Can Berberine Lower Your Lipid Levels?

Berberine is a chemical found in the bark, roots, and rhizomes of many plants found across the world; it is also available in supplement form.

The health benefits of berberine have been known for many centuries. It has been used to treat various medical conditions in Indian and Chinese medicine, including diabetes and hypertension. Because of its yellow hue, it was also used by some cultures to dye fabrics.

In recent years, berberine isolated from some plants has also been studied in the treatment of inflammation, cancer, arthritis ,and heart failure. There is even some evidence that suggests that berberine may be effective in lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Red berries
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Studies Show Promise

Although there are a few human studies that examine the effects of berberine on lipid levels, the majority of these studies were conducted in hamsters and mice. The berberine in these studies was gathered from a variety of herbs, including goldenseal root and Huanglian.

In one mouse study, treatment with berberine reduced serum LDL-C levels by 51%, serum total cholesterol levels by 28%, and serum triglyceride levels by 23% as compared to the control group.

In one human study, 500 milligrams (mg) of berberine was administered to individuals with high cholesterol levels two to three times daily for up to three months. Total cholesterol levels were lowered down to 29%.

LDL cholesterol levels were lowered by an average of 21%, whereas triglyceride levels were lowered by anywhere between 22% and 35%. HDL levels, on the other hand, did not appear to change significantly with the addition of berberine.

What Herbs Contain Berberine?

Herbs that contain high amounts of berberine include:

  • Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)
  • Goldenseal root (Hydrastis canadensis L)
  • Huanglian (Coptis chiensis)
  • Ohio grape root (Berberis aquifolium)

The berberine content varies between each herbal plant.

How Does Berberine Lower Cholesterol?

Although the manner by which berberine works in lowering cholesterol is not completely known, scientists have a couple of theories on this based on studies.

It is thought that berberine has the ability to increase the number of LDL receptors in the liver, which may help increase the clearance of LDL cholesterol from the body. Berberine also appears to act on signaling pathways involved in making fats in the body.

Berberine has also been shown to act similarly to phytosterols by blocking the absorption of lipids from the small intestine.

Should You Take Berberine to Lower Cholesterol?

The studies examining the use of berberine to lower cholesterol appear promising, however, more research is needed. For this reason, taking berberine supplements to lower your lipid levels is not recommended at this time.

Berberine should not be given to newborns, as it can cause brain damage, or to pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding (it could damage the fetus or newborn).

Side effects reported with products containing berberine include headache, abdominal bloating, and nausea.

The effects of these herbs on certain health conditions are not completely known, and it is not known whether or not berberine-containing supplements could interact with any other medications you are taking.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Habtemariam S. The quest to enhance the efficacy of berberine for type-2 diabetes and associated diseases: physicochemical modification approaches. Biomedicines. 2020;8(4):90. doi:10.3390/biomedicines8040090

  3. Singh AB, Liu J. Berberine decreases plasma triglyceride levels and upregulates hepatic TRIB1 in LDLR wild type mice and in LDLR deficient mice. Sci Rep. 2019;9(1):15641. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-52253-y

  4. Pirillo A, Catapano AL. Berberine, a plant alkaloid with lipid- and glucose-lowering properties: From in vitro evidence to clinical studies. Atherosclerosis. 2015 Dec;243(2):449-61. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2015.09.032

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By Jennifer Moll, PharmD
Jennifer Moll, MS, PharmD, is a pharmacist actively involved in educating patients about the importance of heart disease prevention.