QUESTION: Hello, My name is Yeffim, I'm 64 years old and I have Type 2 Diabetes (Fasting levels 120-135 , HbA1C 6.5), I'm trying to keep it balanced with no drugs, only by exercising, diet and using well known diabetes balancing herbs (such as Fenugreek,Gymnema,Bitter Melon,Cinnamon ). Recently I've read a few articles about Berberine as one of the natural remedies that reduce Blood sugar levels. Can you please give your opinion on Berberine affect on Diabetes , it's possible side effects , etc.
Best regards Yeffim
My E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
ANSWER: Hello Yeffim,
I read your message carefully and understood your medical problem.
Fasting blood glucose levels of less than 130mg/dl are considered optimal for a diabetic patient and most importantly an HBA1c of less than 7% is good news and an indication that means the treatment is working. Your HBA1c of 6.5% is very close to the normal range.
Fenugreek seeds are rich in soluble fibers which are able to reduce the absorption of carbs and to reduce the digestion. These characteristics make this plant useful to lower the blood glucose levels.
Gymnema is believed to have some components that block the ability to taste the sweet food and thus leads to a reduced sugar intake. Also, it is proved that this plant is able to reduce the glucose absorption from the small intestine, triggers glycogen synthesis, and increases the glucose uptake from the muscles and the liver.
Cinnamon, on the other hand, is a nice spice that mimics the effects of insulin hormone by acting like an "insulin producer". Also, it improves the glucose uptake from tissues and contributes to glycogen synthesis.
Bitter melon has hypoglycemic effect mostly due to charantin and polypeptide-p which acts in the peripheral tissues and reduces appetite in a similar mechanism as the insulin acts to the brain.
All these herbs have been an object of medical studies to develop the future diabetes drug that will resolve all the symptoms of this disease.
Berberine is the last plant which has been involved in many clinical trials especially in the last decade. Chinese studies and others have shown promising results with the use of Berberine extracts but not all patient benefit from plant extracts.
It is important to keep in mind that this alternative medication using natural spices in useful only in type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetic patients must not depend on these herbs as they are useless for them and they need insulin.
Studies have shown that Berberine has comparing results to metformin as the scientists noticed that this herb gave similar results to metformin and sometimes better results.
The dosage of berberine recommended is the same as for metformin (500mg). Berberine protects the liver which is an advantage as many diabetes drugs cause side effects on the liver.
If you want to substitute metformin with berberine take berberine extract in the same dosage you were taking your previous drug. Monitor your blood glucose level. If it is working keep that way and if not you can reduce the dosage of metformin and take berberine along with metformin to reduce the metformin side effects.
For further details and for a specialized opinion please contact your endocrinologist to evaluate closer your condition and to decide which is the best for you.