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Berberine for PCOS: Benefits, Dosage, Safety, Best Brands

Kym Campbell

By Kym Campbell, BSc. | Updated July 11th, 2023

Berberine can be a great supplement for women with PCOS. I often take it for short periods and have seen significant improvements in my health as a result. This article helps you determine if berberine is right for you.

When coupled with a PCOS diet like the one used in my free 30-Day PCOS Diet Challenge, berberine can be a valuable addition to a healthy lifestyle.

Benefits of Berberine for PCOS

There are three underlying mechanisms driving all PCOS symptoms. Insulin resistance, chronic inflammation, and elevated androgens. These factors cause PCOS weight gain and infertility. They also cause other common PCOS symptoms like acne, hirsutism, hair loss, anxiety, and depression.

Berberine is a natural plant extract that can address all three mechanisms of PCOS. It primarily addresses insulin resistance. But it also reduces inflammation and decreases androgen levels [1].

Berberine vs Metformin

Berberine’s best application in PCOS settings is as a substitute for metformin. There are several reasons why a substitute is needed.

Like myo-inositol, berberine performs as well as, or better, than metformin [2-4]. It also has fewer side effects.

Berberine is better than metformin for lowering cardiovascular disease risks in PCOS women. Studies show that it’s better for blood pressure and a range of metabolic biomarkers [4, 5]. Berberine may also be better for weight loss and improvements in body composition [6-8].

For PCOS women doing IVF, berberine has improved live birth rates more than metformin [8]. It can also reduce total testosterone levels [4]. This may result in small improvements to symptoms such as acne, hirsutism, and hair loss.

Best Dosage of Berberine for PCOS

Dosages of berberine depend on several factors. This includes body weight, age, and health status. But most clinical studies use between 1000 to 1500 mg per day.

Patients in these trials typically take a 500 mg dose, two or three times per day. It’s best to take berberine about 30 minutes before a meal. It’s better tolerated when taken with food. Having it before a meal may also help to blunt post-prandial blood sugar spikes.

The duration of berberine treatment depends on individual circumstances. Three months is the typical duration for many trials. This is the time needed to see changes in A1C levels. But berberine is considered safe and well-tolerated when taken for six months. Studies show that extending treatment increases the therapeutic effect [9].

Where to Buy Berberine Online

When buying supplements online, there are several things to look for. You want a reputable brand that’s open about its quality assurance processes.

I recommend Thorne’s, Berberine product for this reason. It’s the one I use. In my view, this is the best berberine supplement for PCOS. Thorne is a highly-regarded nutraceutical company. They have third-party certification from the TGA in Australia, the NSF, the BSCG, and the United States Pharmacopeia (USP).

Safety, Side Effects, & Interactions

Berberine is generally considered safe when taken in recommended doses. But like many of the most effective dietary supplements, there are risks to be aware of.

Berberine shouldn’t be taken when pregnant or breastfeeding unless your doctor knows about it first.

The most common side effects of berberine are GI discomfort. This includes diarrhea, constipation, and nausea. Some people also experience headaches, dizziness, and skin irritation [10].

Berberine can interact with some medications. This includes antibiotics, statins, and blood thinners. Any medication that affects the liver, might interact with berberine.

Berberine has been used for centuries in traditional medicine. But high doses may be toxic, especially for the liver and kidneys [11].

How to Enhance the Benefits of Berberine

To get the most out of berberine, it’s best to combine it with a PCOS diet, like the one used in my free 30-Day PCOS Diet Challenge. This is because a PCOS diet also improves insulin sensitivity and reduces inflammation.

LeeAnne PCOS Success Story

The Bottom Line

Berberine has many beneficial effects on the underlying causes of PCOS. It’s best considered as a substitute for metformin because it has powerful effects on metabolic health. It may also help with fertility and reduce symptoms such as acne, hirsutism, and hair loss.

People will often take 1000 to 1500 mg per day for three months or more. But berberine may cause gastrointestinal side effects and can interact with certain medications.

Following a PCOS diet will get you the best results possible when taking berberine for PCOS. Join my next free 30-Day PCOS Diet Challenge to learn how. Or download this free 3-Day PCOS Meal Plan to get started today.

