Seven Herbs and Supplements for Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes is a widespread disorder affecting the blood sugar and insulin levels in the body. Managing the long-term consequences and complications of diabetes are as much of a challenge as the disease itself.

There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is where the pancreas produces no insulin. Type 2 diabetes is more common. With type 2, the body either does not produce enough insulin or produces insulin that the body does not use properly.

There are many treatment options for people with type 2 diabetes. Growing research suggests that some herbs and supplements may help with the condition.

Useful herbs may be great to combine with more traditional methods to find relief from many type 2 diabetes symptoms.

Seven herbs and supplements

Here are seven herbs and supplements that may be of benefit to people with type 2 diabetes.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera
Studies suggest an antidiabetic potential for aloe that may lower blood sugar levels.

Aloe vera is a common plant with many different uses. Most people are aware of the plant being used to coat the skin and protect it from damage caused by too much sun exposure.

However, the plant has many lesser-known benefits as well. These range from helping digestive issues to possibly even relieving type 2 diabetes symptoms.

One review analyzed many studies using aloe vera to treat symptoms of diabetes. Their results strongly suggested an antidiabetic potential for aloe. Subjects given aloe showed lower blood sugar levels and higher insulin levels.

Further tests showed that aloe helps to increase how much insulin is produced by the pancreas. This could mean that aloe helps to restore bodies with type 2 diabetes or protect them from further damage. The researchers called for more studies to be done on aloe and its extracts to be certain of these effects.

There are many ways to take aloe. The juice pulp is sold in many markets and added to drinks, and extracts are put into capsules to be taken as supplements.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a fragrant herb created from the bark of a tree and is commonly found in kitchens. It has a sweet and spicy fragrance and taste that can add sweetness without any additional sugar. It is popular with people with type 2 diabetes for this reason alone, but there is much more to cinnamon than just flavor.

A review found that subjects with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes who were given cinnamon showed positive results in many different areas such as:

  • blood sugar levels
  • insulin levels
  • insulin sensitivity
  • blood fat levels
  • antioxidant levels
  • blood pressure
  • body mass
  • time to process food

These are important markers for people with diabetes. From this research, it may be said that cinnamon is important for everyone with type 2 diabetes to take.

The researchers did note that the type of cinnamon and the amount taken does have an effect on the results, however. Only the highest quality cinnamon or cinnamon extracts in capsule form should be used as a complementary treatment method.

An experienced health care practitioner should always be consulted before starting to use cinnamon heavily as a supplement.

Bitter melon

bitter melon
Bitter melon is a traditional Chinese and Indian medicinal fruit. Research suggests that the seeds may help to reduce blood sugar levels.

Momordica charantia, also known as bitter melon, is a medicinal fruit. It has been used for centuries in the traditional medicine of China and India. The bitter fruit itself is cooked into many dishes, and the plant’s medicinal properties are still being discovered.

One discovery being backed by science is that bitter melon may help with symptoms of diabetes. One review noted that many parts of the plant have been used to help treat diabetes patients.

Bitter melon seeds were given to both people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes to reduce their blood sugar levels. Blended vegetable pulp mixed with water also lowered blood sugar levels in 86 percent of the type 2 diabetes patients tested. The fruit juice of the bitter melon also helped to improved blood sugar tolerance in many cases.

Eating or drinking the bitter melon can be an acquired taste. Luckily, similar effects were noted with extracts of the fruit taken as supplements as well.

There is not enough evidence to suggest that bitter melon could be used instead of insulin or medication for diabetes. However, it may help patients to rely less on those medications or lower their dosages.

Milk thistle

Milk thistle is a herb that has been used since ancient times for many different ailments and is considered a tonic for the liver. The most studied extract from milk thistle is called silymarin, which is a compound that has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is these properties that may make milk thistle a great herb for people with diabetes.

A review notes that many of the studies on silymarin are promising, but the research is not strong enough to begin recommending the herb or extract alone for diabetes care.

