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Can Berberine Cause Anxiety?

Berberine, a natural compound, does not seem to cause anxiety. Instead, it may help reduce it.

Berberine has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. Found in plants like goldenseal and Oregon grape, it has been studied for various health benefits. This article explores whether berberine can cause anxiety based on scientific research.

Pharmacological Effects of Berberine

Berberine affects the central nervous system. It crosses the blood-brain barrier and shows neuroprotective effects. Conditions like Alzheimer’s, depression, and anxiety may benefit from it. According to a study, berberine modulates neurotransmitters crucial for mood regulation.

Anxiolytic Effects

Studies suggest berberine has anxiolytic properties. In animal tests, it increased time spent in open spaces, indicating reduced anxiety. Berberine binds to the GABAA receptor, a common target for anxiety treatments. This binding enhances the inhibitory effects of GABA, reducing anxiety.

Mechanisms of Action

Berberine’s anxiolytic effects involve several mechanisms:

  1. GABAergic System: Berberine enhances GABA’s inhibitory effects, reducing anxiety.
  2. Serotoninergic System: It influences serotonin, crucial for mood regulation.
  3. Oxidative Stress: Berberine’s antioxidant effects may also reduce anxiety.

Potential for Anxiety Induction

Research focuses more on berberine’s potential to reduce anxiety rather than induce it. For example, a study on methamphetamine-induced anxiety in rats found that berberine reduced anxiety behaviors.

Safety and Tolerability

Berberine is generally well-tolerated. High doses, however, may cause side effects like gastrointestinal discomfort and cardiac damage. Approximately 34.5% of patients experienced transient gastrointestinal effects at standard doses. No direct evidence links these side effects to anxiety induction.

Drug Interactions

Berberine interacts with medications for diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular conditions. It may also interact with antidepressants and antibiotics. These interactions could affect mood and anxiety levels, but no specific evidence suggests berberine itself causes anxiety.

Clinical Studies and Human Trials

Most evidence on berberine’s effects on anxiety comes from animal studies. Human clinical trials are limited. One trial with 164 patients showed berberine improved depression scores in irritable bowel syndrome patients. This improvement might relate to better intestinal symptoms, not directly to anxiety or depression treatment.

Need for Rigorous Trials

More rigorous clinical trials are needed. These trials should establish dosing guidelines, efficacy, and safety in humans. The translation of berberine’s benefits to clinical practice requires further validation.

Key Takeaways

  • Berberine shows potential anxiolytic effects.
  • No direct evidence suggests berberine causes anxiety.
  • Berberine interacts with the GABAergic and serotoninergic systems.
  • High doses may cause side effects, but not anxiety.
  • More human clinical trials are needed.


Berberine does not appear to cause anxiety. Instead, it shows potential anxiolytic effects. Its interaction with the GABAergic and serotoninergic systems and antioxidant properties support its role in reducing anxiety. However, more human clinical trials are needed to fully understand its effects on anxiety and other mood disorders.



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