China has utilised Berberine for thousands of years as a natural treatment for diarrhea, diabetes and infertility. Although it's relatively new to the PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) community, people are excited to try Berberine for PCOS. The results are very encouraging so far in the treatment of common symptoms with PCOS and maybe even prevention.
At its base, Berberine is a bioactive compound with the technical classification as an alkaloid. It can be extracted from a variety of plants. Most notably, a small group of shrubs – the Berberis shrubs. Along with its long history of medicinal use, Berberine's bright yellow colour makes it a favourite for dyes. Research is starting to delve into how this alkaloid can help women with PCOS. (1)(2)
This is excellent news because Berberine has very few side effects, and the side effects it does have are mild. Since women with PCOS already have unfortunate issues that can cause discomfort, Berberine can be a welcome relief.
Berberine has positive effects on a variety of systems throughout your body, and there are hundreds of studies to prove it. When you take Berberine, it makes its way through your bloodstream and into your cells. It looks for "molecular targets" that your cells naturally produce, and it goes to work altering their functions. This is exactly what drugs or pharmaceuticals do to your system when you take them for PCOS. (3)(4)
Since it can do this, Berberine offers several exclusive health benefits for women who have PCOS. They include things like weight loss, improving fertility, and reducing the chances of developing high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease. (5)(6)(7)
Berberine has also shown to have a positive impact on other molecules in your cells. It could even potentially help decide which genes get switched off or on.
PCOS stands for polycystic ovary syndrome. This is a metabolic and hormonal imbalance disorder that impacts 1 in 10 women who are of reproductive age. It can cause things like excessive periods, ovarian cysts, infertility, weight gain and an overproduction of testosterone. It can also cause women to have difficulty losing weight. High levels of androgens and insulin in your system are thought to be the two main causes of PCOS. (8)
PCOS can come with some very frustrating and difficult symptoms. You can try medications to help alleviate them, but they can lead to side effects. Many people like to try a holistic route with natural supplements. This is where Berberine comes in, and we've picked the top five reasons to try it below.
Berberine is a natural insulin sensitiser, and it actually works just as well if not better than medications. This is important because women who have PCOS have an issue with their bodies being able to properly signal insulin. In turn, their bodies secrete too much of it. Taking a Berberine supplement can work to stimulate your body's insulin intake. It does this by activating the AMP-activated protein kinase pathway. In turn, this reduces the amount of insulin and glucose in your body. (9)
One study took 89 women with PCOS and split them into three groups. The purpose of this study was to measure how well Berberine performed against Metformin. Metformin is an insulin-regulating drug. Group A received 500 mg of Berberine three times a day for three months. Group B received a Metformin for 12 weeks, and group C got a placebo. All three groups reduced their fat and carbohydrate intake, and both groups exercised 30 minutes a day.
After 12 weeks, group A had greater amounts of body fat loss over group B or C. They also saw a large reduction in their total LDL, cholesterol and triglycerides. They also had an improvement in their good cholesterol levels over the metformin group. They also had fewer side effects other than very mild GI discomfort. (10)
Berberine has shown positive strides to helping improve fertility levels of women with PCOS. One study set out to prove that Berberine boosts fertility levels. The study took 102 Chinese women with PCOS and gave them 0.4 grams of Berberine three times a day for 16 weeks. Out of the 102 women, 98 completed the study. They took before and after comparisons of the ovulation rate, menstrual patterns, metabolic profiles and hormonal profiles of each woman.
At the end of the 12 weeks, 14 of the 98 women had regained regular menstrual patterns. Their ovulation rates went up 25% by the end of the study. There was also a decrease in the insulin resistance, sex hormone binding globulin, total triglyceride lipoprotein, total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein levels. (11)
A second study took 150 infertile women who had PCOS and were undergoing IVF treatment and split them into three groups. One group got a placebo, one got metformin and one got Berberine for 12 weeks. At the end of the trial, researchers found that the women who took the Berberine had higher pregnancy rates than the placebo or metformin groups. There were also fewer side effects when they took it 12 weeks before their treatment. (12)
PCOS can cause an excess of testosterone to build up in your body while simultaneously decreasing your estrogen levels. However, studies show that taking a Berberine supplement can reduce your body's levels of androgens. One study took 89 women with PCOS and split them into three groups.
Group A got Berberine and compound cyproterone acetate, group B got metformin and compound cyproterone acetate and group C got a placebo plus compound cyproterone acetate. Researchers also measured the participants' hormonal and metabolic parameters before and after the trial.
At the end of the trial, researchers found that group A had improved hormonal and metabolic scores with lower free androgen testosterone levels over the other two groups. They also had an increase in their sex hormone binding agents. (13)
When you're healthy, your gut bacteria stay in balance with each other. The good bacteria and the bad bacteria keep each other in check. But, bacterial imbalances happen and PCOS can be a result of this imbalance. (14)
Berberine has powerful antioxidant qualities that can help repair damage at a cellular level to help rebalance your bacteria levels. As the Berberine heals your inflammation, it'll stop the bad bacteria from going throughout your body and overriding the good bacteria. Your intestinal walls will tighten back up. (15)
A pilot study showed that Berberine worked to improve gut-barrier function. It does this by increasing the amount of short-chain fatty acids in your system. These fatty acids stimulate the production of good bacteria. The study took rats and split them into two groups. Both groups got a high-fat diet, but one group also got 100 milligrams of Berberine per kilogram of body weight.
The rats that got the Berberine supplement had lower insulin resistance, higher amounts of short-chain fatty acids, reduced inflammation and a better balanced gut microbial model than the control group. (16)
Women with PCOS have a very difficult time losing weight. Common factors that make this so difficult is impaired appetite regulation, carbohydrate cravings and increased insulin resistance. Berberine may be able to help with this in several ways, and there have been two studies to support it. (17)
A study that lasted three months took participants and had them take 500 milligrams of Berberine three times a day. They found that the individuals lost around five pounds of body weight and 3.6% of their body fat by the end of the study. This happens because Berberine actively works to reduce your body's secretion of Leptin. This is an appetite stimulating hormone. (18)
A second study supported Berberine's use in weight loss. The study took 37 participants and had them take 300 milligrams of Berberine three times a day for a full three months. At the end of the study, the participants reported that their body mass index (BMI) dropped significantly. On average, it went from 31.5 to 27.4, and this included stubborn belly fat. (19)
Researchers believed the participants achieved these results due to Berberine's use in improving fat-regulating hormone function. In particular, Berberine inhibits a specific enzyme called lipoprotein lipase. This enzyme is the thing that causes your body to store fat. When you take Berberine, it stops this enzyme and it inhibits the growth of fat cells. (20)(21)
Berberine is making exciting advancements in the PCOS community, and it's showing positive results so far. More testing and research is needed to find out all of the benefits this supplement can bring to people with PCOS, and this is happening now.
Before you start taking Berberine or any supplement, we recommend you discuss it with your physician. They can help you figure out if this is a good idea for your lifestyle or not. They'll also be able to tell you whether or not it will interact with any medications you are currently taking. But, if they give you the okay, you can try Berberine for yourself and see how it helps with your PCOS.