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Using Herbs to Manage High Blood Sugar

Author: Lucy Tashman, Oct 13, 2009

Keeping blood sugar levels stable is a challenge for most diabetes patients. Several natural herbs have been demonstrated to safely lower blood glucose.

Diabetes ranks as the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., and it is the leading cause of kidney failure, blindness and amputations. Diabetics are significantly more likely to develop heart disease and experience cardiac failure.

Sustainable blood sugar control is critical to a diabetic patient’s health over time. Often, as a diabetic patient ages, insulin-reducing medications begin to lose their effectiveness.

Treatment with herbs, along with carefully controlled nutrition and daily exercise, can help diabetic patients keep blood sugar levels under control over the long term.

Herbs for blood sugar control

The following herbs have demonstrated potential in helping diabetic patients achieve blood sugar control:

Gymnema sylvestre - The literal meaning of Gymnema sylvestre is “destroyer of sugar.” For centuries, traditional practitioners have understood this herb’s power to reduce blood sugar, and clinical trials have confirmed this activity. When Gymnema sylvestre was given to patients with type 1 diabetes, both insulin
requirements and fasting blood sugar levels were reduced. Some patients with type 2 diabetes given the herb were able to completely discontinue oral hypoglycemic drugs, while others were able to reduce their dosages considerably. No side effects have been noticed in therapeutic doses of the herb. Gymnema also improves blood fat and cholesterol profiles.

Momordica charantia - Momordica charantia, or Bitter melon, offers many benefits to the diabetic patient. In some studies, Bitter melon extract has shown more hypoglycemic effects than the drug Tolbutamide. Bitter melon also contains an insulin-like polypeptide and causes fewer side effects than insulin. Oral administration of the juice of this plant has been shown in clinical studies to improve blood sugar levels and lower the levels of glycosylated hemoglobin, a good indicator of long-term sugar control. Bitter melon also enhances glucose uptake.

Pterocarpus marsupium - Another great herb for diabetes control is Pterocarpus marsupium. This herb works particularly well with type II (insulin resistant) diabetes. Two clinical studies using human subjects have shown Pterocarpus marsupium to have remarkable anti-diabetic action. In the first study, 97 patients were given Pterocarpus marsupium extract over a period of 12 weeks. Sixty-seven percent of the patients were able to reduce and maintain glucose levels with the herbal extract.

Study participants also experienced improvements in common diabetic symptoms. No adverse side effects were reported during the treatment period. In the second study, 22 diabetics, mostly with type II diabetes, ranging in age from 29 to 70 years old, were given a preparation made from the dry bark of Pterocarpus marsupium for seven days. All the study participants showed significant improvements in diabetic control.

Cinnamon and Fenugreek - Diabetic patients can also benefit from adding therapeutic spices to their diet. Two excellent anti-diabetic spices are cinnamon and fenugreek. Cinnamon has many therapeutic uses. It has been shown in human studies to decrease serum glucose, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. In animal studies, cinnamon extract improved insulin action by increasing glucose uptake in muscles. In recent years, Fenugreek seed has also received attention for its anti-diabetic activity. Research scientists at India's National Institute of Nutrition discovered that ground Fenugreek seeds reduced fasting blood sugar levels in patients with type I diabetes. Fenugreek has also been shown to decrease blood glucose, LDL cholesterol, VLDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

Herbal treatments are gaining acceptance as a useful adjunct to traditional medical therapies. Herbs may also be used to improve prostate health, heart health, and to promote healthy aging.

Baskaran K, Kizar Ahamath B, Radha Shanmugasundaram K, Shanmugasundaram ER J Ethnopharmacol 1990 Oct;30(3):295-300 - Antidiabetic effect of a leaf extract from Gymnema sylvestre in non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus patients. Shanmugasundaram ER, Rajeswari G, Baskaran K, Rajesh Kumar BR, Radha Shanmugasundaram K, Kizar Ahmath B. Use of Gymnema sylvestre leaf extract in the control of blood glucose in insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. J Ethnopharmacol. 1990 Oct;30(3):281-94
Ng TB, Wong CM, Li WW, Yeung HW 1986 Insulin-like molecules in Momordica charantia seeds. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 15(1):107
Indian Council of Medical Research. Flexible dose open trail of Vijayasar in cases of newly-diagnosed non insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. Indian J Med Res 1998
Dr. MC Pandey, Prof. PV Sharma. Hypoglycemic effect of bark of pterocarpus marsupium roxb. The Medicine & Surgery 15 November 1975 p. 21-23.
Vijayakumar MV, Bhat MK. Hypoglycemic effect of a novel dialysed feungreek seeds extract is sustainable and is mediated, in part, by the activation of hepatic
enzymes. Phytother Res. 2008 Apr;22(4):500-5.
Carper, Jean: Food--Your Miracle Medicine: How Food Can Prevent and Cure Over 100 Symptoms and Problems By Jean Carper Published by HarperCollins, 1994, p. 423.


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