Berberine has been shown to regulate glucose and lipid metabolism in vitro and in vivo. This pilot study was to determine the efficacy and safety of berberine in the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus patients. In study A, 36 adults with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes mellitus were randomly assigned to treatment with berberine or metformin (0.5 g 3 times a day) in a 3-month trial. The hypoglycemic effect of berberine was similar to that of metformin. Significant decreases in hemoglobin A1c (from 9.5%+/-0.5% to 7.5%+/-0.4%, P<.01), fasting blood glucose (from 10.6+/-0.9 mmol/L to 6.9+/-0.5 mmol/L, P<.01), postprandial blood glucose (from 19.8+/-1.7 to 11.1+/-0.9 mmol/L, P<.01), and plasma triglycerides (from 1.13+/-0.13 to 0.89+/-0.03 mmol/L, P<.05) were observed in the berberine group. In study B, 48 adults with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes mellitus were treated supplemented with berberine in a 3-month trial. Berberine acted by lowering fasting blood glucose and postprandial blood glucose from 1 week to the end of the trial. Hemoglobin A1c decreased from 8.1%+/-0.2% to 7.3%+/-0.3% (P<.001). Fasting plasma insulin and homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance index were reduced by 28.1% and 44.7% (P<.001), respectively. Total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol were decreased significantly as well. During the trial, 20 (34.5%) patients experienced transient gastrointestinal adverse effects. Functional liver or kidney damages were not observed for all patients. In conclusion, this pilot study indicates that berberine is a potent oral hypoglycemic agent with beneficial effects on lipid metabolism.