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Berberine’s Effects on Neurodegenerative Diseases : A Comprehensive Review

  1. Berberine and Neurodegenerative Disease

    Definition of Neurodegenerative Diseases and Their Prevalence

    Neurodegenerative diseases are a group of conditions defined by the gradual deterioration of CNS or PNS neurons’ structure or function (PNS). These conditions are often incurable, persistent, and limiting. Many genetic and environmental variables are thought to contribute to the development of neurodegenerative disorders.

    Neurodegenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are among the most prevalent types of dementia (ALS). The symptoms and rates of progression of these diseases differ, but they all result in the degeneration of neurons and synapses, which in turn causes cognitive decline, motor dysfunction, and death.

    Estimates suggest that more than 50 million people around the world are afflicted by one or more neurodegenerative illnesses. An estimated 5.8 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, making it one of the top causes of death and disability among the elderly.

    Although neurodegenerative disorders lack a cure, there are therapies that can alleviate symptoms and reduce the disease’s course. The use of Berberine as a therapy is one example that has gained popularity in recent years

    The Importance Of Addressing Neurodegenerative Diseases To Prevent Cognitive Decline

    Neurodegenerative disorders cause deterioration in brain function and impairment due to the gradual breakdown of nerve cells. Millions of individuals throughout the world suffer from neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s, all of which significantly lower the standard of living for sufferers and their loved ones. To forestall cognitive decline and boost the health of aging populations, it is essential to tackle neurodegenerative illnesses.

    More than 50 million individuals throughout the world are living with Alzheimer’s disease, making it one of the most widespread neurological diseases. The aging of the population is expected to increase the number of persons with Alzheimer’s disease by 2050, making it a serious public health concern. Amyloid-beta plaques and tau protein tangles build up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, causing cell death, synaptic dysfunction, and eventually, cognitive decline. Alzheimer’s disease can be prevented or treated early by addressing the many known risk factors, which include genetics, lifestyle, and the environment.

    Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative illnesses can be prevented through the adoption of healthy lifestyle habits like regular exercise, a nutritious diet, and mental stimulation. Exercising regularly has been proven to boost BDNF levels and promote neurogenesis, two processes that may contribute to improved cognitive function and a lower risk of dementia (Xue et al., 2022). The risk of cognitive decline and dementia may also be lowered by eating a nutritious diet high in fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids. Reading, playing games, and interacting socially are all great ways to keep your mind sharp as you age.

    Neurodegenerative illnesses can be treated with both lifestyle and pharmaceutical therapies. Some of the medications used to treat Alzheimer’s disease are cholinesterase inhibitors like donepezil and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonists like memantine. Parkinson’s disease is treated with dopamine replacement treatment, such as levodopa, and Huntington’s disease is treated with tetrabenazine. The disease itself cannot be cured by these methods, but patients’ symptoms can be alleviated and their disease development slowed, leading to a higher quality of life overall.

    The goal of ongoing research into the mechanics of neurodegenerative disorders is to create novel treatments and preventative measures. Stem cell research, gene therapy, and immunotherapy are all intriguing areas of study. The goal of stem cell treatment is to repair or replace dysfunctional neurons (Ul Hassan et al., 2009), while gene therapy aims to correct genetic mutations that cause neurodegenerative diseases. Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative illnesses are characterized by the buildup of amyloid-beta plaques and tau protein tangles in the brain, both of which are intended targets of immunotherapy.

    Finally, millions of individuals all over the world are affected by neurodegenerative illnesses, making them a serious issue for public health. Prevention of cognitive decline and enhancement of the general health of older populations are both greatly aided by efforts to combat these disorders. Symptoms can be alleviated and the progression of the disease slowed with the use of preventative measures like lifestyle changes and drug therapy. Efforts to better the lives of those who suffer from neurodegenerative disorders and their loved ones are driving investigations into their causes.

  2. What is Berberine?

    Definition and Natural Sources Of Berberine

    Many plants, including Berberis vulgaris, Coptis chinensis, Hydrastis canadensis, and Phellodendron amurense, contain the alkaloid berberine. Due to its many health benefits, it has been utilized for generations in traditional medicine. Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-diabetic qualities have made berberine a sought-after addition to modern diets. Berberine has the molecular weight of 336.37 and the chemical formula C20H18NO4+. It has a vivid yellow hue and dissolves easily in liquids like water, ethanol, and acetone. The bitter flavor of berberine is put to good use in herbal remedies for indigestion.

    Berberine occurs naturally in many plants, including their bark, rhizomes, and roots. One of the most widespread plant-based sources of berberine is the Berberis vulgaris (barberry) plant. In traditional medicine, barberry is used to cure stomach and liver issues, as well as skin diseases. Coptis chinensis (goldthread), Hydrastis canadensis (goldenseal), and Phellodendron amurense are also natural sources of berberine (Amur cork tree).

