Herbal Remedies (I May Regret This)

For months now, I’ve been receiving a lot of emails pushing various herbal remedies for diabetes. I guess it’s finally time to explore them a little, although it scares me to open this can of worms: nothing invites comment spam like mentioning dietary supplements.

Well, I’m taking the plunge anyway, but don’t be surprised if your comment peddling some herbal product is promptly removed.

So, for those of you just genuinely curious, as I am, I have discovered the following interesting bitsMedicinalherb of information about some herbal substances that seem to have a legitimate effect on diabetes and/or your overall health.

(NOTE: I’ve compiled this information from various websites and from the research of D-author Gretchen Becker. A great comprehensive overview is also available from Diabetes Self-Management magazine.)

* Cinnamonwell-documented studies show that cinnamon helps lower BG levels and “normalize” lipids in Type 2 diabetics. Experts have even gone so far as to call cinnamon (and its water-soluble extract) “a natural version of insulin” because the effects were so profound. Apparently this common and tasty spice is truly helpful. (Who knew? Too bad I’m not a cinammon fan.)

* Ginseng – one of the most popular supplements in the US, sold in tablet form and in herbal teas, primarily as an energy booster. It has been reported to lower BG levels, but the many varieties have different effects, therefore you may end up raising your BG, sources say.

* Bilberry — (not blueberry) leaves have also been reported to help with BG control, consumed in anSupplements anti-diabetic tea. The berries are a rich source of antioxidants (compounds that may decrease the risk of heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases) and may improve circulation, thus have been suggested as a treatment for diabetic retinopathy. But use in small quantities, please, as too much bilberry can be toxic.

* Gymnema Sylvestre — an Indian herb used in Ayurveda, the ancient Hindi medicine system of India. Injesting the leaves causes gradual hypoglycemic actions, and also helps lower serum cholesterol and triglycerides. A 2001 study by CDE’s in Nebraska confirmed that this herb improves glycemic control in Type 2 patients, significantly reducing postprandial BG and decreasing A1c results (!)

* Gingko Biloba — used primarily to increase circulation. But since it is a blood thinner, should be used with caution, especially if you’re already taking any other type of blood-thinning substance.

* Evening Primrose Oil — studies indicate that the GLA (gammalinolenic acid) in evening primrose oil can help prevent — and potentially reverse — the nerve damage (neuropathy) commonly caused by diabetes. General recommended dose: 1,000 mg evening primrose oil three times a day.

* Saw Palmetto – a spikey-looking bush with berries, recommended for everything from enlarged prostate problems to breast enlargement. It’s use in “peripheral” diabetes treatment is apparently for treating infections of the gastro-urinary tract, and also increasing the strength and function of the bladder.

The thing to keep in mind is that most doctors and medical authorities are luke-warm at best on the value of taking much of this stuff, especially the drugstore-marketed “solutions” — reminding us that many substances are ineffective or potentially even harmful. After years of medical school and in-the-trenches experience with patients, I think they might have a point.

For example, a prominent endocrinologist whom I interviewed recently had this to say when I asked her about nutritional supplements (the packaged kind), including beta complex, omega complex, and creatine:

“Most of them are just hype… However, if you came to me on one of these supplements, and you believe in it, I’d say OK. I wouldn’t protest unless it’s hurting you in some way damaging your liver or putting an extra strain on your kidneys.”

Right. It’s just that I for one wouldn’t want to find out the hard way, after the damage is done. Any thoughts here? I’m sure you all have many :)


36 Responses

  1. julia
    julia March 1, 2006 at 8:59 am | | Reply

    Heh. You should talk to Jeff H. over at CWD. He was telling the parents list about a persistent emailer who was trying to sell a cure for diabetes. All you had to do was buy these special inserts for your shoes and then walk backwards. He gets some doozies.

    I’m sure there are supplements out there that can help, but until they’re studied and published in a peer-reviewed study, I’m not going to put any faith in them and I’m definitely not going to experiment with them on my daughter.

  2. Elizabeth Zabell
    Elizabeth Zabell March 1, 2006 at 9:01 am | | Reply

    One of my brothers is a natropathic doctor. He believes in curing everything with herbs and natural remedies. When I was first diagnosed a year ago, he told me that I should try not taking insulin to see what would happen. He said that I might not have diabetes. As much as I love my brother, I could not follow his advice. I knew what would happen if I stopped taking my insulin and started on whatever “herbal treatment” he had in mind.

    Although it would be nice to see some of these things work, I am going to stick with my insulin. I don’t really feel like playing roulette with my health.

  3. Jo
    Jo March 1, 2006 at 4:21 pm | | Reply

    The only one I take that you listed is Ginsing. Does it help? Who knows — but it hasn’t hurt either.

  4. Kirk
    Kirk March 2, 2006 at 6:32 am | | Reply


    I’ve been using supplments for over 30 years and always look for some reasonable studies; my armamentarium includes Evening Primrose,Alpha Lipoeic, Conjugated Linoleic, DHEA, L-arginine, Biotin, Asprin, Omega 3s, Glucosamine and a multi vitamin. 30 years ago most doctors said a vitamin supplement wasn’t necessary. I am still walking and talking and really do not know if any of it helps me but it doesn’t seem to hurt.

