I was speaking with a friend whose doctor wanted to place him on Metformin for his elevated glucose levels. I’m always amazed at how casually we accept these diagnoses. Diabetes is a serious problem and needs to be addressed. But simple changes including modifying his diet, taking an alternative to the drug and maintaining a healthier lifestyle should be the first recourse. Instead, we are so brainwashed that there’s a drug for everything, we almost expect the prescription pad to come out. When I suggested trying berberine, a medicinal herb like goldenseal, instead of Metformin, the objection was that there are no long-term studies proving that the effects of an herb with antibiotic properties would be beneficial.
It took me just 2 minutes to go to PubMed and search for ‘berberine and diabetes’ where I found 203 studies. Certainly that indicates that there is research on these natural alternatives to medicines. The first study I read indicated that studies proved that berberine lowers glucose in type 2 diabetes patients. Not only that one study but others prove that it lowers cholesterol  and even states “Berberine is one of the main alkaloids of Rhizoma coptidis (a Chinese herb) which has been used to treat diabetes for more than 1400 years in China.” The antibiotic effect of an herb will be less invasive than an antibiotic drug. It has been shown to inhibit the growth of MRSA infections  and less likely to cause antibiotic resistance.
Too many times I have heard from people that they had gone to their doctors and asked about a natural alternative to a medication only to be dismissed saying there isn’t any medical evidence to support the “alternative” approach. And all too often, we as patients, defer to the judgment of the doctor because we feel he or she has the years of training and experience. I agree that our conventional medical practitioners are well educated and spend many years practicing their craft to gain that experience and provide the best care that is within their area of specialty.
Today’s every changing world presents an increasing challenge for the conventionally trained doctor to keep up with the vast amount of research. Nowadays, more medical studies are published in a month than used to be published in a year! It is also true that many doctors get their pharmaceutical updates from the sales representatives who hawk their latest wonder drug. Trying to keep current on the alternatives to pharmaceuticals can be daunting. Classically trained doctors are not given extensive instruction in nutrition as a health foundation or medicinal herbs or essential oils for healing and prevention.
The average practicing doctor does not have the hundreds of hours it would take to pour over medical literature to extract the latest advances outside of the traditional synthetic chemical compounds we use as drugs. I mean no disrespect to any doctor who has the goal of helping his patients in the best way he or she knows how. I will seek out conventional medical care in a heartbeat if I have a broken leg or some acute traumatic accident that needs critical attention. But for the types of inflammation that we create in our own bodies because we either eat poorly, don’t get enough sleep or just have very bad habits or addictions, we can reverse the process naturally. We need to be our own advocates for our health and that may mean we begin seeking out the alternatives and bringing them to our doctors.
Not every ailment needs to be treated with a drug. Our bodies don’t lack the synthetic chemical that is often prescribed for any illness we may present to the doctor. We are part of nature and as such, we have all that we need within nature to support our bodies. You may have heard the saying before – depression isn’t caused by a lack of Prozac. The same thing is true for other ailments. We need to support our bodies with the gifts of the Earth that have been around for thousands of years.
First and foremost, we need to eat real, whole foods – not processed or manufactured foods. We need to drink clean, filtered water without fluoride or chlorine. We need to sleep to detoxify and rejuvenate our bodies. And when something is out of whack, we need to look for the natural method of bringing ourselves back into alignment.
Well, unless our doctors are trained in Chinese herbalism, studied functional medicine or even follows chiropractic medicine, it is unlikely that he or she will ever think about herbs, essential oils or other natural forms of medicine. It is unfortunate that within the last 100 years we have taken such a shift from the homeopathy of our grandparents or their parents and changed direction to what I feel is the “alternative” to natural medicine. Rather than being the norm, it should be the last resort.
Like with medicines, berberine isn’t for everyone. It’s not recommended for infants, children or while breast feeding. You will want to check on interactions with any other medication you may be taking. People with low blood pressure should be cautious when taking it as it might lower pressure further. The same protocols should be followed as taking any medication, take only as directed and in the proper dosage. But berberine is one of the few supplements, with human evidence, that establishes it to be as effective as pharmaceuticals. 
Contrast that to the side effects of metformin: 
- allergic reactions like skin rash, itching or hives, swelling of the face, lips, or tongue
- breathing problems
- feeling faint or lightheaded, falls
- muscle aches or pains
- signs and symptoms of low blood sugar such as feeling anxious, confusion, dizziness, increased hunger, unusually weak or tired, sweating, shakiness, cold, irritable, headache, blurred vision, fast heartbeat, loss of consciousness
- slow or irregular heartbeat
- unusual stomach pain or discomfort
- unusually tired or weak
- metallic taste in mouth
- stomach gas, upset
If we care for ourselves – eat well, rest, avoid toxic exposure – then we are less likely to need medical care. But when something goes wrong, let’s not rush to the chemical alternative. Try the natural approach. It is far less likely to cause a side effect, unless you are naturally allergic to the components. But almost all synthetic drugs have side effects. Antibiotics kill all of the bacteria in our bodies. We need the good bacteria remain healthy. Chemotherapy kills good and bad cells. It literally poisons our systems and we need to be strong enough just to undergo the treatments.
You decide – natural or chemical?