Many people may still find that it is an important part of a care routine, especially since the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties can help protect against further damage caused by diabetes. Milk thistle is most often taken as a supplement.

Fenugreek

Fenugreek is another seed with the potential to lower blood sugar levels. The seeds contain fibers and chemicals that help to slow down the digestion of carbohydrates like sugar. The seeds may also help delay or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.

A recent study found that people with prediabetes were less likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes while taking powdered fenugreek seed. This was caused by the seed increasing the levels of insulin in the body, which also reduced the sugar in the blood.

Researchers found that the seed helped to lower cholesterol levels in patients as well.

Fenugreek can be cooked into certain dishes, added to warm water, or ground into a powder. It can also be added to a capsule to be swallowed as a supplement.

Gymnema

Gymnema is a relatively new herb on the Western market. In the plant’s native home of India, its name means “sugar destroyer.” A recent review noted that both type 1 and type 2 diabetes patients given Gymnema have shown signs of improvement.

In people with type 1 diabetes who were given the leaf extract over a period of 18 months, fasting blood sugar levels were lowered significantly when compared to a group that received only insulin.

Other tests using Gymnema found that people with type 2 diabetes responded well to taking both the leaf and its extract over various periods of time. Using Gymnema lowered blood sugar levels and increased insulin levels in the body of some patients.

Using either the ground leaf or leaf extract may be beneficial for many people with diabetes.

Ginger

ginger sliced
Ginger has been used for many years to treat digestive and inflammatory issues. Recent research suggests that it may reduce insulin resistance.

Ginger is another herb that science is just discovering more about. It has been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine systems.

Ginger is often used to help treat digestive and inflammatory issues. However, a recent review posted to shows that it may be helpful in treating diabetes symptoms as well.

In their review, researchers found that supplementing with ginger lowered blood sugar levels, but did not lower blood insulin levels. Because of this, they suggest that ginger may reduce insulin resistance in the body for type 2 diabetes.

It is important to note that the researchers were uncertain as to how ginger does this. More research is being called for to make the claims more certain.

Ginger is often added to food raw or as a powdered herb, brewed into tea, or added to capsules as an oral supplement.

Important considerations for people with diabetes

It is always best to work with a healthcare professional before taking any new herb or supplement. Doctors usually have patients start out on a lower dose and gradually increase it until a comfortable dose is found.

Some herbs can interact with other medications that do the same job, such as blood thinners and high blood pressure medications. It is very important to be aware of any interactions before starting a new supplement.

It is also important for people to get herbs from a high-quality source. Herbs are not monitored by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Products may contain different herbs and fillers, recommend an incorrect dose, or even be contaminated with pesticides.

Herbs and supplements should be seen as a complementary treatment option, and should not replace medications.

Working closely with a knowledgeable healthcare professional, herbs can be a great addition to many care programs for diabetes.

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Ten Alternative Cold and Flu Remedies to Try

Homeopathic medicine has great potential when used in conjunction with conventional medicine. Here are ten simple remedies you can try to help stop colds and flu symptoms in their tracks.

lemon-essential-oil1. Lemon

Even though lemons taste acidic, their juice helps to alkalinize the body. Lemons are loaded with vitamin C, which is known to support the body’s immune system. Lemon, as well as lime, is reported to decrease the strength of the cold and flu virus in the body and reduce phlegm.

How to use: Drink the juice of a lemon, or a few drops of lemon essential oil, squeezed into a cup of water or tea every few hours to build resistance or speed up healing.

garlic-for-cold2. Garlic

Garlic is great in treating sore throats and infections. Garlic contains the immune-boosting compound allicin, also known to relieve cold and flu symptoms.

How to use: Crush five cloves and mix with half a cup of honey.  Let it sit for a couple of hours and the mixture will become runny and thin. Take a teaspoonful at a time, as needed. If you’re worried about a severe odor or taste, crush a couple of cloves of garlic and “steep” them in hot water. Drink it like a mug of tea.

cinnamon-stick-powder-1309093. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is known as a natural antibiotic, is a powerful antioxidant.

