Can Berberine Really Damage the Liver? Myth or Reality

Can Berberine Really Damage the Liver

Berberine is a natural compound found in certain plants. It has been used in traditional medicine for its potential health benefits like reducing inflammation and managing diabetes.

But many people are worried about whether berberine is safe, especially for liver health. Like with other natural supplements, it’s important to carefully review the evidence behind these claims to distinguish fact from fiction.

In this article, we’ll explore the scientific findings about berberine and liver health. We’ll discuss the possible risks and benefits, and share insights from medical experts. We’ll also cover the recommended dosage and safe use for most people.

Berberine is an alkaloid compound found in some plants, like the barberry shrub, Oregon grape, goldenseal, phellodendron, and tree turmeric.

Berberine is a yellow chemical that tastes bitter. It could help improve the heartbeat of people with certain heart conditions.

Historically, this compound has been widely used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Recent studies have generated interest in berberine due to its potential to help regulate blood sugar, maintain cholesterol levels, and support digestive health.

It operates within the body’s cells by activating an enzyme known as AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), often referred to as a “metabolic master switch” [1]. This activation is important because it affects how the body makes and uses energy, which is crucial in managing metabolic conditions like obesity and diabetes.

Other Uses

  • PCOS is a hormonal disorder that enlarges ovaries with cysts. Taking berberine orally may help lower blood sugar, improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reduce testosterone levels, and lower waist-to-hip ratio in individuals with PCOS.
  • For people with high blood pressure, taking 0.9 grams of berberine by mouth every day along with the blood pressure-lowering drug amlodipine is more effective in reducing blood pressure compared to taking amlodipine alone.
  • Berberine, when taken orally along with multiple medications commonly used to treat a digestive tract infection caused by Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), may be as effective as other accepted treatments for this condition, which also involve the use of multiple medications.

However, the effects of berberine are beyond more than just affect metabolism. Research suggests it also has antimicrobial properties and may aid in treating infections.

Berberine and Liver Health

The liver is the body’s workhorse, responsible for numerous critical functions like metabolism, detoxification, and bile production. Keeping the liver healthy is really important for our overall well-being, so we need to be careful with anything that could harm it.

Supporters of berberine believe it can protect the liver, prevent damage, reduce inflammation, and fight conditions like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).  However, there are also contrasting claims that it could potentially cause harm instead.

Can Berberine damage the liver?

No, berberine does not damage the liver. In fact, there are a lot of studies that suggest it may have a protective effect on the liver. One study showed that berberine could help reduce fat accumulation in the liver and improve insulin resistance in rats fed a high-fat diet.

A review conducted in 2020, which analyzed 35 studies from 2006 to 2019, found that berberine can help in reducing and preventing obesity.

According to a study in the World Journal of Hepatology, berberine may help improve liver function in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It does this by reducing liver fat, inflammation, and insulin resistance.

Moreover, a recent review in the journal Phytomedicine confirms these results, suggesting that berberine can help improve liver health by regulating fat metabolism and reducing inflammation.

While these studies show that berberine may have positive effects on the liver, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before trying any new supplements, especially if you have existing liver conditions.

Must Read: Does Berberine Change Your Stool Color?

Potential health benefits of Berberine for the liver

Berberine benefits for the Liver

Berberine, a natural alkaloid, has potential health benefits for the liver. Modern research supports its role in enhancing liver health by modulating lipid profiles, improving glucose metabolism, and reducing oxidative stress. Here are some potential benefits of berberine for the liver:

1. Reducing fat accumulation: Studies suggest that berberine can help reduce fat accumulation in the liver, which is a common factor in conditions like NAFLD and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

2. Improving insulin resistance: Berberine has been found to improve insulin sensitivity, which plays a crucial role in managing metabolic conditions like type 2 diabetes.

3. Reducing inflammation: Chronic inflammation can harm the liver and raise the chances of liver disease. Studies show that Berberine has anti-inflammatory properties that may help decrease liver inflammation. It also has antibacterial, anticancer, and cholesterol-lowering activities.

4. Supporting detoxification: Another important function of the liver is detoxification, which involves filtering and removing toxins from the body. Berberine has been found to have a protective effect on liver cells, helping them function properly and support detoxification processes.

5. Regulating fat metabolism: Studies have shown that berberine can regulate fat metabolism by inhibiting enzymes that play a role in the production of fatty acids. This could potentially help prevent the buildup of fat in the liver.

6. Preventing obesity: Berberine has been found to have a positive impact on weight loss and can help reduce obesity. Recent research (2022) has also found that berberine can aid in long-term weight management and prevent people from develop obesity.

Also Read: Can I Take Berberine and L-Carnitine Together?

Other potential side effects of Berberine

Although berberine has several positive effects on the liver, like any active compound, it can have side effects or interact with other substances.

It’s important to be cautious, especially if you’re taking medication or have existing health conditions. Here are some possible side effects of berberine:

1. Gastrointestinal Discomfort: Some people might experience digestive issues, like diarrhea, constipation, or abdominal pain when taking berberine. This is often due to its bitter nature and the influence it has on gut flora and motility.

2. Interaction with Medication: Berberine is known to interact with various medications, especially those that are metabolized by the liver. This includes certain blood thinners, blood pressure medications, and antibiotics. It can affect the enzymes that process these drugs, potentially leading to altered levels in the body.

3. Hypotension Risk: As berberine may lower blood sugar and blood pressure, there is a risk of hypotension or hypoglycemia, especially in people who take drugs for diabetes or hypertension.

