Metformin vs Berberine, Comparison, Dosage, Price, a Guide

Posted May 7, 2021 by Michael Chamberlain - See Editorial Guidelines

If you’re wondering how metformin vs berberine measures up, then we’ve compiled the comparison article for you.

Here you’ll find out how they both work, how effective each is, and more. Here is a quick summary to get us started.

Metformin and berberine are both taken in tablet form and are designed to reduce the release of glucose from the liver and activate AMPK for diabetes patients. Each also targets and alleviates various other conditions alongside type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Metformin Berberine
TreatsType 2 diabetesType 1 and 2 diabetes
How they workReduces the release of glucose from the liverActivates AMPK
Dosage500mg once or twice a day500 mg 1-4 times a day
EffectivenessEffective, Metformin is saferEffective, Metformin is safer
AvailabilityPrescriptionRetail and store purchase

So, let’s get into some details on both metformin and berberine, starting with what each is.

What are They? Metformin vs Berberine

metformin vs berberine

Metformin is mostly sold under the brand name Glucophage. It’s used as a first-line treatment for type 2 diabetes.

Specifically, metformin is used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes in people who are overweight.

Metformin is also used for treating polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). But the use for PCOS is not officially approved. 

Berberine, on the other hand, is used for treating diabetes, as well as other conditions.

Unlike metformin, berberine treats both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It’s used for treating high levels of cholesterol, other fats such as (lipids) in the blood, and high blood pressure.

Sometimes berberine is used for high blood pressure, cancer, bacterial infections, high cholesterol, and inflammation. So, if you consider using these for such issues, it’s recommended that you consult with your doctor first.

How do They Work? Metformin vs Berberine

As metformin is primarily used to treat type 2 diabetes, it mainly works by reducing the amount of sugar your liver releases into the blood.

Metformin also supports your body in responding better to insulin (insulin sensitivity). As such, both these effects of metformin go a long way toward helping with the treatment of type 2 diabetes. 

On the other hand, berberine works by activating the enzyme known as adenosine 5′ monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK). This activation helps in regulating how your body uses glucose in your blood.

The activation of AMPK also helps to treat diabetes-related health issues, such as obesity and high cholesterol.

APMK activation

To provide some background on AMPK, it’s an energy-sensing enzyme that is usually signaled and activated when cellular energy levels are low.

This enzyme is activated to uptake glucose from skeletal muscles, fatty acid oxidation in adipose (and other) tissues, and help reduce hepatic glucose production. 

AMPK is deregulated in patients with metabolic syndrome or type 2 diabetes. So, the activation of AMPK (physiological or pharmacological) goes a long way in improving insulin sensitivity and metabolic health.

The AMPK activation that benefits type 2 diabetes is also a mechanism metformin uses for treating type 2 diabetes.

AMPK activation is the primary mechanism through which berberine works. But again, berberine can also work via multiple other mechanisms as follows: 

  • Reduces your body’s insulin resistance. This helps in making insulin more effective, thereby supporting an effective mechanism to treat diabetes.
  • Slows the breakdown of carbohydrates in the gut.
  • Increases the number of good bacteria in the gut.
  • Increases the levels of glycolysis, which helps your body break down sugars inside cells.

Dosage of Metformin and Berberine

Dosage for metformin and berberine is similar, but there are some variations in the types of tablets and the times at which you should take them. Let’s start with metformin…

Metformin dosage

To begin with, metformin is a medication that requires a valid prescription in the United States. If your insurance does not cover this, then we may be able to assist in obtaining this medication for just $50 per month – here’s how it works.

Metformin dose varies from one person to another.

This often depends on the condition they take medication for, the severity of the condition, and so on.

On average Metformin is taken as 500mg once or twice per day. 

Also, metformin comes in two different types of tablets. One is a standard-release tablet, and the other is a slow-release tablet.

The standard release tablet works through a mechanism that can release the medication more quickly into your body. So, your healthcare provider may prescribe them to be taken more than just once a day – depending on your dose and other health conditions. 

Slow-release tablets, on the other hand, as the phrase suggests, release the medication slowly into the body. This means you don’t have to take them as often.

In general, most take one dose per day, usually with the evening meal. 

Berberine dosage

Berberine is available in the form of numerous supplements.

You don’t need a prescription to get berberine as you do with metformin. However, there is always a risk in selecting the best berberine product.

To ensure best safety practices, purchase products from a reputable company that uses quality suppliers. 

When it comes to berberine dosage, on average the dose is 500mg one to four times per day.

Here’s how to spread your dosage through the day.

Although you can get berberine without a prescription, it’s always best to consult a healthcare provider to consider the right course of action and dosage that meets your needs. 

Taking Metformin and Berberine Together

Some may consider berberine to be an alternative to metformin and vice versa. However, the best part is that they may actually complement each other. 

Using berberine and metformin together may provide better treatment for diabetes in some cases. And some research suggests that berberine may actually limit lactic acidosis, which is a serious side effect associated with metformin. However, before taking berberine and metformin together, consult your healthcare provider.

Which is More Effective?

It is generally believed that berberine can work as effectively as metformin and vice versa.

Both these medications treat several other medical conditions in addition to diabetes. So, the effectiveness of each of these medications can vary from one medical condition to another. For that reason, it isn’t easy to make a clear comparison of effectiveness.

However, if we focus on diabetes, the safest option over effectiveness should be credited to metformin.

This is because metformin is available only through proper consultation and followed up with a prescription.

On the other hand, berberine is available in various supplement forms and is available without a prescription.

This makes it more difficult to assess its quality, and therefore any associated risks. 

Price metformin vs Berberine

Metformin, an oral tablet of 500 mg, costs around $11 for a supply of 14 tablets. This may vary depending on the pharmacy you visit. This price is not subject to any insurance plans and is only for cash-paying customers.

The price of berberine will vary depending on where you purchase the supplement and the form you purchase. However, on average, berberine may work out to be more expensive than metformin.

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We hope this has helped answer your questions when comparing metformin vs berberine. As we have mentioned throughout, always consult your healthcare provider for advice related to your specific medical condition.