How to use: A teaspoon of raw honey and a 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon can knock out a cold within a day or two.

turmeric4. Turmeric

Turmeric contains an anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin, which has a strong cold and flu-fighting properties. Turmeric has strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and turmeric tea has been used for extensively worldwide for colds, congestion, headache, and sore throats.

How to use: Stir a teaspoon into a glass of water or use it in your cooking. In addition, the combination of honey with turmeric powder is an excellent remedy for a cough.

cayenne-pepper-metabolism_15. Cayenne pepper

Peppers are a heart-healthy food with the potential to protect against cancer, as well as common cold and flu viruses. Cayenne pepper is a natural remedy for a sore throat that can often precede a cold or flu.

How to use: A mixture of hot red chili powder and orange juice is an effective remedy for sore throats and congestion. Or take a teaspoon of pepper in a glass of water immediately when you feel a cold or a sore throat coming on. Its strong stimulatory effect can be enough to knock a cold out in the early stages.

oregano-herb6. Oregano

Oregano is one of the best herbs for a cold. It is an excellent anti-inflammatory that contains phenolic acids, flavonoids, and color compounds that increase resistance and boosts immunity. Oregano is known for its antibacterial, antivirus, anti-fungus, anti-tumor, anti-inflammation, and anti-parasitic properties.

How to use: Oil of oregano is even more potent, and traditional healers since ancient times have used oregano extract to treat respiratory issues such as coughs, colds, flu, sore throats, and bronchitis. Add three to 10 drops of oil to a glass of water twice a day and continue until symptoms subside.

ginger-essence7. Ginger

Ginger is a stimulant that will also warm you if you’re feeling chilled with your cold. It’s best used fresh rather than as a powder.

How to use: Peel and grate a small piece of ginger root and place in a cup of boiling water. Allowed it to steep for five minutes, sweeten with honey if desired, and sip whenever needed to soothe a scratchy throat or a cough.

peppermint-oil8. Peppermint

Peppermint can clear blocked noses and sinuses. It can also help the body fight off illnesses.

How to use: Enjoy it as a stimulating tea or add some peppermint teabags of it to your bath. A few drops of peppermint essential oil in a glass of water, or diffused, can also work wonders.

apple cider vinegar9. Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar can fight off infection, ease digestion, reduce inflammation, kill fungus, regulate pH balance, and wash toxins from the body. It’s also known to restore alkaline acid balance.

How to use: Add a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar to a tablespoon of honey and a cup of hot water to create an elixir to help ward off cold and flu symptoms.

honey-lemon-tea-a-800-dm10. Honey

A daily dose of honey can help you to feel energetic and stay healthy. It also has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, so, if you do develop a sore or scratchy throat, honey will soothe and help heal. Research shows that children who take a spoonful of honey before bed, cough less and sleep better than those who take over-the-counter products for coughs and colds.

How to use: Adding a little lemon to the honey will increase its anti-microbial effect. Honey and lemon can also be combined with hot water to make a soothing tea.

Spices That Heal: Pumpkin Spice

Spices are so revered by humans that travelers ventured into the great unknown to seek out the healing and culinary delight they offered. Luckily, all you have to do is venture to your cupboard to unlock the healing potential of culinary herbs and spices. Here’s a closer look at the wonders of Pumpkin Spice.

— Tieraona Low Dog, M.D

It’s that time of year again. The sun sets a little earlier, we start to dress with more layers, and pumpkin spice fans rejoice as their favorite fall flavor begins to pop up everywhere from coffee shops to the supermarkets. Why do we love it so much? Maybe it’s because the comforting, spicy aroma and rich harmony of flavors can instantly turn an everyday latte into a seasonal celebration.

