Is there a natural alternative to blood sugar medication?

Blood Sugar Busting Berberine

No, not berber (like the carpet): it’s berberine.

You may have heard of it before. Just like curcumin, berberine is a plant extract (for the botanically savvy, an alkaloid), and has been used for eons as a natural antibiotic.

I’ve used it successfully in my practice to help people who choose a natural option (as opposed to prescription antibiotics) for all sorts of unwelcome microbial infections…bacteria, yeast, viruses, parasites. Berberine is extracted from a number of medicinal herbs, most commonly  oregon grape root, barberry, and goldenseal (what you see in the picture above).

But that’s only the beginning of berberine’s power. A couple of ground-breaking 2008 clinical studies found that berberine regulates blood sugar in Type II diabetes just as well as the blockbuster drug Metformin (and with no side effects!). No, I am not exaggerating. In peer-reviewed studies in the medical journals Metabolism and the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology, berberine was found to lower both fasting and post-prandial (after eating) blood sugar and insulin EQUALLY as well as Metformin (the most common brand of the generic drug glucophage). And beyond blood sugar, berberine also reduced those participants’ triglycerides by 35% and their LDL cholesterol by 21% and their blood pressure by 7/5 mm Hg (three things Metformin can’t and doesn’t claim to do)!

Berberine works because it activates a primal metabolism-regulating enzyme in the body called AMPK. When we are producing less ATP (energy) in our cells, the body secretes AMPK to ensure our survival in times of crisis. This is the same enzyme that gets triggered with severe calorie restriction (which has been shown to prolong life in animals, but it’s not very fun in my opinion). AMPK stimulates your cells to take in more blood sugar, thus improving insulin sensitivity. But it also slows your liver’s own production of extra blood sugar (a key issue for most Type II diabetics). By supporting your liver, berberine also slows the release of free fatty acids into the blood (triglycerides) and boosts natural fat-burning in your mitochondria (the little energy factories in all your cells that turn fuel into energy).

For the typical adult, berberine is effective for blood-sugar management taken 400-500mg at once, twice or thrice a day. To ensure you get an effective dose each time, I suggest choosing a product with a standardized berberine extract (as opposed to a whole-herb product like goldenseal).  I recommend Thorne’s Berbercap product or (if you are struggling with GI issues as well, like gas and bloating) try the multi-herbal formula Metagenics CandiBactin-BR.   On a side note, if you do decide to continue taking Metformin, please, please make sure you take a daily B12 supplement. A significant side effect of Metformin is that it depletes your body’s B12 supply, making neuropathy an even bigger risk than it already is for diabetics. Take 1000mcg methyl-cobalamin (not cyano-cobalamin) daily on a full stomach. An easy-to-find, high-quality brand is Jarrow Methyl-B12, available on-line or at Whole Foods Market.

If you are an insulin-dependent diabetic, be sure to monitor your blood sugar carefully when you start berberine or any new therapy (and consult your doctor if you’re uncomfortable doing so on your own). Start with just one dose/day and increase slowly to ensure you can stay in control. You may need to cut back on your insulin dramatically to avoid dangerous lows. But you can do it!  Most of my clients eventually end up able to stop both Metformin and supplemental insulin.  Ultimately all Type II diabetics should work on sustainable lifestyle and diet change to be able to stop supplemental insulin in particular. While life-saving as a short-term, triage therapy, long-term insulin use makes Type II diabetics even less healthy. Surplus insulin promotes more inflammation in the body, increases body fat storage, and increases your risk of heart disease.

The miracle of berberine – a plant. I know. This all sounds so amazing that it’s probably hard for you to believe. But it’s true. I’ve seen it in action. Perhaps like you, I too find it amazing that these natural (proven!) remedies don’t typically make media headlines. And this one is from 2008 – four years ago. I understand you can’t patent an herb. And so no big corporation stands to make gobs of money from promoting a “shocking new finding” for something that anyone can grow and sell. But this is BIG news for the millions of people struggling with diabetes! And actually, it’s not the only natural remedy I’ve seen successfully stabilize and then reverse Type II diabetes. Don’t let negative media shape your thoughts and make you think you are “doomed” or “destined” to live your entire life with Type II diabetes. You have choices!

by:Tracy Harrison (

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