Berberine and barberry (Berberis vulgaris): A clinical review

Phytother Res. 2019 Mar;33(3):504-523. doi: 10.1002/ptr.6252. Epub 2019 Jan 13.


Barberry (Berberis vulgaris L.) has different medicinal applications in folk medicine of Iran. Berberine, an alkaloid constituent of this plant, is present in the roots, rhizomes, stem, and bark of B. vulgaris and many other plants. There have been many clinical trials conducted that suggested a wide range of therapeutic applications. Here, we investigated the clinical uses of berberine and B. vulgaris in the treatment of different diseases in humans. An extensive search in electronic databases (PubMed, Scopus, Embase, Web of Sciences and Science Direct) was used to identify the clinical trials on B. vulgaris and berberine. Lipid-lowering and insulin-resistance improving actions are the most studied properties of berberine in numerous randomized clinical trials. There are also clinical trials regarding cardiovascular, anticancer, gastrointestinal, CNS, endocrine, and so on. Berberine has very low toxicity in usual doses and reveals clinical benefits without major side effects. Only mild gastrointestinal reactions may occur in some patients. The purpose of this review is to provide a summary concerning the clinical trials conducted on berberine to improve the clinical application of this nutraceutical in different diseases. In this review article, we used 77 clinical studies on human subjects.

Keywords: Berberis vulgaris; barberry; berberine; clinical trials; interaction; medicinal plants; pharmacokinetic.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Berberine / pharmacology
  • Berberine / therapeutic use*
  • Berberis / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Iran
  • Medicine, Traditional / methods
  • Phytotherapy / methods
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Plant Roots / chemistry
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / statistics & numerical data


  • Plant Extracts
  • Berberine