The People's Perspective on Medicine

Does Berberine Protect Against Prostate Cancer?

Berberine is a natural product of the Oregon grape plant. Berberine has some fascinating biological activity. Could it be helpful against prostate cancer?
Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon-grape or Oregon grape) is a species of flowering plant in the family Berberidaceae, native to western North America.

Berberine is a fascinating compound. It is one of the key constituents of the Oregon grape holly plant (Mahonia aquifolium). Berberine was traditionally used to treat digestive disorders such as indigestion and ulcers. Berberine also has impressive antibacterial activity. More recently, though, there is some in vitro research suggesting that berberine might have anticancer action. Could berberine become beneficial against prostate cancer?

Berberine to Treat Prostate Cancer:

Q. A friend of mine was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer several years ago. After surgery and radiation, his PSA started going up again.

His prostate cancer specialist suggested metformin and a dietary supplement called berberine. These and some other medications have helped control his PSA ever since. What can you tell me about berberine?

A. Berberine is an alkaloid compound found in many plants that have been used in traditional medical systems. Both Chinese medicine and Ayurveda have used Berberis species such as barberry (Frontiers in Pharmacology, Aug. 21, 2018). 

Scientists have investigated berberine’s ability to control blood sugar and found it comparable to metformin (Metabolism, May 2008). In research on mice, berberine was able to block many biochemical pathways involved in the pathogenesis of prostate cancer (Oncotarget April 28, 2017). The researchers report that in their animal model berberine can reverse “the abnormal metabolism of prostate cancer.”

They go on to say:

“Our research could provide the data basis and scientific methods in subsequent studies of berberine therapy for prostate cancer.”

Test-tube research suggests that it may also suppress prostate cancer metastasis (International Journal of Medical Sciences, Jan. 1, 2015).  We haven’t seen clinical trials of berberine to treat this kind of cancer, however.

The Berberine Experiment:

Your friend is wise to be taking berberine under his specialist’s supervision. This compound appears to have a lot of promise, but there is very little information on how real men with cancer of the prostate might respond to it. This way the oncologist can monitor the results of this experiment.

You may also wish to review this article:

Mushrooms May Protect Men from Prostate Cancer

You can learn a lot more about berberine in our Herb Library. Here is a link to Oregon Grape.

Have you had any experience with berberine? If so, please share your story in the comment section below.

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    About the Author
    Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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    Citations
    • Li, X., et al, "Metabolic Characterization and Pathway Analysis of Berberine Protects Against Prostate Cancer," Ontocarget, April 28, 2017, DOI: 10.18632/oncotarget.17531
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    I have been taking berberine for about 5 years for diabetes. After 5 weeks my Dr. took me off both diabetes medicines because my blood sugar was too low. I don’t have any side effects, and I watch what I eat.

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