Doctors frequently prescribe metformin to patients with diabetes. On the other hand, berberine is a popular treatment in alternative medicine for the same condition. 

Despite having different structures, metformin and berberine have many similar activities, making them both potential effective treatments for type 2 diabetes (T2DM), obesity, cardiac disorders, tumors, and inflammation [1].

This article will explore the benefits of berberine vs. metformin for anti-aging effects, diabetes, weight loss, and PCOS. Additionally, we’ll explore the side effects of berberine and metformin.

What is Berberine?

Shilajit vs. Sea Moss 3

Berberine is a bioactive substance found in a variety of plants, such as the Berberis, which is a group of shrubs [2].

It technically belongs to a group of substances known as alkaloids. It is also a yellow substance that has frequently been used as a dye.

Berberine has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to treat diseases. In fact, one of berberine’s significant effects is to trigger the cellular enzyme AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) [3].

When there is an energy deficit, the AMPK enzyme gets activated to perform its activity. Examples of energy deficits are during fasting or exercise. Thus, activation of the AMPK could reduce fat storage and improve longevity.

Oftentimes, the AMPK enzyme is present in the cells of major organs such as the liver, kidney, heart, brain, and muscle. Aside from activating the AMPK enzyme, berberine is also crucial for controlling metabolism.

What is Metformin?

Shilajit vs. Sea Moss 4

Metformin is a medication used along with diet to treat type 2 diabetes patients with high blood sugar levels. Basically, metformin reduces the amount of glucose that is absorbed from the intestines, lowers the amount of glucose that is produced in the liver, and increases insulin sensitivity [4].

Furthermore, the drug metformin comes from a plant known as the French Lilac. This plant has been used traditionally since the Middle Ages to treat excessive urination due to diabetes. Initially, the medication was described in 1922, and in 1994 the FDA approved it since then, metformin has served as a medication for diabetes.

Berberine vs. Metformin Benefits

Metformin and berberine have both been used to treat diabetes for a very long time and are both substances that have been around for a while. However, they have only recently been used as a longevity treatment. 

Let’s look at some of the potential health benefits of berberine and metformin.

Berberine vs. Metformin for Diabetes

Shilajit vs. Sea Moss 5

Research has shown that berberine and metformin showed similar efficacy in improving glucose control, including reducing fasting and post-prandial (after meal) glucose levels and enhancing insulin sensitivity.

Hence, berberine is a potent anti-diabetic agent that has been considered safe and cost-effective. Nonetheless, more research studies are required to confirm its long-term effects and outcomes in diabetes in a larger population [15].

Berberine vs. Metformin for Anti-aging

Supporting the body’s repair process and pursuing a longevity lifestyle can achieve in various ways. Some of them particularly involve dietary and exercise regimens. Furthermore, the body’s healing process may be supported by compounds known as “geroprotectors,” according to anti-aging studies. In particular, berberine, a dietary supplement, and Metformin are two examples of these compounds.

Previously, a study on flies showed that berberine increased their lifespan. This resulted in exploring research on how berberine can fight aging in humans [5 6]. 

Researchers have found that type 2 diabetic patients who use metformin may generally live longer. It is correlated to studies with mice where metformin increased lifespan and overall health [7, 8].

The TAME (Targeting Aging with Metformin) research also examines the possibility of increasing the number of healthy years of life for individuals. [9].

Berberine vs. Metformin for Weight Loss

Shilajit vs. Sea Moss 6

A study has shown that berberine is significantly better than metformin at reducing the total cholesterol levels and levels of triglycerides, a type of fat found in your blood. Berberine may also reduce weight and hip circumference [15].

Both metformin and berberine can bring about weight loss and may be a safe option for people who have obesity and are looking to lose weight. However, more research needs to compare the efficacy of berberine and metformin for weight loss.

Berberine vs. Metformin for PCOS

One short research of 89 PCOS patients showed that berberine was superior to metformin at lowering levels of both the waist-to-hip ratio and male hormones [10].

Although the results are intriguing, further studies are still required to determine how berberine may impact weight growth and fat distribution when it comes to larger PCOS groups. 

Berberine vs. Metformin Side Effects

In general, berberine appears to be safe and well-tolerated in most people [11]. But some patients may occasionally experience side effects of berberine on the digestive system, such as gas, diarrhea, and stomach pain [12].

Meanwhile, there are a few typical side effects of metformin. Although they can happen when you first start taking metformin, these often go away with time. Always inform your doctor if these symptoms bother you or are particularly severe.

Metformin adverse effects

When using metformin for the first time, some of the most typical adverse effects are nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Usually, these problems lessen with time. And when metformin is taken with a meal, it will relieve these side effects.

In general, your physician may put you on a low dosage of metformin and eventually raise it to reduce your risk of experiencing severe diarrhea.

Berberine and Metformin Together

Although some people might view berberine as a metformin substitute, the two drugs may work better together. For instance, berberine may support normal levels of lactic acid when used with metformin [13]. At least in mice, the combination of berberine and metformin was beneficial.

According to another study, using metformin and berberine together may strengthen its hypoglycemic effects [14]. In other words, the effects of these substances are not simply additive but also synergistic. This means that using metformin and berberine together can potentially increase its efficacy in treating certain conditions.

In some cases, berberine can also increase the intestines’ capacity to tolerate metformin therapy.

