Last modified on November 16th, 2023
Is berberine good for PCOS? The short answer is yes, berberine can be very beneficial for PCOS. Below, we explore why you might consider taking it as a supplement if you have PCOS and how it can help symptoms in particular.
How Berberine Helps PCOS
The following are some key ways a berberine supplement can help PCOS.
- May improve fertility
- Helps with weight loss
- Lowers the risk of metabolic complications
- Increases insulin sensitivity
- Reduction of fatty liver
How Does PCOS Affect You?
The disorder is common among women who are of reproductive age. When you have this condition, you may experience excess male hormone levels. Male hormones are androgens.
You may experience either infrequent or prolonged periods. Your ovaries can develop follicles, which are collections of fluid. When you develop follicles, you may not regularly release eggs.
Male sex hormones are usually only present in small amounts in women without PCOS.
When a mature egg is released from an ovary, ovulation occurs. Then, it can be fertilized by male sperm. Without fertilization, the egg is sent out of the body during your period.
If you don’t make enough hormones required for ovulation, your ovaries can develop small cysts. The cysts produce androgens.
Specific PCOS symptoms include:
- Missing periods
- Very light or heavy periods
- Large ovaries
- Cysts on the ovaries
- Excess body hair, including on the stomach, chest, and back—known as hirsutism
- Weight gain, particularly around the abdomen
- Oily skin
- Thinning hair
- Skin tags on the neck or armpits
- Dark or thick patches of skin on the neck, under the breasts, and in the armpits
Women with PCOS may have trouble getting pregnant, although it doesn’t automatically mean you can’t. If you don’t ovulate, you can’t get pregnant. You can speak with your doctor about improving your chances of getting pregnant.
Causes of PCOS
While experts don’t know what causes PCOS, they think several factors play a role. Genetics may be one factor.
High levels of androgens are a factor, as are high insulin levels. Many women with PCOS have insulin resistance, particularly women with obesity or who are overweight.
Improving Symptoms of PCOS
There is a combination of things that may help PCOS symptoms, including prescription medicines. There are also lifestyle changes that can help.
- Your doctor may recommend that you lose weight through a combination of exercise and healthy eating habits. When you lose weight, you can lower your blood glucose levels and improve how your body uses insulin. It can also help normalize your hormone levels.
- Losing just 10% in body weight can help regulate your menstrual cycle and improve your pregnancy chances.
- There are three primary categories of medicines that treat symptoms of PCOS. These include hormonal birth control, anti-androgen medications, and metformin.
- Metformin is a prescription medicine for treating type 2 diabetes, and it’s also used off-label to treat PCOS symptoms.
- Metformin improves the ability of insulin to lower your blood sugar and can reduce androgen levels.
- After using it consistently for a few months, the medication might restart ovulation. However, diabetes medication does not have much of an effect on the hair on the face or body or acne.
What is Berberine?
Berberine is one of the most powerful supplements available and is also one of the most effective. Berberine is one of the few supplements with effects as powerful as pharmaceutical drugs.
The bioactive compound can be extracted from different plants, and it’s a class of compounds known as alkaloids. Berberine is yellow and has a history of use in traditional Chinese medicine.
Modern research confirms its many benefits on many of our biological systems.
- When you take berberine, your body transports it to your bloodstream and then travels into your cells.
- Once berberine reaches your cells, it binds to different molecular targets to change their function, similar to how pharmaceuticals work.
- One of the main berberine actions is activating AMPK, an enzyme inside our cells. AMPK is known as the master metabolic switch.
Benefits of Berberine
Some of the many overall benefits of a berberine supplement include:
Reduced Blood Sugar Levels
Berberine is shown in many studies to significantly reduce blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. The effectiveness is similar to metformin.
There are different mechanisms through which berberine is thought to lower blood sugar.
- First, it can decrease insulin resistance. This effect makes insulin more effective.
- Berberine can increase glycolysis, which helps your body break down the sugar inside cells.
