Berberine is an alkaloid compound found in many traditionally used medicinal plants, and as a synthesized supplement. While much of the focus on berberine has been on its blood sugar regulating effects, like many compounds it works along various pathways in the body.
In some cases, it directly creates breaks in cancer DNA strands, preventing the cancer from replicating. In other studies, berberine also interrupts the life cycle of a tumor in breast cancer, colon, and liver cancer cells. Aside from stopping the mechanisms of cancer, berberine also reduces inflammation that can lead to the development of tumors, including stopping COX-2 inflammation.
While berberine may not be known as a nutrient “superstar” like other natural compounds, it may be quietly staging a revolution in how we treat diseases from diabetes to cancer.
Ortiz LM, Lombardi P, Tillhon M, Scovassi AI. Berberine, an epiphany against cancer. Molecules. 2014;19(8):12349–12367. Published 2014 Aug 15. doi:10.3390/molecules190812349
Alkaloids are used in traditional medicine for the treatment of many diseases. These compounds are synthesized in plants as secondary metabolites and have multiple effects on cellular metabolism. Among plant derivatives with biological properties, the isoquinoline quaternary alkaloid berberine possesses a broad range of therapeutic uses against several diseases. In recent years, berberine has been reported to inhibit cell proliferation and to be cytotoxic towards cancer cells. Based on this evidence, many derivatives have been synthesized to improve berberine efficiency and selectivity; the results so far obtained on human cancer cell lines support the idea that they could be promising agents for cancer treatment. The main properties of berberine and derivatives will be illustrated.
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