Menopause and the years before and after can be challenging, especially as hormone changes affect mood and brain function. A natural substance known as berberine (Coptis chinensis, Hydrastis canadensis), which is found in a variety of plants and is also available as a supplement, has been shown to help with these issues.
What is berberine?
A number of plants contain berberine, an isoquinoline alkaloid that has a long history in traditional Chinese medicine. In recent years, experts have explored the potential health benefits of this natural remedy and, according to a 2015 study, it “has been recognized as being capable of decreasing oxidative stress, LDL [low-density lipoproteins], triglycerides, and insulin resistance and of improving the mood.” Some of the plants that contain it include goldenseal, goldthread, greater celandine, Oregon grape, European barberry, tree turmeric, and Phellodendron.
How berberine may help in menopause
Generally, berberine has been shown to help with a variety of perimenopausal issues and assist with oxidative stress, inflammation, high cholesterol, hyperglycemia, and depression. According to the authors of one review that looked at the benefits of using berberine in managing perimenopausal syndrome, “this molecule could be an effective natural supplement to ensure a smooth peri- and postmenopausal transition.”
In the realm of brain health and emotional support in menopause, berberine appears to be a good candidate. For example:
Mood disorders: Depression, including major depressive disorder, affects women in the perimenopause years and beyond. In animal studies, berberine has demonstrated an ability to regulate the neurotransmitters involved in depression, including serotonin and dopamine. The authors even noted that “berberine…has the potential to become a mainstream drug for treating mood disorders.”
Brain health and function. Berberine has been called a nootropic, which is a substance that can enhance brain function and mood. It has the ability to activate adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which has a direct impact on brain cell energy, repair, function, and maintenance.
Some animal research suggests berberine may help with Alzheimer’s disease. This disease is more common among women after menopause, which may be associated with the loss of the protective action of estrogen for brain health. A team of experts reported that the use of berberine in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease had a positive impact on tau, a protein associated with the disease. They noted that “these findings strongly support berberine as a potential drug candidate for AD.”
Memory booster. Experts have discovered that berberine inhibits the activity of the enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and boosts glucagon-like peptides (GLP-1). AChE is responsible for breaking down acetylcholine (Ach), a neurotransmitter that is essential for memory, focus, and concentration. When the breakdown of Ach is prevented, more is available for memory, learning, and recall.
How to use berberine
Choose a high-quality berberine supplement and take it according to package directions or discuss your dosing needs with a knowledgeable healthcare professional. It is available in soft gels and capsules.
Berberine may be a natural alternative treatment for helping manage symptoms associated with perimenopause and menopause, including brain health and emotional support. More research is needed in this area, but limited studies thus far have provided promising results.