If you’ve been diagnosed as pre-diabetic or type 2 diabetic, then you’ve probably been given a prescription for Metformin. It’s a highly effective drug for controlling blood sugar levels, but it’s not exactly without issues. Though it is a relatively safe medicine, there have been reports of harsh side effects.
If you’re looking for a safe alternative that works just as well as Metformin, then read on. In this article, we will be answering the question everyone’s been asking, “Is Berberine as good as Metformin?” Scroll down to find out!
What exactly is Metformin used for?
Metformin hydrochloride, or Metformin for short, is a glucose-lowering drug. It’s often prescribed by doctors to treat pre-diabetic, type 2 diabetic and PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) patients. It works to control high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) and reverse insulin resistance.
Here are a couple of facts about Metformin’s popularity:
- According to ClinCalc DrugStats Database, Metformin is the 4th most commonly prescribed drug in the United States with over 78 million prescriptions given (1).
- An earlier study (2015) determined that Metformin is prescribed to nearly 120 million people worldwide (2).
Do these numbers surprise you? Well, it shouldn’t, especially when you consider the fact that in 2014, over 422 million people were living with diabetes (source: World Health Organization). With so many people living increasingly sedentary lifestyles and eating a diet full of sugary, highly processed foods, these numbers are expected to rise.
Fortunately, Metformin is an effective drug and it works exactly as advertised. Multiple studies have shown that it lowers blood sugar levels and improves the way the body handles insulin. These further snowballs to more positive effects – weight loss, improved lipid profiles (lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides), and a better overall health profile (3).
For women with PCOS, metformin also has the added benefit of stimulating ovulation, so they get their periods back. Metformin reduces androgen (male hormone) levels in the body which helps treat PCOS symptoms like hirsutism and acne. All these lead to improved fertility and an increased likelihood of a successful pregnancy (4).
Why take Berberine instead of Metformin?
Metformin really works. So, why are we recommending you consider taking Berberine instead? Well, Metformin isn’t for everyone. And as you’ll learn later on, Berberine is just as good as Metformin!
If you have kidney, liver, or heart problems, or you’re older than 65 years of age, or you’ve got an alcohol addiction, then steer clear of Metformin. Otherwise, you risk developing a rare but serious side effect known as lactic acidosis (5).
That said, up to 30% of Metformin users experience gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. A lower percentage of patients experience hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), headaches, weakness, rhinitis, and chest pain (5). But here’s where it gets interesting – long-term Metformin users are more likely to develop a Vitamin B12 deficiency (6). This is why routine testing is recommended and Vitamin B12 supplementation may be necessary for anyone taking Metformin long-term.
What does Berberine bring to the table?
Well, for starters, Berberine is an all-natural plant alkaloid that’s been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic traditional medicine for millennia. Long before its hypoglycemic properties were discovered, Berberine has been used to cure infections and treat wounds. It’s also effective against various pathogens, like bacteria, viruses, fungi, and even parasites (7).
We wrote an in-depth article on 14 research-backed benefits of Berberine which shows that Berberine is just as good as Metformin. Here’s a quick summary:
1) Berberine activates the AMPK protein which naturally burns more energy and helps you lose weight in the process. It increases the efficiency of insulin, leptin, and adiponectin and inhibits fat storage in the body (8).
2) It treats PCOS symptoms by lowering insulin and blood glucose levels, reducing testosterone production, and reducing glucose production in the liver (9).
3) Just like Metformin, Berberine also works to improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels amongst pre-diabetics and type 2 diabetics (10).
4) Berberine helps reduce blood cholesterol levels, which in turn reduces the risk of heart disease (11).
5) It can fight and kill off Candida albicans, a type of fungus that causes oral thrush and genital yeast infections like candidiasis (12).
6) It restores balance in the gut by fighting bacteria that’s responsible for SIBO or small intestine bacterial overgrowth (13).
7) Its antibacterial properties make it an effective killing machine against bad bacteria like Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Salmonella, Clostridium, and even MRSA (14, 15).
