Berberine Side Effects

By Evelyn Bourne

Berberine is a powerful herbal product that has many uses, including as an immune system booster and an antioxidant. Berberine has been used for years in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine to treat intestinal and lung conditions, skin diseases and various other illnesses, including urinary tract infections, according to "Materia Medica," a compendium of Chinese herbal medicines.


Berberine is an isoquinoline alkoaloid that can be found in the roots, stem and bark of the Berberis plant. It has a deep yellow color, and in addition to its medicinal purposes, it has also been used as a dye.

Side Effects

Berberine may cause uterine contractions and miscarriage in pregnant women, and it has been shown to cause neonatal jaundice, so its use is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women and newborns. The safe dose seems to be around 200 to 400 mg as a single dose daily. Taking Berberine for more than four to six weeks in large amounts may cause liver problems. The use of Berberine has caused nausea, vomiting, hypertension, breathing problems, chest pain, skin hives and skin rashes.

Current Uses

Some of the current clinical uses of berberine include the treatment of bacterial diarrhea, intestinal parasite infections, ocular trachoma infections, Alzheimer's disease, combating E.coli, reducing blood sugar in diabetes patients and supporting heart health. Berberine is also said to be useful in fighting fungal, yeast, parasites, bacterial and viral infections due to its antimicrobial properties.

Potential Uses

Berberine is being studied at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine for its ability to lower cholesterol using a different mechanism than that of the statin drugs that had been used for that purpose but which have been pulled from the market. It may be possible that berberine might be a replacement for those statin drugs for those who are looking to lower their cholesterol levels. Its uses are also being tested in cardiac arrhythmia and leukemia. The use of berberine is currently being studied at the Unversity of Alabama as a promising candidate for prostate cancer therapy, and at Kunsan National University for its use against MRSA, the resistant Staphylococcus bacterial infection.


Berberine usage has not been significantly studied in humans, so its safety and levels of toxicity are not well known in the West, where it has only recently been discovered and used for medicinal purposes. Berberine may interact with or interfere with certain drugs, and it can lower blood sugar levels, so take care when taking it if you are already taking other blood sugar-lowering medication. Inform your doctor that you are taking berberine before she prescribes any new medications.

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