    Dietary supplements typically contain extracted and refined berberine from plant sources. Capsules, pills, and liquid extracts are just some of the forms it comes in.

    History of Berberine Use In Traditional Medicine

    Berberine has a long history of usage in TCM for the treatment of gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea and gastrointestinal infections. Those with type 2 diabetes have also used it to help control their blood sugar levels. Fasting blood sugar levels in those with type 2 diabetes were reduced by berberine just as effectively as by metformin, according to one study (Lao-ong et al., 2012).

    In Ayurvedic practice, berberine is used to treat digestive issues like diarrhea and dysentery. Because of its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial qualities, it can be used to treat bacterial, viral, and fungal infections (Wojtyczka et al., 2014).

    Researchers have found that berberine has promise as a therapy for cardiovascular disease because of its ability to lower cholesterol levels. In patients with hyperlipidemia, berberine was found to drastically lower total cholesterol and triglyceride levels (Koppen et al., 2017).

    Berberine’s use in folk medicine has been corroborated by the latest scientific findings. Treatment of gastrointestinal problems, diabetes, and hyperlipidemia, among others, have all been shown to improve with it (Pang et al., 2015).

  3. How Does Berberine Affect Neurodegenerative Diseases?

    Berberine’s Effects On Reducing Inflammation And Oxidative Stress In The Brain

    Reactive oxygen species (ROS) induce oxidative stress when there is a discrepancy between ROS production and detoxification pathways in the body. Many neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, have been linked to it. According to a 2019 study, berberine can increase the amounts of antioxidant enzymes including superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase, hence decreasing oxidative stress in the brain (CAT) (Pirmoradi et al., 2019).

    Another important contributor to the onset of neurological disorders is inflammation. Interleukin-1 (IL-1) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-) are two examples of pro-inflammatory cytokines, and a study from 2020 discovered that berberine might drastically inhibit their synthesis in the brain (Ma et al., 2020). This suggests that berberine may be effective in the treatment or prevention of neuroinflammatory diseases since it can assist to reduce inflammation in the brain.

    Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a protein that helps neurons develop, survive, and communicate with one another; berberine has been proven to boost its synthesis. Depression, anxiety, and other neurological problems have all been connected to low levels of BDNF (Cheng et al., 2022). In 2016, researchers discovered that berberine significantly raised BDNF levels in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a brain area critical for learning and memory (Shen et al., 2016).

    Berberine’s Effects on Increasing Neurotrophic Factors and Promoting Neurogenesis

    Proteins called neurotrophic factors promote neuronal survival and development in the brain. They’re essential to neuroplasticity, the brain’s capacity to change and adapt in response to new stimuli. Neurotrophic factors like brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), nerve growth factor (NGF), and glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) have been associated with a wide range of cognitive processes.

    There is evidence from multiple research that berberine can boost neurotrophic factor levels in the brain. For example, research in rats showed that after seven days of treatment with berberine, BDNF levels were dramatically elevated in the hippocampus, a brain region crucial for learning and memory (Zhan et al., 2021). The levels of nerve growth factor (NGF) and glial cell-line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region involved in executive functioning and decision making, were also shown to be up after two weeks of berberine treatment (Mohseni et al., 2023).

    The formation of new neurons in the brain, known as neurogenesis, is facilitated by berberine, which also increases neurotrophic factors. Which is thought to be significant for memory and learning, was studied in mice (Rezaeian et al., 2022). Eight weeks of berberine administration enhanced brain stem cell proliferation, according to another study (Shou et al., 2019).

    It is not yet clear how berberine exerts its effects on neurotrophic factors and neurogenesis. Extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) are two signaling pathways thought to be activated by berberine, among others (Farooqi et al., 2019), (Och et al., 2020)

    Berberine’s Potential For Slowing The Progression Of Neurodegenerative Diseases

    Researchers have found that berberine can halt the development of neurodegenerative illnesses and even reverse their effects in some cases. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that affects movement and emotional reactions; berberine was discovered to lessen the loss of these neurons in a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease (Cheng et al., 2022). Berberine The inflammatory and oxidative stress responses in the brain were also inhibited by berberine, both of which play a role in the development of Parkinson’s disease.

    The hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, amyloid-beta plaques, were shown to be reduced in mice treated with berberine, and the animals also showed improvements in cognitive performance. Tau protein, another hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, was also inhibited by berberine. This protein forms neurofibrillary tangles, which are thought to be responsible for the illness’s detrimental effects on neuronal function (Huang et al., 2017).

    The neuroprotective effects of berberine are achieved by a multifaceted method. Several signaling pathways, including AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt, and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), have been demonstrated to be modulated by this compound. The survival of neurons relies on these pathways, which also play important roles in energy metabolism and inflammation.

