August 2023

“Nature’s Ozempic”: The Latest on Berberine

If you spend any time on social media, you’ve likely noticed berberine trending as the latest supplement for weight loss. Many are now calling it “nature’s Ozempic.” So what is berberine? Does it actually help with weight loss? And is it safe? Be prepared to talk about this with patients.

Berberine is a bitter-tasting, yellow-colored chemical found in some plants, including goldenseal, European barberry, Oregon grape, and others. Some clinical research shows that it can moderately reduce blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes – taking 500 mg by mouth 2-3 times daily might be as effective as taking metformin 500 mg by mouth 2-3 times daily. But the online anecdotes about its effects on weight loss aren’t backed by any strong clinical evidence. It’s linked to modest improvements in weight loss in people who are obese, but it’s not clear if these effects are significant.

As for safety, doses up to 1.5 grams daily have been used safely for up to 6 months. But there are drug interactions to watch out for – early clinical research shows that it moderately inhibits cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) and can increase concentrations of drugs metabolized by this enzyme. It might also have additive effects when taken along with metformin and other diabetes drugs.

The biggest concern with berberine is product quality, particularly now that demand is soaring – this might incentivize some manufacturers to cut corners. Berberine products aren’t verified by most reputable third-party certifiers, so adulteration with other ingredients is a concern. And weight loss supplements in general are notoriously tainted with undeclared ingredients and stimulants. Lastly, given the shortage of Ozempic and other drugs, make sure patients with diabetes understand that berberine can’t be used in place of their prescription medications.

The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2024 NatMed. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. NatMed is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.