I'm a foodie and would never want to give up traditional desserts and pasta, bagels and muffins. That said, if my blood sugar was elevated I would be highly motivated to alter my diet and try natural remedies before prescription drugs or shots. Twenty nine million people in the United States now have Type 2 diabetes and one in three adults have pre-diabetes, blood sugar levels higher than "normal," but not quite high enough to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Having pre-diabetes puts you on the fast track to getting full-blown Type 2 diabetes within five years. Complications include severe nerve pain, heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, stroke, or amputation of the toes, feet, or legs.

We know that meal choices matter. We also know that exercising works. The big deal is how low thyroid is the number one missed cause for diabetes. I discuss that in my book, Diabetes Without Drugs. As a pharmacist, I'm aware of the side effects and interactions associated with medications, so today I'm going to spotlight berberine.

Berberine is a compound that scientists extract from the Oregon Grape plant which is the state flower for Oregon in the United States. It grows beautiful yellow flowers and blue grapes (but not the kind of grapes you are thinking of, these are different).

Medicinal uses of berberine have been documented in China since 3000 BC. More recently, there are scientific papers to show all kinds of cool things! Like how berberine lowers blood glucose (sugar) as effectively as metformin, a popular prescription medicine for diabetes. Doesn't that just blow your mind?! Berberine is just as effective as this strong medicine, but without as many side effects. That gets my attention. A study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism in 2008 found that berberine caused a significant reduction in hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) and improved cholesterol ratios. In this particular study, 1,000 mg was administered as the total daily dose. Another study (animal) suggests that berberine can prevent pre-diabetes from developing.

What else you wonder? Berberine kills herpes simplex virus (HSV) which is often treated with the prescription drug acyclovir. Berberine protects neurons in your brain and reduces inflammation, so it helps with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Amazingly, when combined with the chemotherapy drug cisplatin, berberine displays strong anti-cancer effects against ovarian cancer cells.

Berberine is completely natural and sold nationwide as a dietary supplement. Most naturopaths recommend 500 mg once, twice or even three times daily. The dosage varies greatly so you should consult a trained professional. Use and dosage depends on your medical history, liver function and the condition for which you are taking it. Keep in mind, berberine is a natural blood thinner. It also enhances the effects of diabetic medications, possibly to your detriment if you blood sugar drops rapidly. It's definitely not recommended if you are pregnant since it's a uterine stimulant. Physicians often underestimate herbs but as far as I'm concerned, plants are medicine too.


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