Bottomline: Metformin Vs. Berberine Benefits

When comparing berberine to metformin, it becomes clear that while their respective modes of action differ, the two compounds have similar overall effects. Both should be considered in research on human longevity. Further study may also suggest that both can slow down the aging process. 

It is always best to consult with your healthcare provider about consuming berberine supplements and metformin medication in terms of proper dosage and use.

Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.

Editorial References And Fact-Checking 

  • Wang H, Zhu C, Ying Y, Luo L, Huang D, Luo Z. Metformin and berberine, two versatile drugs in treatment of common metabolic diseases. Oncotarget. 2017 Sep 11;9(11):10135-10146. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.20807. PMID: 29515798; PMCID: PMC5839379.
  • Clinical Applications for Berberine. (n.d.). Naturalmedicinejournal.
  • Yun S. Lee, Woo S. Kim, Kang H. Kim, Myung J. Yoon, Hye J. Cho, Yun Shen, Ji-Ming Ye, Chul H. Lee, Won K. Oh, Chul T. Kim, Cordula Hohnen-Behrens, Alison Gosby, Edward W. Kraegen, David E. James, Jae B. Kim; Berberine, a Natural Plant Product, Activates AMP-Activated Protein Kinase With Beneficial Metabolic Effects in Diabetic and Insulin-Resistant States. Diabetes 1 August 2006; 55 (8): 2256–2264.
  • Navrotskaya VV, Oxenkrug G, Vorobyova LI, Summergrad P. Berberine Prolongs Life Span and Stimulates Locomotor Activity of Drosophila melanogaster. Am J Plant Sci. 2012 Jul;3(7A):1037-1040. doi: 10.4236/ajps.2012.327123. PMID: 26167392; PMCID: PMC4498586.
  • Xu Z, Feng W, Shen Q, Yu N, Yu K, Wang S, Chen Z, Shioda S, Guo Y. Rhizoma Coptidis and Berberine as a Natural Drug to Combat Aging and Aging-Related Diseases via Anti-Oxidation and AMPK Activation. Aging Dis. 2017 Dec 1;8(6):760-777. doi: 10.14336/AD.2016.0620. PMID: 29344415; PMCID: PMC5758350.
  • Effect of intensive blood-glucose control with metformin on complications in overweight patients with type 2 diabetes (UKPDS 34). UK Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) Group. Lancet. 1998 Sep 12;352(9131):854-65. Erratum in: Lancet 1998 Nov 7;352(9139):1558. PMID: 9742977.
  • Martin-Montalvo A, Mercken EM, Mitchell SJ, Palacios HH, Mote PL, Scheibye-Knudsen M, Gomes AP, Ward TM, Minor RK, Blouin MJ, Schwab M, Pollak M, Zhang Y, Yu Y, Becker KG, Bohr VA, Ingram DK, Sinclair DA, Wolf NS, Spindler SR, Bernier M, de Cabo R. Metformin improves healthspan and lifespan in mice. Nat Commun. 2013;4:2192. doi: 10.1038/ncomms3192. PMID: 23900241; PMCID: PMC3736576.
  • Clinical Applications for Berberine. (n.d.). Naturalmedicinejournal.
  • Targeting the Biology of Aging. Ushering a New Era of Interventions. (n.d.). American Federation for Aging Research.
  • Wei W, Zhao H, Wang A, Sui M, Liang K, Deng H, Ma Y, Zhang Y, Zhang H, Guan Y. A clinical study on the short-term effect of berberine in comparison to metformin on the metabolic characteristics of women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Eur J Endocrinol. 2012 Jan;166(1):99-105. doi: 10.1530/EJE-11-0616. Epub 2011 Oct 21. PMID: 22019891.
  • Zhang Y, Li X, Zou D, Liu W, Yang J, Zhu N, Huo L, Wang M, Hong J, Wu P, Ren G, Ning G. Treatment of type 2 diabetes and dyslipidemia with the natural plant alkaloid berberine. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Jul;93(7):2559-65. doi: 10.1210/jc.2007-2404. Epub 2008 Apr 8. PMID: 18397984.
  • Yin J, Xing H, Ye J. Efficacy of berberine in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metabolism. 2008 May;57(5):712-7. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2008.01.013. PMID: 18442638; PMCID: PMC2410097.
  • Almani SA, Memon IA, Shaikh TZ, Khoharo HK, Ujjan I. Berberine protects against metformin-associated lactic acidosis in induced diabetes mellitus. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2017 May;20(5):511-515. doi: 10.22038/IJBMS.2017.8675. PMID: 28656086; PMCID: PMC5478779.
  • Wang, L. (2021, November 8). Berberine and Metformin in the Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Systemic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. Scientific Research.
  • Yin, J., Xing, H., & Ye, J. (2008). Efficacy of berberine in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metabolism: clinical and experimental57(5), 712–717.


  • Charish Luzuriaga, RDN

    Charish is a Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian (RDN) who really enjoys helping her readers understand their dietary habits better. She has impressive experience and knowledge about the nutritional values of various foods and ingredients and enjoys informing her readers about popular diets, supplements, and herbs. Charish harnesses her nutritional expertise to inspire and empower people to make positive, healthy changes through what they eat (and drink!). LinkedIn


Charish is a Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian (RDN) who really enjoys helping her readers understand their dietary habits better. She has impressive experience and knowledge about the nutritional values of various foods and ingredients and enjoys informing her readers about popular diets, supplements, and herbs. Charish harnesses her nutritional expertise to inspire and empower people to make positive, healthy changes through what they eat (and drink!). LinkedIn