work with cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins) to enhance their effectiveness. 

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Women with PCOS often have difficulty managing conditions, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity. Studies have revealed that Berberine helped lower insulin resistance and bad cholesterol and increased the ability to lose weight. 

Thyroid Disorders

A study from the National Library of Medicine showed that Berberine has properties to stimulate and suppress the thyroid. Patients with hyper/hypothyroidism may benefit. The results would be dose-specific. 

Recurring Urinary Tract Infections 

If you have a history of urinary tract infections or UTIs, Berberine may work in your favor. A 2018 trial study involved individuals who took natural supplements with and without Berberine. It showed that those individuals who took Berberine with other agents had a lower risk of developing UTIs. 

How Berberine Works

Berberine performs on a molecular level. It releases an enzyme (AMPK) into the cells to help regulate metabolism. It works differently in each medical condition. 

Who Should Take Berberine?

Manufacturers of Berberine had diabetes in mind because of its success with blood sugar control. However, anyone can take Berberine, but before you consider using it you should speak with your physician about whether it will benefit you.

Side Effects of Berberine

Side effects can inevitably occur anytime you take medication, even natural supplements. Most symptoms last only a few days up to a week, but there are times when they last longer. Some medications need several weeks to build up in the body. 


A standard dose of Berberine is 500 mg two to three times a day.  Most people do not have any problems with it. If you take the supplement at higher doses or increase the amount too quickly, unpleasant side effects can occur. Always consult with your doctor first.

Gastrointestinal Upset

Berberine slows the breakdown of carbohydrates in the intestinal tract and increases the number of good gut flora. The most common Berberine side effects are GI-related, such as nausea, diarrhea, constipation, flatulence, and stomach upset. Symptoms are usually short-lasting.

Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia)

When taken concurrently with another antihyperglycemic medication, blood sugar can drop too low and cause more problems. Studies have proven that Berberine can take the place of other diabetic medications. 

Low Heart Rate (Bradycardia) 

Low heart rate or bradycardia can occur if you take Berberine with beta-blockers or beta-adrenergic blocking agents. Metoprolol and Atenolol are common beta-blockers, which alone tend to lower the heart rate along with blood pressure. Adding Berberine may drop the heart rate dangerously low. 

Miscellaneous Reactions

Other Berberine side effects can occur and become worse. Two possible reactions are headaches and skin irritation, such as rashes.

Contraindications of Berberine

Certain medications do not mix well with Berberine. Taking those drugs together can alter their effects, possibly to a dangerous level. Berberine with prescription drugs may be subtherapeutic or toxic.

Blood Thinners 

Do not take Berberine while on blood thinners or anticoagulants, such as Warfarin. Taking the supplement along with Warfarin may exacerbate the effects of the thinner, increasing your chances of bleeding. 

Blood Pressure Medications

The purpose of blood pressure medications, also known as antihypertensives, is to lower blood pressure. Consuming them with Berberine may cause your blood pressure to drop to an unsafe level. 


An immunosuppressant is a drug that helps prevent the body from rejecting new organs. Cyclosporine is an example of an immunosuppressant. After your body uses what it needs, it knows to excrete it. Berberine may decrease the metabolism of Cyclosporine, which means levels will remain too high in the body. 

Macrolide Antibiotics

Macrolide antibiotics are bacteriostatic and block bacterial protein synthesis at the cellular level. Azithromycin and clarithromycin are macrolide antibiotics. These are potentially dangerous if you take them with Berberine. Serious heart complications can occur. 

To Sum It Up

Berberine can help treat multiple medical conditions in various ways. Although it is a natural supplement, Berberine’s side effects can be mild or severe, depending on how your body responds. It interferes with some medications and may change how they work. If you are not sure if Berberine is right for you, ask your doctor.


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