Herbal medicine, also known as phytomedicine or botanical medicine, uses parts of the plant like flowers, fruits, seeds, leaves, berries, bark, and roots. Herbs are prescribed in a specific dosage to treat or manage diseases. The first recorded use of herbs for medicinal purposes was over 5,000 years ago. Today, an estimated one-fourth of prescription medicines are derived from plants.
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes has become of primary global public health concern. Both developed and developing countries are experiencing higher rates of diabetes in adults. Diabetes has become the leading cause of disability and hospitalization. The first step to managing diabetes is with an oral antidiabetic drug (OAD). However, before insulin was discovered, herbal medicines were used to manage diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is a condition characterized by hyperglycemia, a change in the metabolism of lipids, carbohydrates, and proteins. Long-term effects include eye, kidney, cardiovascular, and neurological problems.
What herbs are the best for lowering blood sugar?
Many herbs have been studied for their medicinal properties. Most studies show that the best herb for diabetes is barberry. Barberry has a compound called berberine that has decreased blood sugar and hba1c. Barberry also has other benefits like being nutrient-dense and anti-diarrhea properties. It's not advised to take this herb while pregnant or on traditional medicine. Another helpful herb is cinnamon. Cinnamon increases insulin sensitivity and reduces blood glucose and cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
Other herbs have shown positive effects on lowering blood sugar. Talk to your doctor when trying different herbs. They'll be able to help you know if the herbs can interfere with any medicine you're already on. The other herbs include:
- American ginseng
- Bay leaf
- Bitter gourd
- Turmeric (Curcumin)
- Ginkgo biloba
- Prickly pear cactus (Nopal)
- Milk thistle (Resveratrol)
- Green, black, oolong tea (Camellia sinensis)
While this list is extensive, it isn't inclusive. There may be certain herbs that will work better for you than others. It's not one herb that treats all. You'll have to find the best herb for your diabetes.
Are herbs safe to take for lowering blood sugar?
Though herbal medicine has a long history, that doesn't mean there's extensive research to back up the benefits and effects. There's not enough definitive evidence to make a strong conclusion about the effectiveness of certain herbs for diabetes. However, what studies show is that they are generally safe to use. If you consider taking herbal medicines, it's best to talk to a medical doctor or a homeopathic doctor. They'll be able to advise you on the right amount to take and what herbs are best for you.
Are herbs better than drugs?
Before Western medicine took over, herbs treated a variety of diseases. Today, herbs can be used in combination with prescribed medications, especially to manage conditions like diabetes.
Plants have phytochemicals in them that can help protect against many types of conditions and diseases. Herbs can help do more than lower blood sugar. Some plants help reduce hypertension. Another benefit to herbs is the low cost and accessibility, making them more desirable than drugs.
There has been a surge in interest in natural remedies for different conditions. This makes herbs a desirable alternative treatment. Only a tiny portion of biodiverse areas have been studied for their therapeutic potential, but with more research, herbs could be a better treatment with fewer side effects.
How herbs lower blood sugar
Herbal medicine comes from plants that have medicinal properties. How effective the herbs can be to treat your diabetes depends on a few factors, including:
- Stage of progression of diabetes
- Types of comorbidities you're having
- Availability of herbs
- Affordability and safety profile of the herbs
According to one study, an herbal combination effectively reduced hemoglobin A1C by 1.31 percent, showing how effective the combination treatment was in managing diabetes.
Caspian Journal of Internal Medicine: "Evaluating the effect of a herb on the control of blood glucose and insulin-resistance in patients with advanced type-2 diabetes (a double-blind clinical trial)."
Diabetes Action: "Medicinal Plants and Herbs for Diabetes."
Essentia Health: "Four steps can help naturally balance blood sugars."
Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: "Herbal Therapies for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Chemistry, Biology, and Potential Application of Selected Plants and Compounds."
Frontiers in Pharmacology: "Anti-hypertensive Herbs and their Mechanisms of Action: Part I."
Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine: "An update on natural compounds in the remedy of diabetes mellitus: A systemic review."
Pharmacognosy Review: "Role of natural herbs in the treatment of hypertension."
Stamford Health: "Natural Remedies for Type 2 Diabetes."
The Vietnamese Journal of Biomedicine: "The most useful medicinal herbs to treat diabetes."
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