8) It helps with acne, heals acne scars, and prevents future outbreaks, too (16).
9) Berberine may help prevent or slow down the development of Alzheimer and dementia (17).
10) In a study done on lab mice, Berberine increased the levels of dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain which means it may help improve depression (18).
11) Berberine reduced lung inflammation in mice exposed to cigarette smoke, which may bode well for us humans with lung issues (19).
12) It can improve fatty liver disease which is a condition that commonly occurs on people with type 2 diabetes, PCOS, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels (20).
13) People suffering from joint problems and rheumatoid arthritis may benefit from Berberine’s anti-inflammatory properties (21)!
14) It helps boost your immunity by fighting off various pathogens and rebalancing your gut microbiota (14).
As you’ve learned in this section, Berberine goes beyond all the benefits Metformin offers. It can treat more than just high blood sugar and insulin resistance. It’s a promising cure for many serious conditions. Plus, it’s associated with far fewer side effects than Metformin (22).
How does Berberine compare to Metformin?
By now, you’ve got a fairly good idea why people say Berberine is as good as Metformin. Well, we’ve got a few more studies lined up attesting to this fact:
In a study done on PCOS patients, Berberine worked just as well as Metformin on improving insulin sensitivity, reducing body weight and androgen production. However, Berberine was more effective at reducing waist to hip ratio, waist circumference, reducing bad cholesterol and blood triglyceride, and increasing good cholesterol levels (9).
Another study confirms the findings above and the author recommended the use of Berberine over Metformin when treating PCOS. It has comparable effects on promoting insulin sensitivity but with much fewer side effects (22).
In another study, both Berberine and Metformin were proven effective at lowering blood sugar levels. However, Berberine worked much better at fat metabolism, that is, it was more effective at lowering triglyceride and total cholesterol levels than Metformin (10).
Berberine works great as a Metformin alternative. In fact, according to Hui et al., Berberine is just as effective as oral medications for diabetes but with no serious adverse effects. The researchers also found out that Berberine works well when used in conjunction with other medications like metformin, glipizide, and rosiglitazone (23).
That said, some people may experience a few minor side effects with Berberine. Similar to Metformin, it can also cause stomach issues and headaches. But apart from these, Berberine’s actually got a pretty stellar record, except if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. If you are, then it’s best to refrain from using Berberine as it may do more harm than good.
So, is Berberine as good as Metformin?
As mentioned earlier, Berberine has long been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic traditional medicine to treat a wide variety of ailments. It wasn’t until recently however that its hypoglycemic properties were discovered (diabetes wasn’t really all that common until the 21st century).
So, to conclude, yes, Berberine is as good as Metformin when it comes to lowering blood sugar levels and promoting insulin sensitivity. It works just as well as Metformin in treating pre-diabetic, type 2 diabetics, and even PCOS patients. But Berberine does so much more than that. It kills bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other pathogens. It promotes wound healing and restores balance in the gut. It improves heart, kidney, and liver health, and so much more!
If you aren’t already, consider supplementing your diet with our Max Strength Berberine HCL Plus supplement. Now, Berberine is a potent compound, so if you have any medical conditions or are taking medications, make sure to consult with your primary care physician first before supplementing.
Lastly, in order to reap the full benefits of Berberine, don’t forget to make the necessary lifestyle changes, that is, start eating a healthy diet and be more physically active!
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(2) Cetin, Meltem, and Selma Sahin. “Microparticulate and nanoparticulate drug delivery systems for metformin hydrochloride.” Drug delivery vol. 23,8 (2016): 2796-2805. doi:10.3109/10717544.2015.1089957
(3) Nasri, Hamid, and Mahmoud Rafieian-Kopaei. “Metformin: Current knowledge.” Journal of research in medical sciences : the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences vol. 19,7 (2014): 658-64.