There’s nothing quite like the warmth of holding that pumpkin spice cup, and most of us instinctively know that a warm soothing beverage is an act of self-care. But there are some other wellness benefits in that special spicy concoction, too. In fact, when we break down the ingredients of pumpkin spice flavoring, each component has its own healing powers, aromatherapy benefits, and medicinal properties.

Most recipes for pumpkin spice call for cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. Let’s take a look at the wellness attributes and medicinal properties of each one.

 

Cinnamon

Delicious and popular year-round, cinnamon is derived from the bark of trees in the Cinnamomum genus. Cinnamon is packed with antioxidants and can help the body maintain healthy blood sugar levels, which reduces carbohydrate cravings, an important component to supporting a healthy weight. And cinnamon is also heart healthy. A review in the Annals of Family Medicine concluded that based upon clinical research, cinnamon improves fasting blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

 

Ginger

One of my personal favorite remedies for calming an upset stomach, quelling nausea, fighting off a cold, easing muscle aches and pains, and maintaining healthy blood sugar.  This warming rhizome adds an unmistakable zing and brightness in pumpkin spice. Even the aroma of ginger is stimulating and refreshing.

 

Nutmeg

It’s used in lots of cookie and coffee drink recipes, but did you know nutmeg can also help relieve pain, quell indigestion, boost cognitive function, and strengthen your immune system? A pinch of nutmeg is an excellent addition to your cup if you’re feeling a little under the weather.

 

Allspice

Another hallmark aroma of fall and the holiday seasons is allspice, the only spice that grows just in the Western hemisphere. These little berries are a wonderful digestive aid, helping to reduce bloating, gas and ease stomach cramps. Allspice is the aroma found in many men’s toiletries (think Old Spice).

 

Cloves

The scent of cloves is strong, but pumpkin spice would not be pumpkin spice without it. Cloves are actually the unopened pink flower buds of the evergreen clove tree that turn brown upon drying. “Clove” is derived from the Latin word clavus, which means nail, pretty appropriate. From reducing inflammation to stimulating digestion, to using clove bud oil topically for a toothache, cloves are loaded with health benefits.

If you’re a fan of pumpkin spice and want to reap the benefits, I recommend trying your hand at making your own spice blend so you can control the ingredients and choose organic components. Or look at your natural foods store for seasonal blends with organic, sustainably harvested spices.

 

Pumpkin Spice

2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cloves

Mix together in a small bowl and put in a jar with tight fitting lid.

Add a teaspoon to your drip coffee maker. Mix 1 tbsp of sugar and ½ teaspoon of pumpkin spice and sprinkle over popcorn. Heat one quart of organic apple juice and add 1 tsp pumpkin spice. There are so many ways to use these wondrous spices. Mmmm, there’s nothing quite like it in fall.

Resource: Allen RW, et al. Ann Fam Med 2013 Sep-Oct;11(5):452-9.

Dietary Intake of Cinnamon Associated with Better Working Memory

  • Cinnamon (Cinnamomum spp., Lauraceae)
  • Working Memory
  • Prediabetes

People with diabetes or prediabetes have a higher risk for cognitive impairment. Evidence from experimental, clinical, and epidemiological studies indicates that consumption of culinary herbs and spices such as cinnamon (Cinnamomum spp., Lauraceae) bark, turmeric (Curcuma longa, Zingiberaceae) rhizome, and ginger (Zingiber officinale, Zingiberaceae) rhizome may improve working memory (WM). The authors hypothesize that culinary herb or spice usage is associated with improved WM in people with age-related and prediabetic cognitive impairment. The authors tested this hypothesis in an epidemiological study of patients with untreated, newly diagnosed prediabetes.

