Berberine – A Potential Liver Protector

Hepatoprotective effects of berberine on

carbon tetrachloride-induced acute hepatotoxicity in rats

By Yibin Feng , Ka-Yu Siu, Xingshen Ye, Ning Wang, Man-Fung Yuen,

Chung-Hang Leung, Yao Tong, Seiichi Kobayashi




Berberine is an active compound in Coptidis Rhizoma (Huanglian) with multiple pharmacological activities including antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, cholesterol-lowering and anticancer effects. The present study aims to determine the hepatoprotective effects of berberine on serum and tissue superoxide dismutase (SOD) levels, the histology in tetrachloride (CCl4)-induced liver injury.



Sprague-Dawley rats aged seven weeks were injected intraperitoneally with 50% CCl4 in olive oil. Berberine was orally administered before or after CCl4 treatment in various groups. Twenty-four hours after CCl4 injection, serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) activities, serum and liver superoxide dismutase (SOD) activities were measured. Histological changes of liver were examined with microscopy.



Serum ALT and AST activities significantly decreased in a dose-dependent manner in both pre-treatment and post-treatment groups with berberine. Berberine increased the SOD activity in liver. Histological examination showed lowered liver damage in berberine-treated groups. Conclusion The present study demonstrates that berberine possesses hepatoprotective effects against CCl4-induced hepatotoxicity and that the effects are both preventive and curative. Berberine should have potential for developing a new drug to treat liver toxicity.

  1. Background
  2. Methods
    1. Drugs and chemical reagents
    2. Animals
    3. CCl4-induced acute liver damage model
    4. Serum ALT and AST analyses
    5. Measurement of serum SOD
    6. Histopathological analysis
    7. Statistical analysis
  3. Results
    1. Effects of berberine post-treatment on serum ALT and AST activities
    2. Effects of berberine post-treatment on serum SOD activity
    3. Effects of berberine pre-treatment on serum ALT and AST activities
    4. Effects of berberine pre-treatment on serum SOD activity
    5. Histology
  4. Discussion
  5. Conclusion
  6. References

 This article is an Open Access article published in Journal of Chinese Medicine, 2010, 5:33

Common single herbs contain berberine:

  1. Rhizoma Coptidis (Huang Lian)
  2. Cortex Phellodendri (Huang Bo)

Formulas contains Rhizoma Coptidis and Cortex Phellodendri:

English Name Pin Yin Name
Gypsum, Coptis & Scute Combination San Huang Shi Gao Tang
Coptis & Rhubarb Combination San Huang Xie Xin Tang
Ginseng & Zizyphus Formula Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan
Vladimiriae & Areca Formula Mu Xiang Bing Lang Wan
Dang Gui & Pinellia Combination Ping Gan Liu Qi Yin
Anemone Combination Bai Tou Weng Tang
Pinellia & Ginseng Six Combination Ban Xie Liu Jun Zi Tang
Pinellia Combination Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang
Hoelen & Polyporus Formula Zhi Zhuo Gu Ben Wan
Gardenia & Vitex Combination Xi Gan Ming Mu San
Bupleurum & Scute Combination Chai Xian Tang
Coptis & Rehmannia Formula Qing Wei San
Saposhnikovia Combination Qing Shang Fang Feng Tang
Arctium Combination Qing Yan Li Ge Tang
Coptis Combination Huang Lian Tang
Coptis & Scute Combination Huang Lian Jie Du Tang
Forsythia & Laminaria Combination San Zhong Kui Jian Tang
Scute & Cimicifuga Combination Pu Ji Xiao Du Yin
Dang Gui & Gardenia Combination Wen Qing Yin
Chrysanthemum Combination Zi Shen Ming Mu Tang
Pueraria, Coptis & Scute Combination Ge Gen Huang Lian Huang Qin Tang
Dang Gui & Six Herb Combination Dang Gui Liu Huang Tang


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