  4. Clinical Evidence of Berberine’s Effectiveness in Neurodegenerative Diseases

    Review of Recent Clinical Trials and Studies

    Researchers have found Alzheimer’s disease to be one of the most encouraging areas for berberine’s potential in neurodegenerative disorders. Berberine administration enhanced cognitive performance and decreased amyloid beta protein accumulation in patients with mild to severe Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study scheduled for publication in 2020 (Chen et al., 2020). Research published in 2019 suggests that berberine may have a preventive impact against Alzheimer’s disease by lowering neuroinflammation and oxidative stress in an animal model of the disease (Yuan et al., 2019).

    Berberine has also showed promise as a therapy for Parkinson’s disease. Researchers in 2022 found that berberine helped Parkinson’s disease patients’ motor performance and lowered their oxidative stress levels (Shou & Shaw, 2022). In an animal model of Parkinson’s disease, berberine was found to protect dopaminergic neurons, indicating it may have a neuroprotective impact, according to a study published in 2022 (Wen et al., 2022).

    There is still a lack of understanding on how berberine helps with neurodegenerative illnesses. However, it is believed to act through a number of different pathways, such as lowering neuroinflammation, increasing BDNF production, and preventing the accumulation of misfolded proteins. Although there is currently only a small amount of clinical evidence supporting berberine’s effectiveness in neurodegenerative diseases, the results of recent studies are encouraging. More study is required to determine the most effective dosages and treatment schedules for berberine and its potential effects.

    Discussion of the Effectiveness of Berberine in Improving Cognitive Function and Reducing Symptoms of Neurodegenerative Diseases

    In animal models of neurodegenerative illnesses, the effects of berberine on cognitive performance have been studied extensively. In a rat model of Alzheimer’s disease, berberine was found to improve spatial memory and learning by lowering levels of oxidative stress and brain inflammation (Wang et al., 2019). Another study found that by shielding dopamine neurons from oxidative stress, berberine enhanced motor and cognitive performance in a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease (Cheng et al., 2022).

    Berberine’s potential to enhance cognitive performance has also been demonstrated in human research. Patients with mild cognitive impairment showed improvement in cognitive performance after taking berberine supplements for 12 weeks, according to one randomized controlled research (Ye et al., 2021). A different study discovered that berberine helped Parkinson’s disease patients’ cognitive performance and decreased their depressive symptoms (Wang et al., 2021).

    The exact method through which berberine improves mental performance is unclear. Nonetheless, berberine has shown promise in enhancing cognitive performance by decreasing brain inflammation, oxidative stress, and amyloid-beta buildup (Cai et al., 2016). It’s possible that berberine can boost mitochondrial function and encourage the development of new brain cells (Fang et al., 2022).

  5. Safety and Side Effects of Berberine

    Possible Side Effects of Berberine

    Constipation, bloating, and abdominal pain are some of the most often reported negative reactions to berberine. In some cases, diarrhea and nausea have also been reported. These symptoms usually occur in the first few days of supplementation and tend to subside as the body adjusts to the new supplement. However, if the symptoms persist, it is advisable to discontinue the use of berberine and consult a healthcare professional.

    Berberine may also interact with certain medications, such as antibiotics, blood thinners, and hypoglycemic agents. It is important to inform your healthcare provider if you are taking berberine supplements, especially if you are also taking prescription medications. Berberine has been shown to inhibit the CYP3A4 enzyme, which is responsible for the metabolism of many drugs. Because of this, the medication concentrations in the body may grow, which may have undesirable consequences.

    Berberine may also have an effect on the liver, which is a potential side effect. High doses of berberine have been proven to be toxic to the liver in animal experiments; this may be due to the drug’s ability to inhibit the CYP450 enzyme system (Guo et al., 2011). Several studies have also found that berberine can impact a person’s heart rate and blood pressure. Researchers found that those with metabolic syndrome who took berberine supplements had significantly lower blood pressure and heart rates (Xia & Luo, 2015). However, those with low blood pressure or who take blood-pressure drugs may not want to experience these side effects.

    Discussion of Interactions Of Berberine With Other Medications and Health Conditions

    One of the most significant interactions of berberine is with cytochrome P450 enzymes, which are responsible for metabolizing many drugs in the liver. Berberine has been shown to inhibit several cytochrome P450 enzymes, including CYP3A4, CYP2D6, and CYP2C9, which can lead to decreased clearance and increased concentrations of co-administered drugs such as statins, antihypertensives , and antidepressants. This can increase the risk of adverse drug reactions and toxicity, and patients should be advised to monitor for signs of drug interactions if they are taking berberine alongside other medications.

    It has also been observed that berberine has interactions with a number of diseases and disorders, such as those of the digestive tract and the cardiovascular system. Berberine has been demonstrated to reduce inflammation and improve symptoms in people with inflammatory bowel disease, but it may also prevent the absorption of other drugs, such as sulfasalazine and mesalamine. Berberine reduces blood pressure and cholesterol in people with cardiovascular disease, however it may increase bleeding risk if taken with anticoagulants or antiplatelet medications.

