By luv2tan Latest Reply 2008-06-16 03:00:46 -0500
Started 2008-06-13 16:27:53 -0500

i have heard alot about how herbs can help keep blood sugars at a normal range, does anyone know if this is true?

4 replies

John Crowley
John Crowley 2008-06-16 03:00:46 -0500 Report

A few months ago, I did a bunch of research on herbs that had been through at least some scientific research in regards to diabetes. Here's what I found:

1) Chromium Picolinate
The rationale for the use of chromium in type 2 diabetes stems from the fact that patients with type 2 diabetes lose more chromium in the urine than nondiabetic individuals; this phenomenon is thought to contribute to insulin resistance. A study involving 17 patients demonstrated that diets low in chromium may have negative effects on glucose tolerance in patients with borderline diabetes. In one large U.S. study, chromium supplements were shown to have a positive effect on A1C levels. However, other studies have produced less promising results. More studies are needed to establish effectiveness.

2) Cinnamon
There is growing interest in the effect of cinnamon on lowering blood sugar levels. Few studies have been conducted to study this effect. In theory, the active ingredient in cinnamon, hydroxychalcone, may work on insulin receptors to increase insulin sensitivity and help promote glucose uptake into cells and tissues and promote glycogen (the storage form of glucose) synthesis. One encouraging study in December 2003, did demonstrate a positive effect on blood sugar, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels. More studies are still needed.

3) Garlic
The chemical in garlic of most interest for health purposes is allicin, which gives garlic its strong taste and odor. One of the claims for garlic is that the rates of certain diseases are lower in countries where lots of garlic is consumed. However, it has not been proven that garlic (and not some other factor such as lifestyle) is the reason. Few rigorous studies have been conducted on garlic, allicin, or both, for type 2 diabetes. In the studies that have been done, findings have been mixed. The evidence so far does not provide strong support that there is any benefit from garlic for type 2 diabetes.

4) Alpha-Lipoic Acid
Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA, also known as lipoic acid or thioctic acid) is a chemical that is similar to a vitamin. It is an antioxidant. ALA is found in some foods, such as liver, spinach, broccoli, and potatoes. The evidence on ALA for type 2 diabetes and obesity is limited. There are a number of small studies in animals and in people that have shown hints of beneficial effects. In a few of these studies, some possible benefit from ALA was seen in glucose uptake in muscle; sensitivity of the body to insulin; diabetic neuropathy; and/or weight loss. More research is needed to document whether there is any benefit of ALA in diabetes and to better understand how ALA works.

5) Magnesium
Magnesium is a mineral. Foods high in magnesium include green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and some whole grains. Magnesium has many important functions in the body, including in the heart, nerves, muscles, bones, in handling glucose, and making proteins. Low levels of magnesium are commonly seen in people with diabetes. There have been a handful of studies on magnesium and type 2 diabetes, many of them very small in size and/or short in length and primarily looking at blood glucose control. The results have been mixed, with most finding that magnesium did not affect blood glucose control. Some studies have suggested that low magnesium levels may make glucose control worse in type 2 diabetes and contribute to diabetes complications. There is evidence that magnesium supplementation may be helpful for insulin resistance. Additional controlled studies are needed.

6) Vanadium
Vanadium is a compound found in tiny amounts in plants and animals. Early studies showed that vanadium normalized blood glucose levels in animals with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. A recent study found that when people with diabetes were given vanadium, they developed a modest increase in insulin sensitivity and were able to decrease their insulin requirements. Currently researchers want to understand how vanadium works in the body, discover potential side effects, and establish safe dosages.

7) Ginseng
Several types of plants are referred to as ginseng. Most studies of ginseng and diabetes have used American ginseng. Those studies have shown some glucose-lowering effects in fasting and after meal blood glucose levels as well as in A1C levels. However, larger and more long-term studies are needed before general recommendations for use of ginseng can be made. Researchers have determined that the amount of glucose-lowering compound in ginseng plants varies widely.

tmana 2008-06-15 14:16:18 -0500 Report

My usual go-to herb book is The Herb Book by John Lust (Bantam, NY, 1987 printing of the paperback edition, ISBN 0-553-26770-1). It is one of the few modernly-available herbals that allows you to look up herbs by the symptoms or diseases you are trying to treat.

Lust suggests a "tea to improve sugar tolerance" prepared from equal parts of peeled pumpkin seeds, fragrant valerian root, and bilberry leaves. (Note that there was a recent long thread on dLife surrounding "pumpkin pentose extract", which in itself sounds like a shill, but which may put some credence in using the pumpkin seeds.) He also suggests a tea of equal parts bilberry leaves with one or two of the following: bean pods, nettle, milfoil, European centaury, dandelion, blackberry leaves.

