Berberine in the Treatment of Diabetes Mellitus: A Review

Endocr Metab Immune Disord Drug Targets. 2021;21(8):1379-1386. doi: 10.2174/1568026620666201022144405.


Berberine is an alkaloid found in plants. It has neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory and hypolipidemic activities. The research proves that it also strongly impacts carbohydrate metabolism. The compound also protects pancreatic β-cells and increases sensitivity to insulin in peripheral tissues via the induction of GLUT-1, GLUT-4 and insulin type 1 (Ins-1) receptors activity. It also stimulates glycolysis and leads to a decrease in insulin resistance by macrophages polarization, lipolytic processes induction and energy expenditure enhancement (by reducing body mass and limiting insulin resistance caused by obesity). In liver berberine inhibits FOX01, SREBP1 and ChREBP pathways, and HNF-4α (hepatocyte nuclear factor 4 alpha) mRNA that hinder gluconeogenesis processes. In the intestines it blocks α-glucosidase contributing to glucose absorption decrease. Its interference in intestinal flora reduces levels of monosaccharides and suppresses diabetes mellitus complications development.

Keywords: Berberine; alkaloid; diabetes mellitus; metabolism; nutrition; review..

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Berberine / pharmacology
  • Berberine / therapeutic use*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus / physiopathology
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / physiology
  • Islets of Langerhans / physiology


  • Insulin
  • Berberine
  • Glucose