FAQ

What’s the best berberine dosage for PCOS? When taking berberine for PCOS, typical dosages are 500 mg capsules taken two or three times daily.

How long should I take berberine for PCOS? Most participants in berberine clinical trials take the supplement for three months. Extending treatment beyond this duration can improve therapeutic effects [9].

How long before I see results from berberine for PCOS? Benefits may be seen within one month of starting treatment. You should expect to take berberine for three months to see improvements in A1C levels.

Berberine vs metformin PCOS. Which is better? There is a plethora of studies that have compared berberine with metformin using a range of biomarkers. The weight of evidence indicates that berberine performs better than metformin with fewer side effects [2-8].

Can you use berberine and metformin together for PCOS? Berberine and metformin are both insulin sensitizers. This means that they do the same thing. These medicines are usually an either/or treatment. If they were taken together, the dose of metformin would need to be reduced.

Berberine PCOS weight loss. Does it help? Berberine has been shown to improve measures of body composition. This includes things like waist-to-hip ratio. It has been associated with decreased body mass index. But the strength of the effect is likely to be small [6-8].

Berberine PCOS hair loss. Does it help? Maybe a little. PCOS hair loss is a symptom of elevated androgen levels. Poor insulin regulation and chronic inflammation drive up androgen production. Berberine can help with all three of these issues [1]. By doing so, it may have an indirect impact on PCOS hair loss.

Berberine PCOS acne. Does it help? Maybe a little. Just like PCOS hair loss, PCOS acne is caused by elevated androgen levels. Berberine may be a promising new treatment for acne [12].

What is the best berberine supplement for PCOS? I recommend Thorne, Berberine 500 mg capsules. This is a best-in-class supplement product.

Ready to Take Action?

  • Join my next free 30-Day PCOS Diet Challenge here. This is a live program where you’ll receive weekly meal plans and helpful video lessons. You’ll also be part of a motivated and inspiring community of like-minded women.
  • Download my free 3-Day PCOS Diet Meal Plan here. This is perfect for getting started before the next 30-Day Challenge begins.
  • Join my PCOS Monthly Meal Planning Service here. This service includes hundreds of PCOS recipes within a pre-populated, yet customizable meal plan. It’s designed to save you time and help you apply a PCOS diet.
  • Sign up for my next Beat PCOS 10-Week Program. This is a comprehensive live program that runs quarterly. Topics covered include diet, PCOS-centric emotional eating, exercise, stress management, and more. The 10-Week Program includes the same recipes and meal plan as my monthly meal planning service.
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    Quick Disclosure: Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. This means that when you use them to purchase something, it won't cost you more but I may get paid a commission for referring you. In order to avoid any prejudice, I only recommend products that I personally use or would have recommended anyways.

    References

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    2Mishra, N., R. Verma, and P. Jadaun, Study on the Effect of Berberine, Myoinositol, and Metformin in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Prospective Randomised Study. Cureus, 2022. 14(1): p. e21781.

    3Li, M.F., X.M. Zhou, and X.L. Li, The Effect of Berberine on Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Patients with Insulin Resistance (PCOS-IR): A Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med, 2018. 2018: p. 2532935.

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    7Wei, W., et al., A clinical study on the short-term effect of berberine in comparison to metformin on the metabolic characteristics of women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Eur J Endocrinol, 2012. 166(1): p. 99-105.

    8An, Y., et al., The use of berberine for women with polycystic ovary syndrome undergoing IVF treatment. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf), 2014. 80(3): p. 425-31.

    9Ye, Y., et al., Efficacy and Safety of Berberine Alone for Several Metabolic Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. Front Pharmacol, 2021. 12: p. 653887.

    10Imenshahidi, M. and H. Hosseinzadeh, Berberine and barberry (Berberis vulgaris): A clinical review. Phytother Res, 2019. 33(3): p. 504-523.

    11Singh, N. and B. Sharma, Toxicological Effects of Berberine and Sanguinarine. Front Mol Biosci, 2018. 5: p. 21.

    12Soleymani, S., et al., Promising plant-derived secondary metabolites for treatment of acne vulgaris: a mechanistic review. Arch Dermatol Res, 2020. 312(1): p. 5-23.