Barberry contains berberine and other isoquinoline alkaloids responsible for its bitter taste and also its antimicrobial properties. As a digestive bitter, herbalists use barberry to improve digestive function to treat indigestion, gallstones and liver disease. Also, it's particularly useful for infections of the digestive tract including diarrhea caused by both bacteria and parasites. Research suggests the presents of flavonolignans in barberry inhibit multi-drug resistant pumps thereby working synergistically with berberine to over-come drug-resistant infections. Also, the flavonolignans possess hepatoprotective properties making them useful for liver diseases like hepatitis.
Most of the clinical trials conducted use berberine extracts rather than the herb. Berberine has shown benefit against diarrhea-predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS-D) and associated micro-organism including Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) diarrhea and giardia. Also, several studies suggest that berberine may improve blood sugar levels and may be useful in diabetes. Berberine inhibits cholesterol synthesis and may aid in heart disease. Human trials show it lowers liver enzymes and may be valuable in the treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
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