Beyond Ozempic: The Actual Role of Berberine in Weight Loss and Glucose Control

Abstract: Can berberine really be used as an alternative to Ozempic to lose weight and manage diabetes?

In recent years, a growing number of Canadian and American adults have been seeking cost-effective and safe methods to manage diabetes and chronic weight issues. 

This pursuit has sparked a surge in demand for both medicinal and natural solutions. Among these, Ozempic, a drug initially developed for reducing blood sugar levels in Type 2 diabetes patients and minimizing heart disease risks, has gained significant attention. Notably, while weight loss has been observed as a side effect of Ozempic, it is crucial to understand that this is not its intended use. Moreover, medications containing semaglutide, similar to Ozempic, have been introduced specifically for weight loss.

However, the rising popularity of Ozempic led to supply shortages and heightened awareness of its potential side effects. These developments have prompted some individuals to seek alternatives like berberine, often touted in the media as “nature’s Ozempic” for its supposed benefits in treating diabetes and obesity.

It’s important to state unequivocally that our discussion does not endorse the use of Ozempic primarily for weight loss, nor do we equate berberine as a direct substitute. 

While berberine is a natural supplement with potential health benefits, its comparison with Ozempic is not appropriate or advised. 

In this article we aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of berberine – highlighting both its benefits and limitations – to help women make informed decisions about supplement use, distinct from pharmaceutical treatments like Ozempic.

Keep reading to learn…

  1. What is berberine?
  2. Berberine versus Ozempic – what are the differences?
  3. Should people take berberine to treat diabetes?
  4. What is the best way to incorporate berberine into your diet?

What is berberine? 

Berberine is a traditional Chinese medicine that has become very popular lately as a weight-loss supplement that some have called “nature’s Ozempic.” 

While berberine should not be directly compared to Ozempic, it is notable for its low side effect profile and a range of potential health benefits that merit consideration on their own merits.

Berberine is a bioactive compound, which means that it’s a chemical substance that can affect how humans and other living things function. It is derived from plants, and is part of a group called alkaloids (such as morphine, nicotine, and caffeine).  

Berberine is a natural supplement which may help with weight loss, as well as to help lower blood sugars and protect your heart – but there’s more to it than that. 

Some research indicates that berberine might be effective in treating chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, and inflammatory diseases – but the research thus far is limited, which means that these findings could be proven untrue in the future.  

How does berberine work?

Berberine can be taken as a pill or powder. Once taken, berberine enters your bloodstream and travels through your body to different cells and changes how they work. 

What does that mean? 

It means that berberine has the capacity to alter how your cells are working inside your body. Berberine can turn certain cell functions on or off. This cellular influence of berberine is primarily due to its ability to interact with molecular targets within the cells, leading to changes in their metabolic activities. Such interactions can have a profound impact on various bodily processes, including how cells regulate glucose and lipid metabolism, potentially offering therapeutic benefits for conditions like diabetes and high cholesterol.

Berberine has also been compared to metformin, another glucose-lowering drug that has been used for many years to treat Type 2 diabetes, although they are structurally different, and berberine has not been proven to be an effective treatment of Type 2 diabetes, while metformin has. However, there are a number of studies that have shown the potential benefits of berberine on Type 2 diabetes including positive effects on blood sugar and lipid metabolism. 

Side effects of berberine

While many people take berberine for weight loss benefits, it’s important to know that even this natural supplement may come with some side effects, albeit usually mild and controllable. The side effects of berberine are often quite tolerable and are not severe (especially in comparison to Ozempic), these side effects can include:

  • Abdominal discomfort or swelling
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea 

For many who take berberine, lowering the dose may prove an effective way to reduce side-effects or simply taking it with food can help. If you begin taking berberine supplements, you should not start taking the maximum dosage. 

Always speak with a doctor or pharmacist before you start taking any supplement or medication to understand your recommended dosage. 

Berberine versus Ozempic – what are the differences?

If you do a quick search about berberine and its benefits, you immediately find information that berberine can help treat diabetes and that it can be used for weight loss. 

On the surface, it sounds like berberine is an alternative to Ozempic. 

As Ozempic is now a prescription medication, and becoming extremely expensive and hard to access due to supply and demand issues, berberine seems like a dream come true for many people seeking affordable, easy-to-get solutions for diabetes and weight management concerns. 

However, we need to dig a little deeper into what Ozempic and berberine really are before we can determine if they really are equally beneficial.

Should people take berberine to treat diabetes?

