Interactions between gut microbiota and berberine, a necessary procedure to understand the mechanisms of berberine

J Pharm Anal. 2022 Aug;12(4):541-555. doi: 10.1016/j.jpha.2021.10.003. Epub 2021 Oct 21.


Berberine (BBR), an isoquinoline alkaloid, has been found in many plants, such as Coptis chinensis Franch and Phellodendron chinense Schneid. Although BBR has a wide spectrum of pharmacological effects, its oral bioavailability is extremely low. In recent years, gut microbiota has emerged as a cynosure to understand the mechanisms of action of herbal compounds. Numerous studies have demonstrated that due to its low bioavailability, BBR can interact with the gut microbiota, thereby exhibiting altered pharmacological effects. However, no systematic and comprehensive review has summarized these interactions and their corresponding influences on pharmacological effects. Here, we describe the direct interactive relationships between BBR and gut microbiota, including regulation of gut microbiota composition and metabolism by BBR and metabolization of BBR by gut microbiota. In addition, the complex interactions between gut microbiota and BBR as well as the side effects and personalized use of BBR are discussed. Furthermore, we provide our viewpoint on future research directions regarding BBR and gut microbiota. This review not only helps to explain the mechanisms underlying BBR activity but also provides support for the rational use of BBR in clinical practice.

Keywords: Berberine; Gut microbiota; Oral bioavailability; Short chain fatty acids; Traditional Chinese medicines.

Publication types

  • Review