  5. mike
    mike March 2, 2006 at 9:19 am | | Reply

    I take cinnamon and chromium. I’ve seen studies that suggest vinegar can support healthy BG levels. As a result, I eat a lot of dill pickles. I don’t think I could drink vinegar straight.

  6. Angus
    Angus March 2, 2006 at 9:44 am | | Reply

    I take the “Diabetes Health Pack” from Nature Made or Nature’s Way or something like that. No idea if it does anything for me, but I fell for the packaging.

  7. Paula
    Paula March 3, 2006 at 9:06 am | | Reply

    Alpha lipoic acid (ALA; for neuropathy) has some pretty solid research behind them. NCCAM is doing some interesting clinical trials with chromium, as well.

  8. Andrea H.
    Andrea H. March 3, 2006 at 3:17 pm | | Reply

    The supplements a 30-year Type I who takes LONG hikes (Kirk, above) takes for his diabetes sounds good to me! I’ve heard some noise about Glucosamine raising BGs, but if you’re active, you tend to need it for your old joints. I haven’t noticed it effecting my BGs. Kirk, if you’re reading this, do you take a timed release ALA? I’ve heard it matters, but the timed release ones are much more $.

  9. Ronald S. Brown
    Ronald S. Brown March 3, 2006 at 4:56 pm | | Reply

    Although there are at least 1,200 medicinal plants with anti-diabetic activity, they are not usually as strong as drugs, nor as consistent in preparation or activity. There is some science for them but it is not usually very good science. Most
    everybody agrees that herbals deserve further study, but we decided not to wait. We tried a bunch of herbs.

    Of these, we found cinnamon and milk thistle most easily tolerated (least unfriendly). Some herbs did not seem to be very effective. Others were effective enough, but caused side effects (headache, upset stomach, diarrhea) that made us stop using them. Wolfberries seemed to be helpful, or at least not harmful. Fenugreek, Aloe vera, garcinia cambogia, cloves, and turmeric were also useful.

  10. Kim
    Kim March 5, 2006 at 6:23 pm | | Reply

    While I was on a year abroad years ago, I asked various people in India, Mexico, Thailand, and Belize about local treatments for diabetes. The most popular were Nopalita (rural Mexico) and Fennugreek Seeds (India).

  11. Wacky Hermit
    Wacky Hermit March 7, 2006 at 8:28 pm | | Reply

    My mother-in-law tried to get me to drink mangosteen juice; she said it would “cure” my gestational diabetes. Somehow I doubted that fruit juice, even exotic fruit juice, could cure much of anything, let alone diabetes. So I’m not surprised that mangosteen juice didn’t make the list of herbal remedies that work.

  12. Van
    Van March 9, 2006 at 5:55 am | | Reply

    For information on the latest research on medicinal properties of herbs try the Herb Research Foundation, http://www.herbs.org/index.html. This organisation is run by top scientist in the fields pharmacology and botany.

  13. David
    David March 9, 2006 at 11:10 am | | Reply

    Does cinamon do anything for Type 1s?

  14. Steven Wu
    Steven Wu November 3, 2006 at 5:55 pm | | Reply

    Cinnamon seems to work for me but I don’t know the right quantity/frequency to use. It is the problem with herbal treatment. U are never sure if you are over/underdosed. Cinnamon sticks are cheap but most of the other harbal pills that you get from the store cost as much if not more than common diabetic drug like glucophage.

  15. Peter M. Lot
    Peter M. Lot March 1, 2007 at 3:23 am | | Reply

    thank you for the work you are doing to fight against diabetes.Aim a student from the University Of Arusha.I have discovered harbs which heal diabetes and cancer of the mouth.I now ask you to help me to standardize my harbs.I have tested this to many people.Inow look for your cooperation to enter in this service.Aim looking forward to hearing fom you.thank you.

  16. naturalist
    naturalist April 4, 2007 at 9:30 am | | Reply

    Cinnamon has been a proven herb that has the potential to reduce blood sugar levels as much as 50%. Doctors are now recommending it to their patients

  17. Alisa
    Alisa April 16, 2007 at 2:32 pm | | Reply

    What about Cactus?? It’s called nopales in Spanish. I used to eat it scrambled with eggs when I was little, (you cut it into cubes and soak it because it is very gooey like aloe vera). When I had gestational diabetes the diabetic center told me to try it because they had seen some substantial results. My diabetic uncle takes cactus pills. I was wondering if it really works!

