Berberine Tea, Anyone?

Have you heard of berberine? It has been compared to Metformin and recently even called ‘nature’s Ozempic‘. In this post we explore questions about berberine, like:

  • What is berberine?
  • What is it good for?
  • How is it made as a tea? and
  • What would that even taste like?

What is Berberine?

Berberine is a bioactive compound found in several plants, including goldenseal, barberry, and Oregon grape. It has a long history of use in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for its potential health benefits.

How to Make Berberine Tea

Berberine tea is usually barberry plant tea (the root bark, which is the outer layer of the root), but can be made by steeping the root or bark of plants containing berberine in hot water. Here’s a simple recipe to make berberine tea:

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon dried berberine-containing plant material (such as goldenseal root or barberry bark)
  • 1 cup water

Instructions:

  1. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan or hot water boiler.
  2. Add the dried berberine-containing plant material to the boiling water.
  3. Reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the tea steep for an additional 5-10 minutes.
  5. Strain the tea with a sieve and into a cup and enjoy.

Letting the tea simmer and steep makes for a stronger extraction.

You could also just pick up some tea bags, which you can find online if not in some stores.

Taste Profile

Berberine tea is known for its bitter taste, which can be quite strong and may not be to everyone’s liking. Some describe it as intensely bitter with earthy undertones. To make it more palatable, you can sweeten the tea with honey or add other flavorings such as lemon or ginger.

Using Berberine Tea as a Supplement

You could also skip the tea and taste altogether and take the berberine as a supplement. Numerous options are available, so this is a topic for another post.

Health Benefits

Berberine has been studied for its potential health-promoting properties, and research suggests that it may offer several benefits:

  1. Blood Sugar Regulation: Berberine has been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels by increasing insulin sensitivity and reducing insulin resistance. This makes it potentially beneficial for individuals with diabetes or prediabetes.
  2. Cholesterol Management: Studies indicate that berberine may help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels, while also increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels. This could have positive effects on heart health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  3. Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Berberine exhibits anti-inflammatory properties, which may help reduce inflammation in the body and alleviate symptoms of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. It has also been linked to lower markers of inflammation and fatty liver in the obese.
  4. Antimicrobial Activity: Berberine has antimicrobial properties and may help fight off various infections, including bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. It has been used traditionally as a natural remedy for gastrointestinal infections and other microbial-related ailments.
  5. Weight Management: Some studies suggest that berberine may aid in weight loss and fat reduction by influencing metabolism and promoting the breakdown of fat cells.
graphic of barberry plant and text reading 'berberine tea: anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, blood sugar regulator'

Precautions

While berberine offers promising health benefits, use it cautiously. If you have existing medical conditions or are taking medications, I’d even recommend talking to your doctor about using it for a trial period before starting. Berberine may interact with certain medications and could cause adverse effects in some individuals, particularly in high doses.

References:

Wang H, Zhu C, Ying Y, Luo L, Huang D, Luo Z. Metformin and berberine, two versatile drugs in treatment of common metabolic diseases. Oncotarget. 2017 Sep 11;9(11):10135-10146. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.20807. PMID: 29515798; PMCID: PMC5839379.

Li Z, Wang Y, Xu Q, Ma J, Li X, Yan J, Tian Y, Wen Y, Chen T. Berberine and health outcomes: An umbrella review. Phytother Res. 2023 May;37(5):2051-2066. doi: 10.1002/ptr.7806. Epub 2023 Mar 31. PMID: 36999891.

Och A, Och M, Nowak R, Podgórska D, Podgórski R. Berberine, a Herbal Metabolite in the Metabolic Syndrome: The Risk Factors, Course, and Consequences of the Disease. Molecules. 2022 Feb 17;27(4):1351. doi: 10.3390/molecules27041351. PMID: 35209140; PMCID: PMC8874997.

Asbaghi O, Ghanbari N, Shekari M, Reiner Ž, Amirani E, Hallajzadeh J, Mirsafaei L, Asemi Z. The effect of berberine supplementation on obesity parameters, inflammation and liver function enzymes: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Clin Nutr ESPEN. 2020 Aug;38:43-49. doi: 10.1016/j.clnesp.2020.04.010. Epub 2020 May 6. PMID: 32690176.

Yang J, Yin J, Gao H, Xu L, Wang Y, Xu L, Li M. Berberine improves insulin sensitivity by inhibiting fat store and adjusting adipokines profile in human preadipocytes and metabolic syndrome patients. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:363845. doi: 10.1155/2012/363845. Epub 2012 Mar 8. PMID: 22474499; PMCID: PMC3310165.

Ye Y, Liu X, Wu N, Han Y, Wang J, Yu Y, Chen Q. Efficacy and Safety of Berberine Alone for Several Metabolic Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. Front Pharmacol. 2021 Apr 26;12:653887. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2021.653887. PMID: 33981233; PMCID: PMC8107691.

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Anne Marie Berggren RDN, MS, CDN, CNSC is a Registered Dietitian with a Master's Degree in Nutrition, training in integrative and functional nutrition, nutrition for mental health, obesity and weight management, is a board certified nutrition support clinician, and an adjunct professor for the Stony Brook Graduate Nutrition Program teaching advanced clinical nutrition.

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