Ozempic is a brand name for a medication known generically as semaglutide. Ozempic was approved in 2017 by the FDA for use in managing Type 2 diabetes by way of weekly injections. 

Ozempic is used to lower blood sugar by helping the pancreas make more insulin. Ozempic is also known for its effectiveness in convincing your brain that you’re full, to prevent overeating, and to assist with weight loss. 

Berberine has also undergone clinical studies that indicate that it is capable of decreasing insulin resistance – which is responsible for 80% of glucose issues common with Type 2 diabetes. 

Berberine has been shown to be effective in helping with insulin resistance, and altering how your cells use glucose, and is stated to be an effective method in reducing diabetic complications, like cardiovascular complications, inflammatory problems, and other medical side-effects common to Type 2 diabetes. 

However, the same studies also state that berberine’s anti-hyperglycemic effects remain controversial in the medical community due to the fact that its exact method (the mechanics) of making these improvements in the body remains uncertain, and longer studies are called for in order to fully understand the effects of berberine in treating diabetes. 

Should berberine be used instead of Ozempic?

Berberine may have benefits in managing blood sugars, but you should never stop a medical treatment, such as insulin therapy, to start taking berberine instead, especially without talking to your doctor. 

Before taking berberine, you should speak with your healthcare team to make sure that you do not have any medical conditions or health complications that would make taking berberine dangerous. 

Although berberine acts similarly to Ozempic, you should not stop your Ozempic treatment to begin taking berberine without speaking to your healthcare provider first. 

If you have recently been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, a discussion about the use of berberine to manage symptoms of diabetes is certainly encouraged. Berberine may be effective in managing Type 2 diabetes prior to the initiation of insulin therapy.

Who should avoid taking berberine?

You should not start taking berberine supplements without consulting your healthcare provider if you are currently: 

  • Already taking a medication to treat Type 2 diabetes
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding 
  • Taking blood sugar, blood lipid, blood clotting, or blood pressure medications
  • Taking any other prescription medications
  • Taking medications that interact with the liver (as berberine may make certain medications less effective)

You should also not give berberine to children or infants, as there are no studies currently indicating that it is safe to do so. 

What is the best way to incorporate berberine into your diet?

According to studies shared by the Cleveland Clinic, there are several things you need to consider before you start incorporating berberine into your daily routine, including: 

  • Half a dose of berberine will be metabolized and eliminated from your system within a few hours of taking a dose. 
  • To keep your blood levels stable and benefit from taking berberine, you need to spread the daily dosage out throughout the day. 
  • Some people find taking 1.5 grams or 1500 milligrams daily effective, if taken three times a day before meals
  • Just remember: berberine may interact with other medications, so speak to your healthcare provider before taking berberine

However, as mentioned above, the FDA doesn’t approve supplements in the same fashion as pharmaceuticals before they are sold to the public, so it’s important to trust your source before you start taking any supplements.

Where to find safe berberine supplements 

If you’re looking for well-researched supplements created by women, for women, you can find berberine in Revivele’s Essentials line now. 

Created by Dr. Kavita Desai, an advocate for and champion of women’s health, the Essential’s revolutionary supplement system was created with female health and wellness in mind. 

Essential’s Inhale & Flow Combo of supplements are specifically designed to help with some of the common complications women are experiencing when they consider using berberine:

  • Inhale has 18 vitamins, minerals and herbs that are specifically dosed for blood glucose control, inflammation, low energy, cognition, immunity, and heart health.
  • Flow is an adaptogenic supplement that contains ashwagandha, holy basil and rhodiola to help your body cope with stress, turmeric to address pain and inflammation, and ceylon cinnamon and berberine to help balance blood sugars.

Together, they are meant to address commonly experienced symptoms, balance blood sugars, reduce stress, and protect your health for many years to come.

Take your health into your own hands

If you’re interested in learning more about how to maintain your health as you age, read our other blogs, which are full of helpful details, research, and woman-to-woman understanding. We’re all in this together!

To learn more about women’s health and wellness, and to understand the beneficial effects supplements can have on women’s bodies as we age, follow Dr. Kavita Desai’s women’s health & wellness company, Revivele, on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn!

You can also order Dr. Kavita Desai’s book, Lady Parts: Putting Women’s Health Back Into Women’s Hands.

What to read next…

The heavy truth about perimenopausal weight gain: what you need to know. 

Female hormones 101: What you never knew you didn’t know.

Find out which 8 health screenings all women should have as they age.