Preventive effects of berberine on glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis in rats

Planta Med. 2010 Nov;76(16):1809-13. doi: 10.1055/s-0030-1250040. Epub 2010 Jun 24.


Glucocorticoids are widely used to treat chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and asthma. However, long-term glucocorticoid therapy can result in serious side effects, such as osteoporosis. The present study investigated the preventive effects of berberine on glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis in rats. Male Sprague Dawley rats were treated with vehicle, glucocorticoid, glucocorticoid and berberine, or glucocorticoid and calcium carbonate with vitamin D (3) for 12 weeks. The proximal tibiae of all rats were processed without decalcification for quantitative bone histomorphometry, and femur mechanical testing as well as bone mineral density (BMD) were analyzed. A significant decrease was found in the glucocorticoid-treated group compared with the control group in such indices as biomechanical quality, BMD, trabecular bone volume/total tissue area (BV/TV), trabecular number (Tb.N), trabecular thickness (Tb.Th), mineral apposition rate (MAR), bone formation rate/total tissue area (BFR/TV), and bone formation rate/trabecular bone surface (BFR/BS). In addition, significantly increased trabecular separation (Tb.Sp), osteoclast number/trabecular bone volume (Oc.N/BV), and osteoclast surface/trabecular bone surface (Oc.S/BS) were observed in the glucocorticoid-treated group, compared with the control group. Berberine and calcium carbonate with vitamin D (3) prevented the decrease in biomechanical quality, BMD, BV/TV, Tb.N, Tb.Th, MAR, BFR/TV, and BFR/BS, as well as increased Tb.Sp, Oc.N/BV, and Oc.S/BS in glucocorticoid-induced osteoporotic rats. The present results suggest that berberine prevents glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis by inhibiting bone resorption and improving bone formation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Berberine / pharmacology
  • Berberine / therapeutic use*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / drug effects
  • Bone Density / drug effects
  • Bone Density Conservation Agents / pharmacology
  • Bone Density Conservation Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Bone Resorption / prevention & control
  • Bone and Bones / drug effects*
  • Bone and Bones / pathology
  • Calcium Carbonate / pharmacology
  • Calcium Carbonate / therapeutic use
  • Coptis / chemistry
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Osteoclasts / drug effects
  • Osteoclasts / pathology
  • Osteogenesis / drug effects
  • Osteoporosis / chemically induced
  • Osteoporosis / pathology
  • Osteoporosis / prevention & control*
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Tibia
  • Vitamin D / pharmacology
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use


  • Bone Density Conservation Agents
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Plant Extracts
  • Berberine
  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium Carbonate