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Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2012 Feb;68(2):213-7. doi: 10.1007/s00228-011-1108-2. Epub 2011 Aug 26.

Repeated administration of berberine inhibits cytochromes P450 in humans.

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Pharmacogenetics Research Institute, Institute of Clinical Pharmacology, Central South University, XiangYa School of Medicine, 110 Xiang-Ya Road, Changsha, Hunan 410078, People's Republic of China.



Berberine is a plant alkaloid that is widely used to treat gastrointestinal infections, diabetes, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia. Many studies have reported interactions between berberine-containing products and cytochromes P450 (CYPs), but little is known about whether berberine alters CYP activities in humans, especially after repeated doses.


A two-phase randomized-crossover clinical study in healthy male subjects was performed. After 2 weeks of berberine (300 mg, t.i.d., p.o.) administration, midazolam, omeprazole, dextromethorphan, losartan, and caffeine were used to evaluate enzyme activities of CYP3A4, 2C19, 2D6, 2C9, and CYP1A2, respectively.


A decrease in CYP2D6 activity was observed as the 0-8 h urinary dextromethorphan/dextrorphan increased ninefold (P < 0.01). In addition, losartan/E-3174 ratio doubled (P < 0.01) after BBR administration, indicating a decrease in CYP2C9 activity. CYP3A4 activity was also inhibited, as the C(max), AUC(0-∞), and AUC(0-12) of midazolam were increased 38% (P < 0.05), 40% (P < 0.01), and 37% (P < 0.05) after BBR treatment, respectively. Compared with the placebo period, the T(max) and T(1/2) of midazolam during BBR administration were prolonged from 3.03 ± 0.27 to 3.66 ± 0.37 h and 0.66 ± 0.08 to 0.99 ± 0.09 h, respectively; the oral clearance of midazolam was decreased 27% (P < 0.05); and the phenotypic indices of 1 h midazolam/1'-hydroxymidazolam increased 59% (P < 0.01). There were no statistically significant differences in the pharmacokinetic parameters of the other probe drugs between placebo and the BBR-treated group.


Repeated administration of berberine (300 mg, t.i.d., p.o.) decreased CYP2D6, 2C9, and CYP3A4 activities. Drug-drug interactions should be considered when berberine is administered.

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