Let’s get the obvious recommendations for managing diabetes out of the way, because you’ve likely heard them ad nauseum: get regular exercise; limit your intake of added sugars and processed food and drinks; eat more veggies and fiber-rich whole grains; drink more water; eat smaller meals and manage stress.
If you’re not following these recommendations to control blood sugar, do so immediately. But beyond these oft-repeated tips, there are specific medicinal, edible herbs that may help manage diabetes.
Here are some of the best natural remedies for type 2 diabetes, according to a 2018 update on natural compounds in the remedy of diabetes mellitus. The botanical herbs in the research show antidiabetic action.
Before we take a look at some of them, a quick medical disclaimer: Do not stop taking your diabetes medication. The information in this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Research suggests cumin powder and cumin seeds are an alternative to glibenclamide (glyburide), a medication used to treat type 2 diabetes. Glibenclamide tends to cause damage to beta cells in the pancreas. Beta cells secrete insulin and amylin. If you have type 2 diabetes, you probably know what insulin hormone does. In simple terms, it escorts sugar in the blood into the cells to be used for energy. Amylin hormone is not as well-known as insulin but it is arguably just as important as insulin. Amylin, among other actions, sends a signal to your brain that you’re no longer hungry.
Cumin both lowers blood glucose levels and protects beta cells. “The high availability of this common spice and its safety profile with no reported toxicity also make it a better alternative in diabetes treatment,” conclude the researchers, who add that both green and black cumin are effective.
A dose of 300 mg/kg of body weight was shown to help increase insulin levels from regenerated pancreatic beta-cells in a research study. Aloe vera juice (buy juice made from the inner “filet” of the plant) has also demonstrated the ability to lower fat in the blood, as well as cholesterol and triglycerides levels.
Also known as stinging nettle or common nettle, this herb can help control insulin resistance. When your body is resistant to insulin, your pancreas needs to secrete more of the hormone in order to control blood sugar levels.
Not familiar with this exotic sounding botanical? You’re probably familiar with the nut it produces: cashews. Along with almonds, walnuts, pistachios and peanuts, MedicalNewsToday.com considers cashews one of the 5 best nuts for managing diabetes.
Garlic oil extract supplements (allium sativum) may help improve insulin and glucose tolerance.
This edible fungus was shown to reduce glucose levels in diabetic rats that were fed a high-fat diet. Rats fed oyster mushroom for four weeks had significantly lower fasting glucose levels than the control group.
Although it’s technically not a plant itself, this healthy compound in grapes, berries and peanuts, can stimulate the transport of glucose into the cells. This action is seen even in the absence of insulin. Several studies show that resveratrol also increases sensitivity to insulin. The more sensitive you are to insulin, the less of it your pancreas needs to secrete.
Basil is an herb that can help increase the absorption of glucose. The extract of this leaf has been shown to lower the amount of a sugar called maltose in the intestines.
Cinnamon isn’t something you should just absent-mindedly sprinkle on your oatmeal for taste. It contains several compounds that help prevent blood-sugar spikes after meals. There are different species of cinnamon. The cassia variety may be more beneficial if you have both type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
Soybeans are a legume (as are lentils and other varieties of beans). While legumes are high in fiber, which is beneficial for managing diabetes, there is some concern that beans are high in carbohydrates. However, soybeans contain a compound called isoflavone, which in studies has shown the ability to inhibit enzymes that may lead to type 2 diabetes or make it worse. Isoflavone also lowers the activity of another enzyme that may promote high blood pressure.
Figs are very high in fiber and support healthy insulin function in diabetes patients.
This botanical ingredient may help improve glucose tolerance and reduce body weight just as effectively as the diabetes drug, metformin, says this research study.
This species of ginseng, also known as Asian ginseng, contains berries and roots that possess antidiabetic and blood-sugar-lowering effects. A compound in ginseng called “ginsenosides” provides the antidiabetic effect. Asian ginseng stimulates the insulin- signaling pathway.
This fruit can help control blood sugar levels and help protect the kidneys.
This fruit resembles a cucumber-looking but is a member of the gourd family. It’s helpful for diabetes because it activates glucose uptake into the cells.
The seeds of this plant is a popular herbal remedy for type 2 diabetes. Nitrogen-rich compounds called alkaloids in the seeds are thought to exert a positive influence on blood sugar.
Not to be confused with regular basil, holy basil prevents the liver and fat tissues from uptaking more sugar. In addition, it increases insulin sensitivity by regenerating beta cells.
One of the best known herbal remedies for colds, this botanical may also prevent blood sugar spikes.
To repeat: you should not stop taking your diabetes medication. Speak to your doctor or other health professional about taking herbal remedies for diabetes management. Taking several of these botanical ingredients, along with leading a healthy lifestyle, may help control your diabetes. However, if you continue to eat a diet high in carbohydrates and sugar, these herbs will likely have very little beneficial effect.