4. Impact on Pregnancy: Pregnant or breastfeeding women are generally advised not to take berberine since there’s insufficient evidence of its safety in these populations.

To ensure safe use and minimize the risks of side effects, it’s recommended to use berberine under the supervision of a provider.

Precautions and Warnings

When considering the use of berberine, it is essential to be aware of the following precautions and warnings:

  • Monitoring Liver Enzymes: Regular monitoring of liver enzymes may be necessary, as berberine can influence liver metabolism and enzyme activity.
  • Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid berberine due to a lack of safety data in these demographic groups.
  • Children’s Use: Consult a pediatrician before giving berberine to a child as there is limited knowledge about its safety for children.
  • Surgery Considerations: Stop using berberine for at least 2 weeks before elective surgeries due to its effect on blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
  • Dosage and Duration:Stick to recommended doses and duration of use. Avoid exceeding without medical advice, as long-term effects are uncertain.
  • Allergy and Hypersensitivity: Be mindful of any allergic reactions or hypersensitivity to berberine or plants that contain berberine, like goldenseal or Oregon grape.
  • Complementary Therapies: If you’re considering using berberine as part of complementary therapy, make sure to consult a health professional.

It’s important for people to follow these precautions to maximize the health benefits of berberine while reducing potential risks.

What is the scientific evidence that Berberine can damage the liver?

Berberine has been linked to liver health benefits, but there are concerns about its potential for liver damage.

Scientists have studied the impact of berberine on the liver, and it appears that liver damage cases are uncommon and typically linked to misuse or pre-existing health conditions.

According to a ScienceDirect, while berberine exhibited therapeutic effects on liver diseases, cases of hepatotoxicity were primarily observed when used in high doses or in combination with other medications known to affect liver function.

Furthermore, the World Health Organization’s database of negative drug reactions, VigiBase, has recorded cases linking berberine to liver damage, indicating the importance of being careful and conducting more research on safe consumption guidelines.

It is essential for individuals to remain informed through reputable resources and guidance from healthcare professionals when considering berberine as a supplement.

Berberine Recommended Dosages

There is no set dosage for berberine supplements at the moment.

Studies generally recommend taking 1,000–1,500 mg of berberine per day, divided into 3 doses before meals to increase absorption and minimize the chance of stomach discomfort.

Berberine stays in your body for a few hours and is usually found in 500 mg capsules. It’s common to take berberine three times a day before meals, as recommended on supplement labels. This means taking a total of 1,500 mg daily.

However, it’s important to start with a lower dose and slowly increase it to see how your body responds.

Berberine has also been used in eye drops and gels. Talk to a healthcare provider to determine the most suitable product and dosage for a particular condition.

When we discuss the long-term effects, it’s important to note that most clinical trials have a short to medium duration. As a result, there isn’t much information about the safety of using berberine over a long period.

A common suggestion is to take berberine for a few months and then take a break to avoid any potential negative effects from prolonged use.

Also Read: Can You Take Berberine And Magnesium Together?

What should you do if someone takes too much Berberine?

If someone has taken too much berberine, it’s important to get medical help right away.

Symptoms of an overdose might include dizziness, difficulty breathing, or severe gastrointestinal distress. It’s vital to inform the provider about the amount and frequency of berberine taken.

In a medical setting, supportive care will be given to manage symptoms. Monitoring is important to prevent complications, especially if the person is taking other medications that might interact with berberine.

Remember, always keep berberine supplements out of reach of children to prevent accidental ingestion.


In conclusion, berberine is a natural substance that may have positive effects on health, especially for metabolic problems. However, it’s important to be careful when using it, follow the recommended doses, and consider your health and any possible interactions with medications.

Before starting a berberine supplement, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider. While we still need more research for safety guidelines, staying informed and taking precautions will help you explore the potential benefits of berberine responsibly and protect your health.


Does Berberine Affect the Pancreas?

Berberine affects the pancreas by helping to control blood sugar levels. It does this by improving how insulin works and increasing insulin production. This is important for managing type 2 diabetes and keeping the pancreas healthy. Remember to talk to your healthcare provider for personalized advice.

Is Berberine Good for the Liver and Kidneys?

Berberine has the potential to benefit liver health by helping with detoxification, improving fat metabolism, and even showing promise in certain liver disease treatments. However, when it comes to kidneys, while some studies suggest that berberine may help in managing chronic kidney disease and improving kidney function, more research is needed. It’s important to consult healthcare providers to understand how it may impact your specific health condition.

How Long is it Safe to Take Berberine?

You can safely take berberine for up to 6 months, with a dosage of 1.5 grams per day. However, as there are limited long-term clinical studies, it’s important to consult a healthcare provider for personalized advice based on your individual health needs and how you respond to the supplement.

Can Berberine Damage the Heart?

There is no strong proof that berberine directly harms the heart. However, studies show that taking high doses can cause low blood pressure, heart damage, and a temporary reduction in heart function. It’s important to follow recommended doses and consult healthcare providers before starting any supplements

Does Berberine Cause Fatty Liver?

No, berberine does not cause fatty liver. In fact, berberine can actually help improve liver function and may be beneficial for treating non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Research suggests that berberine can reduce liver fat content, which could have a positive effect on those with NAFLD. However, it’s important to use berberine as a supplement under the guidance of a healthcare professional to ensure safety and effectiveness.




The information provided in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Don’t ignore professional medical advice or put off seeking it just because of something you read here. Although we aim to offer precise and current information, we do not guarantee its completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or availability for any purpose. Using the information in this document is at your own risk. We are not responsible for any losses or damages caused by our content.

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