Lust also provides a list of herbs that have at one time or another been used in the treatment of diabetes. He states specifically that the effective plant parts and doses may not be known, and that the individual will need to do some further research to determine if these plants will be of use: artichoke, bilberry, blue cohosh, chicory, "common lettuce", dandelion, dwarf nettle, elecampane, European centaury, European Solomon's seal, fenugreek, flax, goat's rue, juniper, kidney bean, milfoil, nettle, onion, Queen of the meadow, saw palmetto, spotted cranebill, sumac, wild red raspberry, wintergreen.

FWIW, Trader Joe's makes a blackberry-leaf tea, and Traditional Medicinals makes a raspberry leaf tea. (Traditional Medicinals markets its raspberry leaf tea against menstrual cramps; Lust marks its only known use as a diuretic — go figure.)

Flax seed (ground) is a good general dietary additive for lipid health and possibly joint health, so a tablespoon or so a day should not harm. John has addressed onions, garlic, and fenugreek above.

More recently, there have been a number of discussions about the efficacy of cinnamon for glycemic control. Personally I don't see a notable difference one way or another with cinnamon, but YDMV.

kdroberts 2008-06-14 02:18:01 -0500 Report

As has been said, check with your doctor. Many, many herbs, spices and minerals are said to help but there are really are no mass studies showing if they work or not. Some people have some luck with them, I've had no luck with the ones I've tried. They did absolutely nothing other than cost me $6 here and there. Just be aware that the market is worth millions and there are a lot of companies advertising cures or being able to stop taking insulin or medications, don't get fooled by marketing. Check the ingredients, check what they do from a source other than the seller and check to see how much they cost individually. I wont say you should give up on herbs and the like, but don't expect a massive improvement.

jupton1 2008-06-13 19:04:11 -0500 Report

I wouldnt try this stuff without asking Your Doctor>>>Gymnema Sylvestre (Gurmar, Meshasringi, Cherukurinja)
Gymnema assists the pancreas in the production of insulin in Type 2 diabetes. Gymnema also improves the ability of insulin to lower blood sugar in both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. It decreases cravings for sweet. This herb can be an excellent substitute for oral blood sugar-lowering drugs in Type 2 diabetes. Some people take 500 mg per day of gymnema extract.

Onion and Garlic ( Allium cepa and Allium sativum)
Onion and garlic have significant blood sugar lowering action. The principal active ingredients are believed to be allyl propyl disulphide (APDS) and diallyl disulphide oxide (allicin), although other constitutents such as flavonoids may play a role as well.

Experimental and clinical evidence suggests that APDS lowers glucose levels by competing with insulin for insulin-inactivating sites in the liver. This results in an increase of free insulin. APDS administered in doses of 125 mg/ kg to fasting humans was found to cause a marked fall in blood glucose levels and an increase in serum insulin. Allicin doses of 100 mg/kg produced a similar effect.

Onion extract was found to reduce blood sugar levels during oral and intravenous glucose tolerance. The effect improved as the dosage was increased; however, beneficial effects were observed even for low levels that used in the diet (eg., 25 to 200 grams). The effects were similar in both raw and boiled onion extracts. Onions affect the hepatic metabolism of glucose and/or increases the release of insulin, and/or prevent insulin's destruction.

The additional benefit of the use of garlic and onions are their beneficial cardiovascular effects. They are found to lower lipid levels, inhibit platelet aggregation and are antihypertensive. So, liberal use of onion and garlic are recommended for diabetic patients.

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)
Experimental and clinical studies have demonstrated the antidiabetic properties of fenugreek seeds. The active ingredient responsible for the antidiabetic properties of fenugreek is in the defatted portion of the seed that contains the alkaloid trogonelline, nicotinic acid and coumarin.

Blueberry leaves (Vaccinium myrtillus)
A decoction of the leaves of the blueberry has a long history of folk use in the treatment of diabetes. The compound myrtillin (an anthocyanoside) is apparently the most active ingredient. Upon injection it is somewhat weaker than insulin, but is less toxic, even at 50 times the 1 g per day therapeutic dose. A single dose can produce beneficial effects lasting several weeks.

Blueberry anthocyanosides also increase capillary integrity, inhibit free-radical damage and improve the tone of the vascular system. In Europe, it is used as an anti-haemorrhagic agent in the treatment of eye diseases including diabetic retinopathy.

Asian Ginseng
Asian ginseng is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat diabetes. It has been shown to enhance the release of insulin from the pancreas and to increase the number of insulin receptors. It also has a direct blood sugar-lowering effect.
A recent study found that 200 mg of ginseng extract per day improved blood sugar control as well as energy levels in Type 2 diabetes (NIDDM).

Bilberry may lower the risk of some diabetic complications, such as diabetic cataracts and retinopathy.

Stevia has been used traditionally to treat diabetes. Early reports suggested that stevia might have beneficial effects on glucose tolerance (and therefore potentially help with diabetes), although not all reports have confirmed this. Even if stevia did not have direct antidiabetic effects, its use as a sweetener could reduce intake of sugars in such patients.

Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo biloba extract may prove useful for prevention and treatment of early-stage diabetic neuropathy.

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