Berberine, an active ingredient in several plants, shows good effects in managing high blood sugar and excess body weight, plus lower risk of colorectal cancer.

Berberine at a glance

Berberine is a compound found in many plants, including European barberry, goldenseal, goldthread, Oregon grape, phellodendron, and tree turmeric. It is available as a dietary supplement. 

Berberine shows benefits in some body terrainthe internal conditions of your body, including nutritional status, fitness, blood sugar balance, hormone balance, inflammation and more factors—especially high blood sugar—plus lower risk of colorectal cancer. So far, the only evidence for improving treatment outcomes with berberine is in lab and animal studies, which is called “preclinical evidence.” While this evidence is very promising, it is still extremely preliminary. 

“There are significant barriers to the absorption of berberine. Microemulsions, liposomes, micelles, and other nanoparticles have been used as part of the nanoparticle drug delivery system in recent years to boost the bioavailability of berberine.”1Samadi P, Sarvarian P, Gholipour E, et al. Berberine: a novel therapeutic strategy for cancer. IUBMB Life. 2020;72(10):2065-2079. Some of these derivatives and formulations and the evidence of their use in improving cancer treatment outcomes are summarized in Are you a health professional? › Many of these derivatives are not currently available for clinical use.

CancerChoices ratings for berberine

We rate berberine on seven attributes, with 0 the lowest rating and 5 the highest. We rate the strength of the evidence supporting the use of berberine for a medical benefit, such as improving treatment outcomes or managing side effects.

See how we evaluate and rate complementary therapies ›

1

Improving treatment outcomes

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4

Optimizing your body terrain

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2

Managing side effects and promoting wellness

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3

Reducing cancer risk

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4

Use by integrative oncology experts

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4

Safety

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Affordability and access

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Author

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher and writer for CancerChoices and also served as the first program manager. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher

Reviewer

Laura Pole, MSN, RN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, MSN, RN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Last update: May 8, 2024

Last full literature review: February 2023

We are grateful for research assistance from Adriana Rocio Gutierrez Galvis.

CancerChoices provides information about integrativein cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care, and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocialtherapy, and acupuncture therapies and self carelifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

Our staff have no financial conflicts of interest to declare. We receive no funds from any manufacturers or retailers gaining financial profit by promoting or discouraging therapies mentioned on this site.

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