TYPE 2 DIABETES
I was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I know that I
need to lose weight, but what herbs, supplements and dietary
changes do you suggest?
Stansbury responds: Losing weight and getting
plenty of exercise will indeed help your blood sugar levels.
General dietary recommendations include limiting sugar, sweet
juices and pastries, as well as limiting all bread and grain
products which are rapidly metabolized to sugar. Avoid rice,
bagels, cereals, potatoes, pasta and the like, favoring the starch
of beans, colorful vegetables and nuts whenever possible. Eat daily
large, fresh salads, vegetable soups, steamed veggies, baked squash
and bean dishes. Legumes are not only a starch substitute, but an
excellent source of protein, so diabetics should eat them instead
of refined carbohydrates. Legumes also are high in saponins, which
are known to improve glucose regulation.
I also encourage the liberal use of spices, such as garlic
(Allium sativum), onions (Allium cepa), ginger (Zingiber
officinale) and cayenne (Capsicum annuum). The sulfur components of
garlic have an insulin-like action and improve elevated cholesterol
and triglycerides. This helps regulate blood glucose and protects
blood vessels. One of the major long-term concerns with diabetes,
blood-vessel damage can lead to eye, kidney and peripheral
Cayenne and ginger also will help with elevated blood fats and
protect blood vessels, as will the blue and purple pigments in
blueberries, grapes, beets, blackberries and raspberries.
Another herb to consider as a food and a supplement is fenugreek
(Trigonella foenum-graecum). Fenugreek seeds contain a constituent
known as trigonelline, which is thought responsible for at least
some of fenugreek’s action on reducing hyperglycemia. Fenugreek
also contains several other compounds shown in animal and human
studies to reduce blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides.
Fenugreek seeds can be sprouted and eaten, ground into powder and
used in cooking or consumed as pills or tincture.
Evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) and other plants containing
essential fatty acids may help reduce blood lipids in diabetics as
well as reduce neuropathy by improving blood flow to the nerves.
Essential fatty acids also may reduce blood pressure and help
protect the heart and blood vessels.
American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) acts as a heart and
cerebrovascular tonic, among myriad other benefits. American
ginseng is an antioxidant and may help protect the tissues from
Willard responds: Type 2 diabetes
(insulin-resistant or adult-onset diabetes) is speedily becoming
one of the most prominent diseases in North America. It is almost
always a disease of poor lifestyle choices, and it can usually be
turned around quickly with dramatic lifestyle changes and herbal
and nutritional supplementation.
The most important thing to do is reduce the consumption of
carbohydrates or foods that rapidly turn into glucose and raise the
blood sugar levels. The rate at which a food turns into glucose is
expressed as the glycemic index (GI). You can find a GI list from
your health-care provider or on the Internet. High-GI foods raise
blood sugar, stress the pancreas and produce fat even faster than
Several herbs and nutritional supplements also can help. In
addition to the information Stansbury provided above, the following
are ones I have found most beneficial:
Alpha lipoic acid helps burn glucose, converting it to energy.
It also works as a strong antioxidant, protecting the body against
free radicals. It has been shown to be effective in treating
diabetes. Alpha lipoic acid lowers glucose and insulin levels,
while reducing insulin resistance. Dosage: 200 mg twice daily.
Chromium is by far the most important mineral to prevent insulin
resistance. This is very important because 90 percent of North
Americans don’t receive enough chromium in their diet. Chromium
helps insulin function more efficiently. Responsible for glucose
tolerance factor, chromium will reduce radical changes related to
both diabetes and hypoglycemia. Chromium has been used in the last
several years to encourage weight loss, reduce blood lipids and
lower blood pressure.
Devil’s club (Oplopanax horridus) is specific for type 2
diabetes. One of the most useful things we have noticed in the
clinic is its ability to stop the lust for sweets and binge eating.
We have found this very beneficial for diet management in
weight-loss clients. Devil’s club also helps reduce general stress
(mind or body) and gives a person a feeling of well-being. Dosage:
40 drops of tincture, twice daily.
Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) has been used for centuries
in Asia for blood sugar-related problems. It has been shown to
lower blood glucose levels in diabetics by improving the
utilization of the glucose, not by increasing insulin. Dosage:
consumed as food, or take 500 mg of concentrate daily.
Gymnema (Gymnema sylvestre) also has been used for centuries to
reduce blood-sugar levels. It does this by increasing the
efficiency of insulin. Other research says that gymnema promotes
the regeneration of the pancreatic beta cells, which produce
insulin. Dosage: 300 to 500 mg, twice daily.
HELP WITH HPV
I was recently diagnosed with cervical dysplasia, which I
attained through the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus
(HPV). I will be having surgery next month to remove the growth
from my cervix. However, my doctor has advised me that there is no
cure for HPV, and that I will more than likely have recurrences
where I’ll need to repeat the surgery. I was wondering if there are
any herbs or supplements to help ensure that the virus becomes
Brooklyn, New York
Stansbury responds: There are more than 60
types of HPV; some infect the skin, causing common warts, and
around one-third of the HPV types may be spread sexually and cause
venereal warts. Some types of HPV may infect the cervix and be
associated with an increased risk of reproductive cancer. Because
of this, HPV is best treated aggressively and followed with
frequent Pap smears to check for possible recurrences.