  18. Nantha Kumar
    Nantha Kumar August 21, 2007 at 12:32 am | | Reply

    If any of diebeties pateince wants to avoid kidney failure practice this (During emptying your urine squat down a little during that time and this is practiced all over India by males and females and it helps)

  19. Nantha Kumar
    Nantha Kumar August 21, 2007 at 12:39 am | | Reply

    The rigth way to take cinnamon is by brewing it just like tea but without the tea and replays your daily water or tea (beverages) with cinnamon with non diebetic sugar cubes to add to taste as good as any beverages

  20. Andrew McDowell
    Andrew McDowell February 17, 2008 at 6:21 am | | Reply

    I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a little over a year ago. Like everyone else here I have been searching for herbal or natural remedies to control my diabetes (no known cure).
    I have discovered two things that with surety effect my diabetes.
    1) If I eat beef for some reason my BG is reduced into the lower end of the acceptable range
    2) If I exercise (walk greater than 1 mile) I see the effects as lowered BG.
    Sorry but I have tried cinnamon and other natural herbs and to date have not found them to be helpful. I am a Christian and I know our Father created some combination of foods that will help the type 2 diabetics improve insulin resistance, but I have yet to discover what this combination is.

  21. shanti maharaj
    shanti maharaj February 24, 2008 at 4:38 pm | | Reply

    i have been taking two chromium picolante capsules two cinnamon two fenugrek one gymnema sylvestre one neem and two bitter gourd every day so far i have been off all diabetic pill and insulin. walk very fast for ten minutes power walk and lots of water

  22. Natural Remedies for Diabetes mom

    My grandmother was diagnosed with diabetes over 15 years ago. I Wish she would of known the things that we all know about diabetes now. The natural herbs and are amazing on this site.

  23. Natural Remedies for Diabetes mom

    My grandmother was diagnosed with diabetes over 15 years ago. I Wish she would of known the things that we all know about diabetes now. The natural herbs and are amazing on this site.

  24. Natural Remedies for Diabetes mom

    This is my 10 time coming back to this site. Great information. Keep it up.

  25. Natural Remedies for Diabetes mom

    This is my 10 time coming back to this site. Great information. Keep it up.

  26. thora
    thora September 26, 2008 at 10:31 am | | Reply

    i`m starting to experience menopausal symptoms and have read a lot about angus cactus. Does anyone know what effects it might have on type 2 diabetes thats diet controlled?

  27. MANA
    MANA October 22, 2008 at 1:51 pm | | Reply


  28. Gordon Lavis
    Gordon Lavis January 3, 2009 at 1:15 pm | | Reply

    click on web site manallc.com……wow! it lowered my glucose level, with the reccommended diet……all I can say is “wow”!

  29. Jim
    Jim May 14, 2009 at 10:43 am | | Reply

    Many people talk about clinical studies and peer reviews.
    I found only 1 that meets medical standards at the site below.


  30. Diabetes natural herbs
    Diabetes natural herbs September 29, 2009 at 4:05 am | | Reply

    Now-a-day’s diabetes patients start showing interest in natural diabetes herbs for their treatment on seeing or hearing its effectiveness in the treatment.

    Yes diabetes herbs has the ability to nourish pancreas, liver and small intestine and bring back its normal functioning thus blood glucose is controlled and diabetes may be cured.

    Remember scientific studies too start accepting herbs for the treatment of diabetes.

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  32. Jennifer
    Jennifer December 24, 2009 at 5:26 pm | | Reply

    I have had my last 4 babies at home, naturally, but they have been getting progressively larger, with the last being 9 lbs. 14 oz. This pregnancy, I noticed an increased thirst and excessive fatigue right away. These factors all indicate probably gestational diabetes. Muscle response testing showed a weakened pancreas (this did not test weak prior to pregnancy), but I couldn’t find anything to strengthen that point. Finally, I stumbled upon cinnamon as a possible help in diabetes, and this did indeed make the pancreas point strong. I mixed 1/8 tsp. in some water, added a bit of sucanat, and some fresh milk to the mixture to make a nice tea. I will continue to do this throughout the remainder of the pregnancy, as MRT shows necessary. I will be interested to see if this will also help reduce the weight of this baby.

  33. donald
    donald May 12, 2010 at 4:23 am | | Reply

    My husband start taking medication for one month and i search on the inetrnet during that time and found Manna ,after using Manna he is not taking the Doctors medication ever since then till now.

  34. Stefanie
    Stefanie November 13, 2010 at 12:26 am | | Reply

    I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes with post meal readings of 15.8 and 2 hours after eating 8.8, fasting was 7.2.
    I was careful not to eat sugar, if I ate fruit I had some almonds to balance the blood sugar.
    I took 1 tsp of organic cinnamon powder 2 times per day.
    A GlucoManager tablet containing Gymnema, chromium, lipoic acid, fenugreek, nicotinamide, magnesium – 2 after every meal.
    I was already walking for 40 mins early morning but increased that to a second walk after my evening meal.
    In 2 weeks my blood sugar normalised!

  35. carol Hilton
    carol Hilton November 11, 2011 at 10:08 am | | Reply

    Hi, I have been consuming SB GROUP medication from India.
    they have really helped me and changed my full life.
    Once upon a time I was same lady , who was injecting 50 unit insulin daily.
    But today I am bcos of herbal medicine I ‘m on tablets now and Sb has been providing mre important tips to reduce toxin.
    In my medication I have been consuling fennu greek seed powder,2 pieces fresh black pepper powder, Turmeric powder,cummin seed water,drum stick soup,azadirachta indica leaf powder.
    It is my advice to this blog to add more herbs to this page.

    thank you

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