9 Herbs for Diabetes & Insulin Support
Diabetes is a common disease that more and more people are dealing with. In fact, some researchers estimate that the number of people with type 2 diabetes will double in less than 20 years. (1)
There are many factors involved in diabetes, but the main definition of it is an illness related to elevated blood sugar levels- caused mainly because your body no longer responds to insulin properly.
The good news is that type 2 diabetes is not an uncontrollable disease, and herbs can play a big role as a complement to conventional treatment and lifestyle changes.
How Herbs Can Help Diabetes
It's important to point out from the start that herbs are not a cure for diabetes or a substitution for medication. Successful treatment of diabetes often involves conventional methods as well as lifestyle changes like diet and exercise.
However, herbs can be an excellent complementary therapy to provide your body with extra support (especially in a formula like this Metabolic Manager). They can also be very helpful for those with prediabetes who are trying to avoid progressing to full diabetes.
Of course, you should discuss any options you want to try with a healthcare professional before starting.
Also, these herbs have mainly been studied as potential support for type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is a different disease that often involves an autoimmune condition and a different treatment approach.
Top Herbs for Diabetes Support
Cinnamon is one of the most researched herbs/spices in relation to diabetes and insulin support. Multiple studies have shown that it can improve blood sugar levels as well as cholesterol and triglyceride levels in those with type 2 diabetes. (2)
Natural compounds from cinnamon have also shown potential for reducing insulin resistance and improving insulin sensitivity- two important factors of diabetes. (3)
In general, the amount of cinnamon to take daily starts at 1/2 teaspoon. For long-term use, Ceylon cinnamon (true cinnamon) is preferred over cassia cinnamon, but both are effective.
Aloe vera is mostly known for its wonderful skin benefits, but it may prove to be useful for diabetes as well. Sap from the aloe plant has been used as a traditional treatment for diabetes in the Middle East for years and there may be a reason for that.
Research has shown that aloe vera may help lower fasting blood sugar levels and HbA1c. Animal studies also indicate that it may even be able to help repair cells involved in insulin production. (4)(5)
These effects haven't conclusively been proven in humans yet, but most people can safely take a few tablespoons of aloe juice daily.
One of the main active compounds in turmeric, curcumin, has shown an ability to help with blood sugar control and may even be able to help prevent diabetes.
This comes from a research study conducted over nine months with 240 pre-diabetic adults. Half of the group took curcumin capsules and the other half took a placebo. At the end of nine months, 16.4% of the placebo group was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, while 0% of the curcumin group was diagnosed. (6)
It's hard to get enough curcumin just from consuming turmeric, so try a more concentrated supplement like turmeric tablets or turmeric tonic.
Fenugreek is another one of the herbs for diabetes that has a long history of use in traditional medicine. More recently, research has confirmed potential benefits for both type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.
A small 60 person study found that adding 10 grams of fenugreek seeds to the diet each week improved fasting blood sugar after 5 months and HbA1C levels after 6 months in participants with type 2 diabetes. Another study found that consuming 5 grams of fenugreek powder a week significantly reduced the risk of a type 2 diabetes diagnosis in those with prediabetes. (7)(8)
Fenugreek seeds have a nutty flavor and aren't difficult to add to your diet.
Both Asian and American ginseng have shown an ability to decrease blood sugar levels in studies. One study using fermented Asian ginseng also found that it may potentially improve insulin sensitivity as well. (9)
Keep in mind that this research is still in the early stages, although ginseng does have other benefits like reducing stress and boosting energy. Use Asian ginseng when possible and buy only sustainably harvested American ginseng because it is severely overharvested.
Bitter melon is a staple in traditional Chinese medicine and may prove very helpful against diabetes.
Several studies have found that the pulp of the fruit as well as extracts and powder can all lower blood sugar levels. Interestingly, one very small study also tested an "insulin-like agent" that was purified from bitter melon. It showed "a remarkable fall in the blood glucose level" when injected, which definitely means this plant deserves more research! (10)
Bitter melon is what you would call an acquired taste, so you'll probably have better luck with it in supplement form.
Milk thistle is one of the best liver cleansing herbs and also has potential for diabetes support. In particular, silymarin- one of the main components of milk thistle- has shown an ability to lower blood sugar and possibly improve insulin sensitivity. (11)
One clinical trial on silymarin found that it improved the overall glycemic profile of participants with type 2 diabetes over a four month period. (12)
To take this herb, you can use milk thistle seeds to make a tea or try it as an herbal extract.
Psyllium comes from the seeds of a certain species of plantain plant. It's mostly used as a fiber supplement to relieve or prevent constipation and help keep your digestion regular.
There's also evidence that adding psyllium to your diet if you have type 2 diabetes can help improve blood sugar control. It also seems to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels as well. (13)
Be sure to drink plenty of water anytime you add psyllium to your diet, and start at the low end and work your way up.
Holy basil (also known as tulsi) is an adaptogenic herb with incredible benefits for stress relief and renewing vitality. It has also shown an ability to lower both fasting and post-meal blood sugar levels. (14)
With so many other benefits for your health, holy basil is a great herb to add to your life regardless of whether you have diabetes or not. Try it as tulsi tea or holy basil extract.
As mentioned, none of these herbs should be used as a "cure" for diabetes or as a substitute for any medication you may be taking. Also, keep in mind that each herb has its own effects, which you should research before using to make sure there won't be any negative interactions.
Some herbs are powerful enough to lower your blood sugar too much if you are already taking medication to lower it.
Finally, be sure to buy quality herbs (organic when possible) from a reputable seller to make sure you actually get what you pay for.
Using Herbs Together for Diabetes Support
Sometimes, herbs are more effective when combined together. While you can try any herb on this list by itself, you may also want to consider something like this Metabolic Manager formula that combines several herbs to support healthy insulin response.
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and should not be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your health care provider, herbalist, midwife, or naturopathic physician before taking herbs, supplements, etc. Here's the link to our full disclaimer.
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