- A berberine supplement can also reduce sugar production in the liver.
- The supplement works especially well when paired with other lifestyle changes to lower blood sugar and keep diabetes symptoms in check.
Some people normalize even very high blood sugar only by taking berberine.
Several studies have looked at the effects of berberine on body weight and weight loss.
In one study of obese people, taking 500 mg three times a day led to a loss of around five pounds on average. Participants also lost 3.6% of their body fat.
Another study of 37 men and women with metabolic syndrome lasted for three months. Participants took 300 milligrams three times a day. Their BMI on average dropped from 31.5 to 27.4, moving them from the category of obese to overweight. Many other health markers were improved, and they lost belly fat.
Researchers think berberine helps with weight loss because it improves the function of hormones that regulate fat, such as adiponectin, leptin, and insulin.
Cholesterol-Lowering and Heart Health Benefits
Berberine, in many studies, has been shown to significantly lower cholesterol levels. Berberine is thought to inhibit the enzyme PCSK9, which leads to more LDL removal from the bloodstream. Berberine can reduce triglyceride levels while raising HDL, considered good cholesterol. This can lower the risk of heart disease over the long term.
Since high blood sugar, diabetes and obesity are also risk factors for heart disease, it could help lower the risk in multiple ways.
Other Berberine Benefits
Other potential benefits of berberine include:
- Test-tube and animal studies show it may help reduce the growth and spread of different types of cancer.
- Berberine is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant substance.
- Berberine can fight certain infections, including viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites.
- Animal studies show it helps improve mental health and fight depression.
- Fatty liver symptoms can be reduced by berberine, and it can protect against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
- In one study, berberine drastically improved symptoms in heart failure patients and reduced death risk.
Is Berberine Good for PCOS?
Now, back to our original question—is berberine good for PCOS?
Berberine has many benefits that apply to the symptoms of PCOS. Some of the ways berberine is good for PCOS include:
- At least two studies show berberine may improve fertility. For example, 98 women who didn’t ovulate with PCOS took berberine in one study. Ovulation improved on average 25% in four months.
- A study in Clinical Endocrinology showed women with PCOS who were randomly chosen to take berberine had higher pregnancy rates than participants who took metformin or a placebo.
- Around 75% of women with PCOS are insulin resistant. Approximately 50% of women with PCOS develop type 2 diabetes by the time they’re 40. Berberine can help increase your production of compounds that help with insulin sensitivity and carb metabolism.
- A review of five studies looking at more than 1000 women found berberine was significantly better at improving insulin sensitivity and reducing blood sugar than a placebo.
- Berberine may support weight loss and management. The compound may be able to reduce your body’s tendency to store additional fat and stimulate the redistribution of fatty tissue.
- Berberine also reduces leptin secretion. Leptin is a hormone that stimulates the appetite.
- Women with PCOS are at a higher risk of developing fatty liver disease because of high insulin levels. Berberine can significantly reduce fatty liver and improve liver functioning.
- When you have PCOS, you may be at a higher risk of developing heart disease. Berberine reduces certain risk factors for heart disease. For example, in a study of how berberine treats PCOS, researchers found it lowered triglycerides and bad cholesterol while raising HDL or good cholesterol. Berberine might decrease inflammation and blood pressure, holistically supporting heart health in people with PCOS.
How to Take Berberine for PCOS
Most berberine supplements are available as capsules, but you can also find them as powders or liquids.
The majority of studies of berberine for PCOS use daily doses of 500-1500 mg. You should take these in divided doses, either two or three times a day, with meals.
Overall, berberine is thought to be very safe.
There may be mild side effects like gas and headaches, but they usually disappear.
Talk to your doctor before taking a supplement.
Is Berberine Good for PCOS—Final Thoughts
Is berberine good for PCOS? Yes, it’s one of the best supplements for PCOS, in fact. Berberine for PCOS may help with all of the major symptoms of the hormonal disorder, including weight, insulin resistance, and fertility.