The propensity to develop cervical dysplasia from such viruses
may be more likely in women who smoke or whose diets are low in B
vitamins or antioxidant nutrients, which easily are added to the
diet. A further risk appears to occur in those with multiple sexual
partners. I advise checking vaginal pH, taking probiotics (such as
acidophilus and lactobacillus) and treating any other obvious
pathogens, such as yeast.
Do you frequently have other viruses, such as sore throats,
frequent colds or flus? If so, supporting your immune system with
astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), echinacea (Echinacea spp.),
American ginseng or garlic also may be helpful. Is the HPV
associated with any vaginal discharge, frequent itching, bladder
problems or history of abnormal Pap smears? If so, a problem with
the health of the genitourinary membranes may be involved, and
using sitz baths with calendula (Calendula officinalis), witch
hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) and oak bark (Quercus spp.), plus
reducing sugar intake and improving the diet, can help.
If constipation, hemorrhoids, uterine fibroids or menstrual
problems accompany, the pelvic tissues and blood vessels may be
“stagnant” or congested and supportive to viruses in the local
mucous membranes. If so, exercise to support your circulation, and
consider blood-moving herbs, such as dong quai (Angelica sinensis),
or liver herbs, such as dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) and Oregon
In addition to the B and antioxidant vitamins mentioned above,
vitamin C, zinc and lysine are among the common nutrients noted to
have antiviral activity and deter the recurrence of chronic
viruses. Optimizing your diet and supplementing with these
nutrients may help prevent a recurrence.
Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) preparations also have been
shown to possess antiviral activity. Licorice is widely used in
herbal medicine — its actions are numerous and diverse, including
anti-inflammatory, immune-enhancing and hormonal balancing. Make
licorice tea by boiling 1 teaspoon of the shredded root per cup of
water for 5 to 10 minutes; strain and drink.
Jill Stansbury has been a naturopathic physician for more than
12 years, with a private practice in Battleground, Washington. She
is the chair of the Botanical Medicine Department at the National
College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon, and the
author of many books, including Herbs for Health and Healing
(Publication International, 1997).
Terry Willard is a clinical herbalist, president of the Canadian
Association of Herbal Practitioners and founder of the Wild Rose
College of Natural Healing in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He is the
author of eight books and a CD-ROM, Interactive Herbal.
Willard responds: A lot of people are coming to
the clinic with this issue lately. The first, and one of the most
important things to note about HPV, is that you are not alone. HPV
is very common and many people have contracted this virus. There
are more cases of genital HPV infection than any other sexually
transmitted disease in the United States. At least 20 million
people in this country are already infected. This is not to make
light of HPV. Finding and treating tissue infected with this virus
can prevent cervical cancer.
HPV causes two kinds of abnormal tissue: condyloma (warts) and
dysplasia (precancer). In your case it’s dysplasia — abnormal cells
on the surface of the skin. Dysplasia is not cancer, but may turn
into cancer over a period of years if it’s not treated. Treatment
gets rid of dysplasia so that the tissue cannot turn into cancer.
Most HPV infections do not progress to cervical cancer. Abnormal
cervical cells can be detected by a Pap test and regular pelvic
exams; therefore, it’s very important to get regular
One of the most important lifestyle choices with dysplasia is to
abstain from smoking, as smoking has been linked to an increased
risk of dysplasia turning cancerous.
Once HPV has been diagnosed, one of the first steps is to remove
or reduce the warts and dysplasia. It looks like you already have a
plan for this. But as stated by your doctor, this is not a cure.
Most authorities agree you cannot rid the body of the virus and
thus the recurrence of the associated warts may occur in the
future. If they do return, there are several alternatives to
surgery. Medically, freezing (cryosurgery), burning
(electrocautery) and laser treatment have all been used to remove
Medical and naturopathic doctors often apply a 20 percent
podophyllin solution or podofilox (0.5 percent solution) to the
affected areas. If you are pregnant, you should not use podophyllin
Orally, you can try homeopathic thuja (30 x strength) to reduce
the warts. Add to this immune-building herbs — such as echinacea,
astragalus, and shiitake (Lentinula edodes) and reishi (Ganoderma
lucidum) mushrooms — and vitamin C (1 to 3 grams), beta-carotene
(25,000 to 100,000 I.U.), folic acid (1 to 10 grams) and zinc (30
to 50 mg).
The lifestyle changes that should be employed to help prevent
warts/dysplasia from recurring are similar to any healthy immune
program. Eliminate sugar, refined carbohydrates, excessive red
meats and processed foods from the diet.
Most dietary studies have found that women consuming high
amounts of nutrients from fruits and vegetables have less risk of
cervical dysplasia. Protective effects may be especially strong
from diets high in dark yellow/orange vegetables (carrots, winter
squash, etc.) and tomatoes. High blood levels of folate (the food
form of folic acid) have been linked to protection against the
development of cervical dysplasia.
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