Written on October 30, 2023 by Sendra Yang, PharmD, MBA. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Approximately one in 10 people in the United States have diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the most common, making up 95% of cases. A treatment option for type 2 diabetes with a major weight loss side effect that’s in the news lately is Ozempic®. Ozempic® is an injectable drug, which may lead people to look for other options. Berberine, a natural supplement, is being considered by some people for its effect on diabetes. Continue reading to find out if berberine is like Ozempic®.
Ozempic® is a drug for type 2 diabetes and is also used off-label for weight loss. The generic of Ozempic® is semaglutide. Ozempic® was initially approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2017. It belongs to a class of drugs known as GLP-1s, or glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor agonists.
Ozempic® works by mimicking the naturally occurring GLP-1 hormone to bind and activate its receptors. The receptor activation leads to a reduction in blood sugar levels by stimulating insulin secretion and lowering glucagon release (glucagon initiates glucose release into the bloodstream). Ozempic® also causes a delay in gastric emptying, contributing to decreased glucose in the blood.
Berberine is a natural dietary supplement found in some plants such as European barberry, goldenseal, goldthread, Oregon grape, and tree turmeric. Berberine is most concentrated in the roots and stem bark of these plants. Berberine is yellow in color and is described as having a bitter taste. The berberine supplement is thought to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which are relevant for managing diseases like type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disorders. Berberine is proposed to impact various cell signaling pathways in the body. Berberine administration is postulated to decrease glucose levels by activating the GLP-1 receptors in pancreatic beta cells to increase insulin expression.
So, ultimately, is berberine like Ozempic®? It is probably apparent that berberine is not the same as Ozempic®. Berberine is a dietary supplement derived from plants, whereas Ozempic® is a synthetic drug made to imitate naturally occurring human GLP-1 hormones.[2,3] Similar to Ozempic®, berberine is proposed to have glucose-lowering effects by acting on the GLP-1 receptors.
Unlike Ozempic®, berberine is a dietary supplement. A drug like Ozempic® is a product intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent diseases. Currently, the FDA does not approve dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness, nor does it approve their labeling before the supplements are sold in the market. If you're considering using berberine or Ozempic® for weight loss or to manage your type 2 diabetes, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most suitable approach for your unique needs.
Berberine is possibly safe for the majority of adults when taken by mouth. Speak with your healthcare provider if you are considering taking this supplement. Common side effects of berberine include diarrhea, constipation, gas, and upset stomach. Berberine could also cross the placenta and cause harm to a fetus; thus, it is likely unsafe in pregnancy. It is also likely unsafe in breastfeeding since it can be transferred through breast milk and cause harm.
Berberine can also interact with medications such as dextromethorphan (an ingredient in cough syrup), losartan (cholesterol medication), diabetes medications, and blood pressure drugs. Berberine can also potentially interact with other herbs and supplements.
Before you take berberine or any dietary supplement, you should speak with your healthcare provider. They can help you decide if the supplement is right for you. Here are some safety tips that can help you be an informed consumer of dietary supplements :
Everlywell offers access to telehealth options that allow you to meet virtually with a certified clinician to discuss your overall health. Everlywell's comprehensive GLP-1 weight loss program provides one-on-one virtual meetings with a licensed healthcare provider, access to GLP-1 prescriptions if you qualify, quarterly at-home lab tests, and support for health-related conditions.