    In addition, berberine may interact with other herbs and supplements, raising the possibility of serotonin syndrome or hypoglycemia. Patients should be advised to inform their healthcare provider of any herbs or supplements they are taking before starting berberine therapy.

    Importance of Consulting A Healthcare Provider Before Taking Berberine

    The possible health benefits of berberine have led to its rising popularity over the past few years. Berberine has been linked to improved cardiovascular health, reduced inflammation, and decreased blood sugar levels. Yet it’s crucial to know the risks and side effects of any supplement or drug you use.

    One of the primary reasons to consult a healthcare provider before taking berberine is to ensure that it’s safe for you to use. Berberine may interact with certain medications, such as antibiotics, blood thinners, and medications for high blood pressure. If you’re currently taking any medications, it’s essential to discuss the potential interactions with your healthcare provider before starting to take berberine.

    Additionally, berberine may not be appropriate for individuals with certain medical conditions. For example, it may exacerbate symptoms of autoimmune disorders or worsen liver disease. Your healthcare provider can help you determine if berberine is safe for you to take based on your individual medical history and current health status.

    Another reason to consult a healthcare provider before taking berberine is to ensure that you’re taking the appropriate dose. The optimal dose of berberine can vary depending on the reason for use, and taking too much can lead to adverse effects, including stomach upset and headaches. Your healthcare provider can help you determine the appropriate dose based on your individual needs and goals.

    Lastly, your healthcare provider can help monitor your progress and any potential side effects while taking berberine. While berberine is generally safe for most people, some individuals may experience side effects, including nausea, diarrhea, and constipation. If you experience any adverse effects while taking berberine, it’s essential to consult your healthcare provider to determine if it’s safe to continue use.

  6. Conclusion

    Summary Of The Potential Benefits Of Berberine In Preventing Or Slowing The Progression Of Neurodegenerative Diseases

    Neurodegenerative illnesses are a class of conditions marked by the gradual degeneration of neurons and the connections between them. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease are all examples of such conditions. In most cases, there is little that can be done to alleviate the symptoms of these persistent and disabling conditions.

    Berberine has showed promise as a potential therapy for many disorders in recent research. Berberine may help prevent or slow the development of neurodegenerative disorders by doing the following.

    In animal models of neurodegenerative disorders, Berberine has been demonstrated to have neuroprotective properties. Neurons can be shielded from damage caused by free radicals, inflammation, and cell death. These outcomes have the potential to impede the development of neurodegenerative disorders.

    Neuroprotective properties: inflammation is a hallmark of degenerative brain disorders. Berberine’s anti-inflammatory properties suggest it could mitigate brain inflammation and so slow the development of various conditions.

    In addition to being a characteristic of many neurodegenerative disorders, oxidative stress is mitigated by antioxidants. Antioxidant properties have been observed in berberine, suggesting it may mitigate brain oxidative stress and prevent the development of certain conditions.

    Dopamine and acetylcholine are only two examples of brain neurotransmitters that berberine has been proven to influence. Important for brain function, these neurotransmitters are frequently altered by neurodegenerative conditions.

    Mitochondrial function enhancement: mitochondrial malfunction is a hallmark of neurodegenerative disorders. Inhibiting the development of these disorders, berberine has been found to improve mitochondrial activity.

    Autophagy, the degradation and removal of damaged or defective proteins and organelles by cells, can be modulated. Toxic proteins can build in neurodegenerative illnesses, but berberine’s ability to regulate autophagy may help clear them out.

    Future Research Directions And Potential Applications Of Berberine In Improving Brain Health

    Future research in this area could explore the mechanisms behind berberine’s neuroprotective and cognitive-enhancing effects. For example, researchers could investigate how berberine affects the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which are involved in regulating mood and cognition. They could also explore how berberine interacts with various signaling pathways in the brain, including the mTOR and AMPK pathways, which are involved in regulating cellular metabolism and energy balance.

    Berberine’s potential as a therapy for neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s is another area worthy of investigation. Initial trials have showed promising effects, but additional research is needed. For instance, berberine was shown to improve cognitive function in mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease patients in one study (Aski et al., 2018). Toxic protein aggregates were observed to be reduced in the brains of mice with Parkinson’s disease when berberine was administered (Jiang et al., 2015).

    Finally, berberine may be more effective when used in conjunction with other chemicals to promote healthy brain function. Some research has looked into the possibility of boosting the neuroprotective effects of both berberine and curcumin, a chemical found in the spice turmeric. The use of berberine in conjunction with omega-3 fatty acids, which have also been found to have neuroprotective properties, has been the subject of other research.


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Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 1, 2023

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