What is Berberine and why does TikTok want me to take it?

5 Min Read


My TikTok For You Page wants me to take a diet pill or shot soooooo bad. It is so unpleasant to see.

Just a few months ago, TikTok was flooded with videos advising users to try Ozempic or Wegovy, medications that are intended to treat diabetes but also curb hunger. Rumors swarmed that every celebrity who lost weight — like  Mindy Kahling(opens in a new tab), Kim Kardashian(opens in a new tab), and Elon Musk(opens in a new tab) — lost it with the help of semaglutides. But soon, those rumors fueled a flurry of folks trying to get their hands on the weight loss drugs, leading to a reported shortage of medicine for the people who need it. Plus, there were side effects and, if insurance doesn’t cover them, the drugs can be extremely pricey.

Enter Berberine.

Berberine is being lauded on TikTok as a “natural” Ozempic. There are more than 64 million views on the #berberine hashtag on the platform.

One of the most-liked videos was created by someone who calls themselves a “functional and holistic nutritionist who works with supplements every damn day.” She says Berberine helps “your cells sensitize to insulin” and that, since it might not be for everyone and the dosage might vary, you should work with someone like her. 

TikTokkers say it could suppress appetite, lower cholesterol, help gut health, and control blood sugar and blood pressure, but many of the posts make it sound a lot like a laxative. Take the other most-liked video under the hashtag, created by Joey Zauzig, who’s not a doctor: It explains that Berberine might mess with your gut at first and then, eventually, things started to get back to normal. He said taking the supplement curbs his appetite which, he admits, might be a placebo, but he doesn’t care because he “feels snatched.”

Unlike Ozempic, Berberine is a pill instead of a shot and, since it’s a supplement, you don’t need a prescription to get it. Berberine also doesn’t imitate GLP-1 like Ozempic, so it’s pretty clear that “nature’s Ozempic” is code for “IDK this thing helped me lose weight and Ozempic is trendy.”

Since Berberine is a supplement, the FDA doesn’t regulate it, making it a bit tricky to know exactly what you’re putting inside your body. And there hasn’t been a sufficient amount of data, oversight, or research into how the supplement works. If you decide to take any kind of pill or shot for weight loss, you need to chat with a doctor first to make sure it doesn’t interact with other medicine you’re already taking.

“The FDA doesn’t regulate supplements like Berberine the way they do medications. The FDA can’t weigh in on the safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements,” Dr. Céline Gounder, a CBS News contributor and editor-at-large for public health at KFF Health News, told CBS News(opens in a new tab). “People are desperate to lose weight. Understandably, they want to do so cheaply, easily, and quickly. But even Ozempic isn’t a silver bullet.”

TikTok, and all social media, infamously perpetuates harmful, toxic weight loss trends(opens in a new tab) that can lead to disordered eating and other kinds of self harm. As with all weight loss trends on the internet, trust your gut — the one you were born with — and not the fads. 

If you’re feeling suicidal or experiencing a mental health crisis, please talk to somebody. You can reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988; the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860; or the Trevor Project at 866-488-7386. Text “START” to Crisis Text Line at 741-741. Contact the NAMI HelpLine at 1-800-950-NAMI, Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. ET, or email [email protected](opens in a new tab). If you don’t like the phone, consider using the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Chat at crisischat.org(opens in a new tab). Here is a list of international resources(opens in a new tab).


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