Does Berberine Influence Hair Growth or Hair Loss?

In this blog, we will take a close look at Berberine, an isoquinoline alkaloid found in several plants and used in traditional Chinese medicine. We will explore its pharmacological activity, potential side effects, and its possible influence on hair growth and loss.
Greta Daniskova

Greta Daniskova

Greta is a BSc Biomedical Science student at the University of Westminster, London.

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What is Berberine?

Berberine is a group of isoquinoline alkaloids in general and in particular organic constituents naturally occurring in several kinds of plants, namely Coptis sp, Berberis sp, Phellodendri Chinensis Cortex, used in Chinese medicine since more than one thousand years ago, as an anti-diarrhoealagent against bacterial gastroenteritis and diarrhoea [1, 2]. Berberin is in the roots or rhizomes and stem bark [3].

What does Berberine do?

Berberine shows an excellent spectrum of pharmacological activity It has been studied for the treatment of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hyperlipidemia, inflammation, bacterial and viral infections, mental disease and Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, and more [1, 4].

In diabetic patients, berberine has been demonstrated to induce a substantial decrease in fasting blood glucose, haemoglobin A1C, inflammatory cytokines and oxidative stress markers while rapidly increasing insulin secretion, ameliorating insulin resistance and providing protection against diabetes complications, namely hepatic damage, cardiovascular disorders, nephropathy, and neuropathy [5].

Furthermore, Berberine shows anti-inflammatory and antioxidative potential. Recently, it was reported that this alkaloid possesses neuroprotective activity due to antiapoptotic, antioxidative and anti-inflammatory activities along with well-known pathways, eg, the Pl3K/Akt/Bcl-2 pathway, Nrf2/HO-1 pathway and MAPK signalling pathway [6].

Moreover, berberine inhibits the survival of bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoans, helminths and chlamydia as an efficient antimicrobial agent [3]. Also, berberine demonstrates antiproliferative effects by inhibiting the proliferation of multiple cancer cell lines [7], and diminished invasion and metastasis.

Side effects of Berberine

Berberine, a plant extract widely used in clinical practice, is generally well-tolerated. However, it does have some side effects that users should be aware of.

Perhaps the most frequent adverse effect of berberine ingestion is related to gastrointestinal symptoms, in particular, constipation and diarrhoea [8].

Besides gastrointestinal symptoms, berberine might interact with some enzymes of the body like Cyp3a11 and Cyp2d22 enzyme, which when given at high doses decrease by 67.9% and 32.4%, respectively [9]. Thus, this could lead to a drug-drug interaction in patients taking other medicines metabolized by these enzymes.

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Finally, although berberine has shown promise in a wide range of beneficial effects, bioavailability – the percentage or volume of a substance that ends up in the body during digestion and/or absorption – is quite low after oral administration and this can limit its potential impact [10].

Can Berberine influence hair growth/loss?

Berberine exerts a strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity [11]. There is evidence that inflammatory disease and oxidative stress can cause hair loss – by damaging hair follicles [12]. Therefore, berberine’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties may help to prevent damage to hair follicles.

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Berberine is also known to affect cell growth and differentiation; it has been found to suppress the growth of certain tumours and induce cell cycle arrest [13, 14]. Some layers of the hair follicle undergo cell differentiation and rapid cell division during hair growth, making these targets for anti-hair growth therapy but whether these effects would also happen in hair follicle cells remains unknown.

Remarkably, behind its skin-darkening capacity, berberine enhances in a dose-dependent way the number of melanin-containing dendrites in skin cells [15]. Melanin is the natural pigment that gives our hair, skin, and eyes their colour. It’s unclear, however, whether or not the same skin-darkening effect berberine has on the skin might also have an impact on hair pigments or hair health as well.

Conclusion

In conclusion, even though berberine has high biological activities that possibly may have indirect applications on hair health, no evidence has proven berberine can control hair loss or hair growth till now. More powerful and well-designed experiments are needed.

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Greta Daniskova

Greta Daniskova

Greta is a 2nd-year student currently pursuing her Bachelor's Degree in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Westminster in London. Currently, in her second year of undergraduate studies, she exhibits a keen interest in the dynamic field of healthcare. With a focus on understanding the intricacies of human biology and disease mechanisms, Greta is driven by a desire to contribute to advancements in medical research and patient care.