The herbal medicine berberine is an exciting new treatment for PCOS. It has recently undergone two clinical trials, with great results.
In the first study , researchers compared berberine to the conventional medication metformin. One hundred women were assigned to three treatment groups: metformin, berberine and placebo. After three months, both the berberine and metformin groups saw improvements in insulin, body weight and testosterone. The berberine group outperformed metformin in reduction of waist circumference and free androgen index.
In the second 2014 study , 150 infertile women with PCOS were assigned to three treatment groups: metformin, berberine and placebo during three months prior to IVF. Both the berberine and metformin groups saw improvements in insulin, glucose, testosterone, and free androgen index. The berberine group achieved more live births had fewer side effects compared to metformin.
What is Berberine?
Berberine is the active constituent of a number of different traditional herbal medicines including the western herb Goldenseal and the Chinese herb Phellodendron. Berberine is an alkaloid compound with a rich yellow color. It has a bitter taste so is best taken as a tablet or capsule.
How does Berberine Help PCOS?
Berberine lowers insulin and glucose in a way similar to the conventional medicine metformin. It up-regulates insulin receptors , and stimulates the uptake of glucose into cells. Berberine also blocks testosterone production by ovarian thecal cells , and has a beneficial effect on gut microbes .
Berberine has some nice side benefits. It reduces anxiety , and is excellent treatment for acne. A recent study found that berberine improved acne by 45% after just 4 weeks of treatment .
Berberine is generally safe and well tolerated, which is why it has long been one of my favorite herbal medicines.
There are a few precautions. You should not take berberine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. You should be cautious if you take other prescription medication such as antidepressants, beta-blockers or immunosuppressants, because berberine can alter the levels of those medications in your bloodstream. Finally, berberine is antimicrobial and changes the composition of your gut microbes. For this reason, I generally ask my patients to take regular breaks from the herb.
**Update: High quality berberine is now available in the PCOS Diva store!
To learn more about Berberine and other natural treatments for PCOS, please sign up for a copy of my upcoming book Period Repair Manual
Lara Briden is a Naturopathic Doctor with a busy women’s health practice in Sydney, Australia. She has a strong science background, and worked as an evolutionary biologist before qualifying as a Naturopathic Doctor from Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto in 1997. Lara is passionate about hormones and health, and has helped thousands of patients with PCOS, endometriosis and many other period problems.
Her book Period Repair Manual is now available. It’s a compilation of ‘what really works’ for PCOS and period health. Lara lives in Sydney with her husband and teenage stepdaughter.
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