In their review, which appeared in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, they discussed the neuroprotective effects of berberine as reported by 15 different studies. The researchers believe that berberine is a promising drug candidate against Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive degenerative disease that affects the central nervous system. It is a complex disease that's driven by multiple factors, such as the loss of neurons and the decrease in the levels of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter, and choline acetylase, the enzyme involved in its production. Characterized by a decline in memory and cognitive functions, Alzheimer's is also accompanied by psychiatric symptoms and abnormal behavior.
Because the main cause of Alzheimer's is still unknown, scientists have proposed several hypotheses to explain its development. One of the most widely accepted is the amyloid-B protein cascade hypothesis, which states that the accumulation of amyloid-B peptides in the brain is the primary cause of Alzheimer's. However, recent findings are beginning to oppose this idea in favor of the hyper-phosphorylated tau hypothesis, which suggests that the mis-sorting of tau proteins in the brain is behind the onset of Alzheimer's.
According to the researchers, therapeutic strategies that were based on decreasing the amount of B-amyloid in the brain have failed in clinical trials, suggesting that Alzheimer's disease therapy should not be focused on addressing a single cause, but rather a number of different pathways that lead to the disease. They therefore propose the use of berberine, an alkaloid found in various medicinal plants. New research has emerged demonstrating the neuroprotective effects of berberine in animal models of Alzheimer's.
Due to the lack of clinical trials on berberine, the researchers decided to conduct a pre-clinical trial review. They searched five online databases for relevant studies and found 15 papers reporting the effects of berberine treatment. They found that in multiple animal models with memory defects, berberine treatment resulted in significant improvements. These improvements were mediated by different biological properties, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, cholinesterase-inhibiting and anti-amyloid activities. Cholinesterase is a potent neurotoxic enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine, an essential neurotransmitter involved in brain and muscle function.
Due to the beneficial properties of berberine, the researchers believe that this phytonutrient is a promising multi-potent agent against Alzheimer's.
Berberine has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. This powerful compound can be found in various medicinal plants, such as goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), barberry (B. vulgaris), Oregon grape (B. aquifolium) and tree turmeric (B. aristata). (Related: Silymarin and berberine: A simple combination for better cardiometabolic health.)
According to studies, berberine can make changes within cells by binding to different "molecular targets" and changing their functions. It is also known to activate an enzyme known as AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which plays a major role in regulating metabolism. AMPK is often referred to as the "metabolic master switch."
Here are some other benefits associated with berberine: (h/t to MedicalNewsToday.com)
Berberine is a potent natural product that offers plenty of health benefits. Besides common food sources, berberine is also available as a supplement. While it is generally safe for consumption, berberine may cause digestive side effects and rashes. To ensure your safety and avoid unwanted interactions with your current medications, consult your health care provider before taking berberine supplements.