Patients (n = 99; aged ≥ 60 years) with a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5-30 kg/m2 (non-obese) and fasting glucose between 100-125 mg/dL (prediabetic) were recruited from a health checkup program at Tri-Service General Hospital, National Defense Medical Center; Taipei City, Taiwan. Included patients had no history of diabetes medication usage, severe chronic disease, recent acute illness, or hospitalization in the 2 months preceding the study. Excluded patients had a history of heavy drinking in the preceding 2 weeks, consumed ginseng (Panax spp., Araliaceae) root or garlic (Allium sativum, Amaryllidaceae) cloves, or had kidney impairment.

After an overnight fast, patients were assessed using the mini-mental state examination (MMSE) and a modified WM test. Physical evaluations included BMI, body fat composition, fasting glucose, and homeostatic model assessment for insulin resistance (HOMA-IR). Trained dieticians administered 2 questionnaires. One queried patients regarding their clinical history, medicine usage, sociodemographic characteristics, and personal behaviors including physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption, and betel nut (Areca catechu, Arecaceae) chewing. The second was a 32-item semiquantitative food frequency questionnaire (SFFQ) to evaluate dietary intake 1 year prior to study initiation, with 5 additional questions on culinary herb and spice usage. The intake frequency of culinary herbs and spices was assessed on a 7-point scale ranging from “never” to “6 or more times per day.” Linear regression analysis was used to calculate the effect of variables on WM.

Six patients were excluded from the analysis; 4 did not fast, and 2 reported implausible dietary intake data. The cohort studied was composed of 47 men and 46 women with mean ages of 72.1 and 74.3 years, respectively.

The crude analysis indicated that cinnamon (but not ginger or turmeric) consumption had a significant effect on WM (P < 0.05). Increased education (number of years) and a higher MMSE score also were positively associated with WM (P < 0.01 and P < 0.05, respectively), while increased total fat mass (kg) was negatively associated with WM (P < 0.05). After adjustment for age and sex, only cinnamon use (P < 0.05), education (P < 0.01), and MMSE (P < 0.01) remained significant. When all variables were adjusted, cinnamon users still had significantly better WM than non-users (P < 0.05). Patients who consumed dietary cinnamon had significantly less frequent physical activity (P = 0.04), consumed more fresh ginger (P = 0.02), consumed more ginger in cooking (P = 0.04), and had better WM (P < 0.001) compared to patients who did not consume cinnamon. Although cinnamon users also more commonly consumed ginger, no synergistic effect on WM was detected.

The authors state, “Because we are reporting [cinnamon] usage in usual home food preparation, we are talking about no more than a gram or so per day, generally available and affordable.” They do not report the criteria used to differentiate cinnamon users (n = 15) and non-users (n = 78).

The authors conclude that cinnamon intake is associated with better WM in patients with untreated prediabetes, and this correlation is not accounted for by education, dietary quality, or insulin resistance. According to the authors, studies that evaluate acute cinnamon intake have not shown an association between WM and cinnamon intake; they hypothesize that the effect on WM may be dependent on the duration of exposure. Limitations of the study include (1) the criteria used to define cinnamon users and non-users was not reported, (2) cinnamon (and other herbs and spices) intake calculations were based on subjective recall of dietary habits over the past year, (3) neither the preparation form nor the quality of cinnamon consumed could be evaluated, and (4) since the study was conducted in a Taiwanese population, the results may not be transferable to other populations with Western-style diets. The results of this epidemiological study suggest that the effects of chronic cinnamon consumption on WM bear further research. The authors also recommend investigation of the additive or synergistic effect of culinary herb and spice consumption.

Wahlqvist ML, Lee MS, Lee JT, et al. Cinnamon users with prediabetes have a better fasting working memory: a cross-sectional function study. Nutr Res. 2016;36(4):305-310.

The spice of life: Cinnamon cools your stomach — ScienceDaily

cinnamon-stick-powder-130909Adding cinnamon to your diet can cool your body by up to two degrees, according to research. And the spice may also contribute to a general improvement in overall health, say authors of a new report.

Source: The spice of life: Cinnamon cools your stomach — ScienceDaily