(4) Artani, Moiz et al. “Effects of Metformin on Symptoms of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Among Women of Reproductive Age.” Cureus vol. 10,8 e3203. 25 Aug. 2018, doi:10.7759/cureus.3203
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(6) Aroda, Vanita R et al. “Long-term Metformin Use and Vitamin B12 Deficiency in the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study.” The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism vol. 101,4 (2016): 1754-61. doi:10.1210/jc.2015-3754
(7) Neag, Maria A et al. “Berberine: Botanical Occurrence, Traditional Uses, Extraction Methods, and Relevance in Cardiovascular, Metabolic, Hepatic, and Renal Disorders.” Frontiers in pharmacology vol. 9 557. 21 Aug. 2018, doi:10.3389/fphar.2018.00557
(8) Jing Yang, Jinhua Yin, Hongfei Gao, Linxin Xu, Yan Wang, Lu Xu and Ming Li 2 , Published online 2012 Mar 8.Berberine Improves Insulin Sensitivity by Inhibiting Fat Store and Adjusting Adipokines Profile in Human Preadipocytes and Metabolic Syndrome Patients, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012; 2012: 363845.
(9) Wei, Wei et al. “A clinical study on the short-term effect of berberine in comparison to metformin on the metabolic characteristics of women with polycystic ovary syndrome.” European journal of endocrinology vol. 166,1 (2012): 99-105. doi:10.1530/EJE-11-0616
(10) Yin J, Xing H, Ye J. Efficacy of berberine in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metab Clin Exp. 2008; 57(5): 712-7.
(11) Dong H, Zhao Y, Zhao L, Lu F, The effects of berberine on blood lipids: a systemic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials, Planta Med. 2013 Apr;79(6):437-46.
(12) Wei GX1, Xu X, Wu CD, In vitro synergism between berberine and miconazole against planktonic and biofilm Candida cultures, Arch Oral Biol. 2011 Jun;56(6):565-72.
(13) Cernáková M1, Kostálová D, Antimicrobial activity of berberine–a constituent of Mahonia aquifolium, Folia Microbiol (Praha).
(14) Han J, Lin H, & Huang W (2011). Modulating gut microbiota as an anti-diabetic mechanism of berberine. Medical Science Monitor 17.
(15) Yu H1, Kim KJ, Cha JD, Kim HK, Lee YE, Choi NY, You YO, Antimicrobial activity of berberine alone and in combination with ampicillin or oxacillin against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus,J Med Food. 2005 Winter;8(4):454-61.
(16) Fouladi RF, Aqueous extract of dried fruit of Berberis vulgaris L. in acne vulgaris, a clinical trial. J Diet Suppl. 2012 Dec;9(4):253-61.
(17) Ji HF, Shen L, Berberine: a potential multipotent natural product to combat Alzheimer’s disease, Molecules. 2011 Aug 9;16(8):6732-40.
(18) Kulkarni SK1, Dhir A, On the mechanism of antidepressant-like action of berberine chloride, Kulkarni SK1, Dhir A, Eur J Pharmacol. 2008 Jul 28;589(1-3):163-72.
(19) Lin K1, Liu S, Shen Y, Li Q, Berberine attenuates cigarette smoke-induced acute lung inflammation, Inflammation. 2013 Oct;36(5):1079-86.
(20) Yang Liu, Li Zhang, Haiyan Song, and Guang Ji, Update on Berberine in Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Volume 2013 (2013).
(21) Wang Z, Chen Z, Yang S, Wang Y, Huang Z, Gao J, Tu S, Rao Z, Berberine ameliorates collagen-induced arthritis in rats associated with anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic effects, Inflammation. 2014 Oct;37(5):1789-98. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24803296
(22) Baldwin-lien, Beth. “Berberine Compared to Metformin in Women with PCOS: An Exploration for the Superior PCOS Treatment–Berberine or Metformin?” Natural Medicine Journal, vol. 4, no. 12, December 2012, https://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/2012-12/berberine-compared-metformin-women-pcos
(23) Dong, Hui et al. “Berberine in the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systemic review and meta-analysis.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM vol. 2012 (2012): 591654. doi:10.1155/2012/591654