Research on the connection between berberine and weight loss is ongoing. There is some evidence that berberine can have several health benefits. However, it may also cause some side effects.

Berberine is a bioactive compound in several plants. It may have several positive effects on health, such as helping with weight loss if a person needs to lose weight. It has a long history of use in traditional medicine around the world.

Berberine is widely available as an over-the-counter (OTC) dietary supplement. However, it is not approved for treating medical conditions in the United States. It has recently become popular as a weight loss aid.

Research is ongoing on whether berberine can lead people to lose weight. Researchers are also investigating its side effects and risks.

This article discusses berberine and whether it may help with weight loss. It also discusses the compound’s other benefits, risks, and side effects.

Small yellow flowers on green leavesShare on Pinterest
ZayacSK/Getty Images

Berberine is a bioactive compound called a natural alkaloid.

Bioactive compounds are chemicals that may help promote good health through the ways they affect the body. Natural alkaloids are naturally occurring compounds with nitrogen atoms in their structure. Many natural alkaloids have medicinal properties and are present in plants.

The scientific name for berberine is berberine hydrochloride.

Sources of berberine

Berberine is present in several plants. These plants include shrubs from around the world belonging to the Berberis family, as well as:

  • barberry
  • goldenseal
  • golden thread
  • Oregon grape
  • tree turmeric

Potential uses

Practitioners of traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine have used berberine to treat several conditions over thousands of years. People have also used the compound as a yellow dye.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, people now take berberine for its potential medicinal effects, such as treating infections and other conditions. It is available as a dietary supplement in pill form.

Researchers are also studying its effects on diabetes and a person’s risk factors for heart disease.

Some people may use it as a potential weight loss aid.

Read more about berberine.

Although some research suggests berberine may help with weight loss, the evidence is inconclusive.

A number of preliminary studies suggest berberine may play a role in helping people lose weight. However, researchers have not conducted many clinical trials on humans. Therefore, there is insufficient evidence to determine whether or not this is true.

Some researchers believe berberine may help stop fat molecules from growing in a person’s body. It may also help regulate a person’s metabolism. These effects may aid weight loss, but research on the exact mechanism remains ongoing.

Research findings

The findings of several recent studies on berberine and weight loss are below:

  • A 2020 review investigating 35 studies from 2006–2019 suggests that berberine is effective in reducing and preventing obesity.
  • Research from 2022 also concluded that berberine can help with long-term weight loss and prevent people from developing obesity.
  • Another 2020 review investigating several effects of berberine supplements on the body found that taking berberine can reduce the following:
  • Research from 2023 refers to a clinical study in which participants with obesity took 1.5 grams (g) of berberine daily for 24 weeks. It found that berberine significantly reduced BMI and waist circumference among these people.

Berberine does not have approval for treating any medical conditions in the United States.

However, some people use berberine as a complementary treatment for the following:

Research is ongoing on the effects of berberine on diabetes and risk factors for heart disease.

Research suggests berberine may help prevent:

Other sources note that berberine may be beneficial for treating symptoms of arthritis.

Berberine may also help lower blood pressure in combination with amlodipine. Amlodipine is a calcium channel blocker medication for high blood pressure.

Berberine may cause side effects, including:

However, these effects appear to be mild and rare.

However, berberine may also interact with medication in negative ways. People taking any kind of medication should speak with a healthcare professional before taking berberine supplements.

Berberine may also cause adverse effects in infants or pregnant people and be unsafe for them to take. It may cause or worsen jaundice in infants.

Experts have linked berberine to a bilirubin buildup in infants. This can lead to a serious and possibly fatal condition called kernicterus, which may cause brain damage.

Individuals should speak with a healthcare professional before giving berberine to infants or children. They should also do so before taking the supplement themselves if they are pregnant or nursing.

The following are answers to common questions about berberine and weight loss.

Is there a downside to taking berberine?

People taking berberine may experience some side effects. However, these side effects were largely mild and uncommon in most studies.

Berberine may interact with medication and be unsafe for pregnant people or infants.

How quickly do you lose weight with berberine?

In some studies, researchers saw effects on people’s weight after taking berberine for 8 weeks. However, these study findings were inconsistent. More research is needed on exactly how berberine can affect weight loss.

How much weight can you lose on berberine?

A 2012 study among participants with obesity who took 500 milligrams (mg) of berberine three times daily found that participants lost 5 pounds on average after 12 weeks. However, evidence to support the effects of berberine on weight loss is not conclusive, and research is ongoing.

Berberine is a naturally occurring plant compound that companies sell as a dietary supplement. It has traditional medicinal uses, and people use it for several health reasons. Some take it to aid weight loss.

Although research is still ongoing, several studies have found that taking berberine can help people lose weight. Research also indicates that it may have beneficial effects on several health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes.

People may need to speak with a healthcare professional before taking berberine. It may interact with some medications and be unsafe for pregnant people and infants.