Can You Take Berberine On An Empty Stomach? | A Likely No!
Written By Kobi Nathan, Pharm.D., M.Ed., CDP, BCGP, AGSF
Sleep Disorders
November 7, 2023

Traditional medicine has used berberine, a natural compound found in plants like goldenseal, barberry, and Oregon grape, for a long time because it might be good for your health.

As more studies have been done on this bioactive compound, it has become more popular as a supplement.

Many people want to know if taking berberine on an empty stomach is safe and effective.

In this article, we’ll explain the specifics to give you a full guide.

You can view my YouTube channel video on Berberine below:


Health benefits of berberine

Before discussing whether you should take berberine on an empty stomach, you need to know what it is and how it works.

Berberine is an alkaloid, a natural organic compound used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years.

Berberine is a powerful supplement with many benefits for overall health, including heart health, controlling blood sugar levels, helping people lose weight healthily, maintaining healthy cholesterol, and more.

When berberine is taken by mouth, it gets into the bloodstream and communicates with cells all over the body.

It has been shown to turn on an enzyme called adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which is sometimes called the “metabolic master switch.”

Activating AMPK can help control how glucose and fats are used in the body.

Specifically, berberine has been shown to:

  • Maintain healthy blood sugar levels in diabetes patients.
  • Work very well when taken with prescription diabetes medications such as metformin.
  • Help lower blood lipids like cholesterol (LDL-C) and triglycerides.
  • Increase HDL-C ( the “good” cholesterol).
  • Reduce the buildup of plaque in blood vessels.
  • Helps regulate protein metabolism.
  • Interfere with the growth of fat cells at the molecular level.
  • Increase dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain (the “feel-good” brain chemicals).
  • Reduce inflammation by inhibiting a few cytokines.

This makes berberine a promising treatment for people with Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome.

Why berberine’s bioavailability is so important

When taking berberine, its bioavailability is among the most important things to consider.

Bioavailability is the amount of a substance that gets into the bloodstream and can have an effect.

Berberine’s bioavailability is low, which means that only a small amount of the compound that is eaten gets into the bloodstream.

Several things, like a person’s metabolic rate, the presence of other compounds in the supplement, and when the supplement is taken in relation to meals, can affect berberine’s bioavailability.

To get the most out of berberine, it’s important to make sure it’s absorbed well.

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Can I take berberine on an empty stomach?

Taking berberine on an empty stomach can cause GI upset. 

Whether you should take berberine on an empty stomach depends on why you want to take the supplement.

When taken on an empty stomach, berberine may be absorbed faster because it doesn’t have to compete with other nutrients in the digestive tract.

This could cause a temporary rise in the amount of berberine in the blood, which could have an effect more quickly.

Side effects of Berberine

As mentioned above, berberine can cause gastrointestinal problems like nausea, cramping, bloat, diarrhea, and constipation, especially if taken in large amounts or on an empty stomach. 

Getting the most out of Berberine

To get the most out of your berberine supplement, think about these tips for getting the most out of absorption:

  1. Take berberine with a meal. As we’ve already talked about, taking berberine with a meal or a light snack may help reduce stomach side effects and improve absorption at the same time.
  2. Choose a high-quality supplement. Look for a reputable company that uses standardized extracts to ensure that the amount of berberine in the supplement is always the same. I recommend BerbaPrime.

The company checks all the boxes:

  • 97% berberine HCL extract
  • ISO9001 and GMP-certified facility
  • Free U.S. Shipping
  • Industry-leading 100-day money-back guarantee (see their F.A.Q. for details)

BerbaPrime Supplement Ingredient Label

Berberine recommended dosage

  1. Follow the dosage instructions: Usually, it is taken in 500 mg doses two to three times a day. Before taking any new supplements, especially if you have preexisting conditions, talk to a doctor.
  2. Spread out your doses: To maintain steady blood berberine levels throughout the day, consider dividing your daily dosage into two or three smaller doses half an hour before meals.
  3. Monitor your response: Track how your body reacts to berberine supplements and consider changing the amount or when you take them based on your needs and tolerance. If you are worried about how berberine or any other supplement affects you, you should always talk to your doctor.

Warnings and reasons not to use berberine

While berberine is generally considered safe for most individuals, there are some precautions and contraindications to be aware of:

  • Berberine is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women because its safety has not been well-established during these times.
  • Diabetes medications: Berberine can lower blood sugar levels and may interact with diabetes medications, increasing the risk of hypoglycemia. Before taking berberine supplements, you should talk to your doctor if you are taking medicine for diabetes.
  • Medication for high blood pressure: Berberine may lower blood pressure, which could add to the effects of medication for high blood pressure. Talk to your doctor if you are taking medicine for high blood pressure.
  • Other medicines: Berberine can make it harder for the liver to break down some medicines, making their negative effects worse or less effective.
  • If you take prescription medications, consult your healthcare provider before starting berberine supplementation.



In conclusion, taking berberine on an empty stomach may help it get into the body faster but also cause stomach problems.

To get the most out of berberine and reduce the chance of negative effects, take it  20 to 30 minutes before a meal or a light snack, choose a high-quality supplement, and follow the dosage instructions.

Before taking new supplements, you should always talk to your doctor, especially if you already have health problems or are taking medications.

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