Berberine or Metformin: Which is the better choice for PCOS?

Jan 11, 2017

Berberine or Metformin:  Which is the better choice for PCOS?

PCOS has affected many women around the world and has often times damaged paths toward motherhood – drawing people further into the trap of infertility.  But is there a way to get out? And do it naturally? Well, what is it I always say – always!

There are two treatments, in particular, that catch the attention of many women suffering with PCOS.  I say let’s get to it and get you back to where you are in control, and not your PCOS!

What are Berberine and Metformin?

Berberine- This herbal supplement consists of a bioactive compound, of alkaline-class, that is yellow in color and presented of having a very bitter flavor.  This supplement is natural and has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for over 5,000 years; it is prescribed by Medical and Naturopathic Doctors alike.

Metformin- A medical drug derived mainly from the French Lilac (also called “Goat’s Rue” – as its blood-sugar- lowering properties makes the flower undesirable for goats). Because of this Lilac’s medicinal effects, Metformin has been used for centuries in the use of managing diabetes and lowering blood sugar levels.

Both medications have shown to regulate blood sugar and androgens (testosterone) and increase insulin sensitivity within the body.

What is the difference?

Origin- Perhaps the largest difference between these two drugs is this. Despite the fact that Metformin has a natural history (regarding to the lilac) it is in fact a synthetic drug. Metformin is said to be the most used and prescribed medication on the entire globe. But this topic has raised the question: can Berberine, a natural alternative, be just as impactful and beneficial?

Berberine, as said before – and in contrast to Metformin, is an *herbal* supplement containing a chemical derived from multiple herbs including the European Barberry, Goldenseal, Oregon Grape, Tree Turmeric, and Goldthread.

Why is there rumor that Berberine may be superior?

I find it funny how natural medications – or anything “natural,” in that matter – seem to always out-beat the synthetic and “lab-created.” But yes, studies have shown that Berberine performs just as well as Metformin in terms of increasing insulin sensitivity. In fact, Berberine influences the body in a much similar way to insulin, as it causes cells to increase glucose intake from the blood, while Metformin shuts off the source of glucose within the liver.

But what else could put the Berberine ahead? Well, being a natural product, you not only receive the benefit of the compound, but also the benefits of some of the herbs used to make it. These benefits include:

  • Protection from diabetes and increased management of PCOS
  • Weight loss and regulation of BMI (That’s a bonus I’d say!)
  • Lower cholesterol levels within the body
  • Prevention of heart disease
  • Reduction of growth and development of certain types of cancers
  • Aid in depression
  • Acne control caused by PCOS
  • Having antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
  • Has anti-fungal properties

And on top of that, studies have shown (check out the resources) that the co-use of Berberine during IVF leads to an increased live birth rate when compared to Metformin!!

But wait; is there a down-side? What side effects can I expect?

This is yet another aspect where Berberine seems to pull ahead in front of Metformin.

The side effects of Berberine regard mainly to digestion and are normally very minor. These can include:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • And constipation

(A very short list I may point out! Haha.)

In comparison, the use of Metformin can risk the development of more serious, or even fatal, side effects; such as the development of Lactic Acidosis, an overabundant built-up of lactic acid within the bloodstream.

And it should be used with caution when combined with prescription medication such as antidepressants, beta-blockers or immunosuppressants, because it can alter the blood levels of those medications.

If in doubt, please seek professional advice.

One final caution is that berberine is anti-microbial, so it will affect intestinal bacteria.

So what do you think? Can Berberine be just as good – or even superior to – Metformin?I hope in this article you have better acquainted yourself with the identity of Berberine and understood the power it can have on your path towards a PCOS-managed life. ‘Cause like I said, there is always another way – and you may even find a natural one!

** You should not take berberine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. You should be cautious if you take other prescription medication such as antidepressants, beta-blockers or immunosuppressants because berberine can alter the levels of those medications in your bloodstream.

**Berberine can change the composition of your intestinal bacteria. Consider taking a probiotic to alleviate this potential problem. Take berberine for 6 days per week, then take a 1-month break after you have taken it for 8-12 weeks.

In terms of the dosage of Berberine, therapeutically speaking, what I’ve seen to be effective at bringing glucose down significantly, I’m recommending somewhere between 1000 to 1500 milligrams daily over a course of 30 days.

Learn more about our approach using functional medicine here!

Sarah Clark empowers couples to discover how lifestyle and diet can dramatically impact their chances of conceiving. She was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure at 28 and had both her kids with donor eggs. Not until years later did she discover that the root cause of her infertility was a food intolerance. Join the Free Fab Fertile Support Group on Facebook for mini-challenges, motivation and inspiration!