Can Chinen Salt Help Manage Diabetes?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Chinen salt is an herbal supplement that’s used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to treat type 2 diabetes.

Although it contains compounds that are chemically considered salts, it’s used as a supplement and isn’t a table or cooking salt.

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Chinen salt is said to help treat diabetes and has even been suggested as an effective substitute for diabetes medications. However, research on these benefits is limited.

This article provides an overview of chinen salt and its purported benefits for those with diabetes.

What is chinen salt?

Chinen salt is made from berberine chloride, a salt compound that’s found in plants and herbs used in TCM and other forms of traditional medicine (1, 2).

It’s typically derived from a plant called Chinese goldthread (Coptis chinensis).

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Some people confuse chinen salt with a type of cooking salt that contains the flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG). Chinen salt also gets mistaken for pink Himalayan salt.

However, chinen salt is not a salt in the culinary sense. It’s taken as a supplement — not used in cooking.

Medicinal preparations

Medicinal preparations with berberine derived from Chinese goldthread, such as chinen salt, are commonly used in TCM to remove toxins and treat diabetes (2).

However, in the United States, these preparations are typically sold under names other than chinen salt, such as Chinese coptis, Coptis chinensis, Coptidis Rhizoma, and Chinese goldthread. Some may also be labeled as Huang Lian, the Chinese name for this plant.

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These supplements are available as pills, powders, and liquid extracts.

The name chinen salt is rarely used on products derived from Chinese goldthread, which may contribute to the confusion about how the product is used.

Chinen salt is a supplement that contains the salt compound berberine chloride, typically derived from Chinese goldthread (Coptis chinensis). It’s used in TCM to treat diabetes and eliminate toxins.

How chinen salt affects diabetes

Berberine chloride, the main active compound in chinen salt, is a type of salt that belongs to a group of chemical compounds known as alkaloids (1).

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Berberine has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels in both animals and people with type 2 diabetes (3, 4).

Berberine is derived from many different plants. Notably, research on Chinese goldthread shows that it exerts anti-diabetes effects similar to those of berberine (5, 6, 7).

The exact mechanisms by which berberine works aren’t fully understood.

Yet, this compound may increase the secretion of insulin — a hormone that lowers blood sugar levels — and decrease insulin resistance. It may also reduce glucose absorption and modulate gut bacteria that play a role in blood sugar regulation (7, 8).

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A meta-analysis of 14 randomized studies including people with type 2 diabetes found that, when combined with lifestyle modifications, berberine may significantly lower blood sugar levels compared with a placebo (9).

The review also showed that berberine’s effectiveness was similar to that of metformin and other diabetes medications (9).

However, these results should be interpreted with caution. Most relevant studies are of low quality and use small sample sizes. More extensive research, including a large-scale, randomized controlled trial on Chinese goldthread’s effectiveness, is needed (6, 9).

Studies suggest that berberine, which is the main active compound in chinen salt, may help lower blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. Nonetheless, more extensive research is needed.

Benefits of chinen salt for diabetes complications

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Berberine may not only aid blood sugar regulation but also other diabetes complications.

Those with type 2 diabetes may be more likely to have high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as kidney damage (10).

Berberine may protect against these complications by regulating blood fat levels and exhibiting anti-inflammatory effects that safeguard your kidneys (6, 11, 12, 13).

In a 3-month study among 116 people with type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol levels, taking 1 gram of berberine daily significantly decreased total cholesterol and triglyceride levels compared with a placebo (14).

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Although these results are promising, comprehensive research on berberine- containing supplements, including chinen salt, is lacking.

Berberine-containing supplements like chinen salt may protect against diabetes complications like high cholesterol and kidney damage. However, research is limited.

Side effects and safety

Supplements containing berberine derived from Chinese goldthread appear to be generally safe and well tolerated by people with type 2 diabetes.

Some research suggests that doses of up to 3 grams per day are safe, but there’s no standardized dosage. Most Coptis chinensis and berberine supplements suggest taking 1 gram per day. Generally, you shouldn’t exceed the recommended dosage on the label (7).

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Possible side effects of berberine include stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea (9).

Insufficient information exists on the long-term safety of chinen salt and similar supplements. Therefore, infants, children, and those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid berberine-containing supplements.

If you have a medical condition or are taking medications, consult your healthcare provider before trying chinen salt, berberine, or other supplements derived from Chinese goldthread.

This guidance applies to people taking diabetes medications, as berberine may lower blood sugar levels.

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Lastly, keep in mind that herbal supplements are not tightly regulated in the United States. Be sure to check the ingredient list and look for brands that have been tested for quality by a third party, such as NSF International or United States Pharmacopeia (USP).

Chinen salt and similar supplements appear to be safe and have minimal side effects. Still, insufficient information exists on their long-term effects. Consult your healthcare provider before trying chinen salt.

The bottom line

Chinen salt is one of many names for supplements containing Chinese goldthread (Coptis chinensis), an herb that may have anti-diabetes effects.

Human and animal research has indicated that berberine, the active compound in chinen salt, may help lower blood sugar levels and protect against type 2 diabetes complications.

However, more extensive research is needed. Talk with your healthcare provider before trying these supplements.

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