Various herbs and supplements have been promoted for their effects on testosterone.
But does berberine increase testosterone levels in men?
Berberine is an ingredient found in many natural supplements and has been shown to have potential health benefits.
Some studies have suggested that it may decrease testosterone levels in men.
However, more recent evidence points out the opposite, which increases testosterone in some people.
What causes the discrepancy?
In this blog post, we will explore what berberine is, what it’s used for, and whether or not it can raise testosterone levels in men.
What is berberine?
Berberine is an alkaloid you can find in several plants, including barberry, goldenseal, and Oregon grape. It is also available as a supplement in tablets or capsule form, as a powder, and as a liquid (1).
Berberine is available for men in several forms, including:
- Berberine HCL (hydrochloride): Berberine HCL, the most common form of berberine, is the least expensive form available. It is typically extracted and purified from bitter melon.
- Berberine sulfate: Berberine sulfate is a water-soluble salt of berberine and is often used for medicinal purposes. It can be extracted from the roots of certain plants, including goldenseal.
- Berberine glucoside: Berberine glucoside is extracted from berberis vulgaris. This form of berberine is rarely used.
How does berberine work?
Berberine’s uses are due to its targeting of adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK).
This enzyme is an important cellular energy regulator involved in inflammation, insulin resistance, and cell death.
AMPK also affects the production of fatty acids and glucose metabolism, both of which are linked to obesity and diabetes.
Berberine benefits AMPK, leading to enhanced insulin signaling and glucose uptake (2). That’s perhaps the most important mechanism of berberine, according to studies, and it is similar to metformin and Glucophage.
Berberine has been shown to act on AMPK both directly and indirectly. The nutrient directly activates AMPK and stimulates insulin production without causing an insulin spike, which helps to stabilize glucose levels.
In liver cells, these supplements inhibit cholesterol and triglyceride synthesis. In the brain, it reduces malonyl-CoA, which is the first step to creating mitochondria, the cell’s powerhouse.
Berberine also activates AMPK indirectly by changing how hormones interact with receptors. This is achieved by reducing the activity of proteins such as protein kinase C (PKC) and AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). That’s how berberine improves insulin signaling.
Additionally, berberine prevents the activation of AMPK through glucose, which can also inhibit glucose uptake without leading to hypoglycemia. There is also an interaction with the testosterone receptors, as discussed below (2).
Does berberine lower testosterone?
Berberine may interact with testosterone due to its ability to act as a selective androgen receptor modulator. In other words, it modulates how androgen receptors react to testosterone. This is similar to the process of insulin sensitivity discussed above.
In this case, many studies have shown how berberine targets and induces protein degradation in the androgen receptor. Thus, with berberine around, testosterone reduces its effectiveness to reach and stimulate certain types of cells (3).
On the other hand, studies about berberine and testosterone levels are contradictory.
Thus, the mechanism of protein degradation described above is well-understood, but the effects of berberine on testosterone levels require further research. Some researchers suggest that conversion from cholesterol to testosterone is reduced after a reduction of total cholesterol levels (4).
Does berberine increase testosterone levels?
Recent research has gone through the apparent discrepancy and lack of consensus mentioned above. That is how a recent randomized controlled trial published in the journal Nutrients evaluated the effect of berberine.
After their interventions in Chinese individuals, the authors concluded that berberine lowers men’s cholesterol, and instead of lowering testosterone, it may increase its levels in men (5).
The authors suggest sex-specific effects of berberine. In other words, it may decrease testosterone levels in women with polycystic ovary syndrome while boosting testosterone in males. These sex differences are a relatively new field of study.
Other authors reached the same conclusion in their review and meta-analysis of the scientific evidence. This article is a preprint study that still needs to go through peer-reviewing.
However, if future research continues to point in this direction, berberine can be useful in a hormone-balancing program for men and women with inadequate testosterone levels for their sex (6).
In a nutshell, some studies show that berberine lowers testosterone. Other studies show an increase in testosterone levels.
When breaking down patients in age and gender, berberine appears to have sex-dependent effects. It modulates testosterone levels depending on the natural levels according to your gender. However, more evidence is required to translate this finding into clinical practice.
Benefits of berberine for men
The plants that contain berberine and over-the-counter supplements with this ingredient are used to treat many health conditions and mitigate the symptoms of others.
Studies show positive health outcomes in the following conditions (7):
Berberine has been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells and prevent them from spreading to other tissues. For instance, it is a promising solution for prostate cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia.
The mechanism of androgen receptor degradation mentioned above can help reduce prostate growth triggered by testosterone.
It may also reduce the rate of testosterone synthesis in cancer cells, improving the outcome of castrate-resistant prostate cancer.
Berberine has been shown to lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. As mentioned above, this is one of the most critical mechanisms of berberine in the human body.
It regulates energy metabolism at different levels and in different tissues. Thus, both type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome patients can benefit from berberine supplementation.
Berberine has been shown to improve circulation and reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors, including plaque build-up in the arteries. That’s because berberine is considered one of the best cholesterol supplement options.
Berberine reduces cholesterol levels in the blood and improves cardiovascular risk. Heart and circulation problems are common in males, and they may benefit significantly from berberine supplements to lower their risk.
Consult your healthcare provider for more information about these uses applied to your case. Remember that berberine can be useful for many conditions, but it doesn’t replace medical therapy, and current research requires interpretation from a healthcare professional.
4 natural ways to increase testosterone
Increase testosterone naturally through vitamin D
Men should increase their exposure to the sun to increase testosterone levels naturally. While extensive sun exposure can be harmful, it also helps increase testosterone levels. For men, it is essential to get enough vitamin D, which sunlight provides quickly.
Increase your intake of protein
Foods high in protein (such as lean beef, eggs, nuts, and seeds) help increase testosterone levels without adverse health consequences.
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Exercise to improve testosterone levels
Men who exercise regularly are more likely to have higher testosterone levels by increasing their muscle mass. This is because exercise helps to build muscle, which helps to increase the levels of testosterone in the body.
Including weight training as part of the exercise routines is more likely to increase testosterone than other fitness activities.
In addition to nutrients and exercise, men can also increase their testosterone levels through natural supplements. For instance, vitamin D, zinc, magnesium, DHEA, boron, and ashwagandha can be effective options to increase testosterone levels.
Testosterone plays a crucial role in the development of male sexual characteristics. It is also responsible for the body’s production of red blood cells, the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats, and much more.
As an overview, berberine is an alkaloid supplement mainly used to control blood sugar levels and improve blood sugar issues such as metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. However, berberine may also interact with testosterone receptors and testosterone synthesis.
There is a lack of consensus about the effects of berberine on testosterone levels. However, recent evidence suggests that it has a sex-dependent effect.
In males, it may increase testosterone levels while decreasing them in females, making it suitable for a hormone detox plan. Berberine can also be used to lower cholesterol and reduce prostate cancer risk, cardiovascular risk, and metabolic disease.