Although low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol lowering with the statins reduces the mortality and morbidity associated with coronary artery disease, considerable mortality and morbidity remains. Berberine upregulates the LDL receptor (LDLR) by a mechanism distinct from that of the statins, which involves stabilising the LDLR mRNA. In hamsters fed a high-fat and high-cholesterol diet for 2 weeks, the oral administration of berberine 100 mg/kg for 10 days reduced total serum cholesterol from approximately 4.8 to 2.7 mmol/l, and LDL-cholesterol from approximately 2.5 to 1.4 mmol/l. In subjects with hypercholesterolaemia, berberine hydrochloride (0.5 g b.i.d. for 3 months) reduced LDL-cholesterol (from 3.2 to 2.4 mmol/l) without any effect on high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol. Berberine also caused a reduction in triglyceride levels from 2.3 to 1.5 mmol/l. As berberine and statins both upregulate LDLR, their lipid-lowering profiles are similar. Thus, this mechanism is unlikely to make berberine an attractive alternative to statins for lipid lowering in most circumstances. However, the other effects of berberine (antihypertensive, inotropic and class III antiarrhythmic properties) may make it a useful agent in the treatment of cardiovascular disease.