Keep Diabetes In Check With Plants


| January/February 1997



01-97-030-diabetes-3b.jpg

Panax ginseng

Diabetes has been likened to a car without its spark—the gas tank may be full, but the engine won’t start. Normally, the body’s spark is provided by insulin, a hormone that regulates the use of glucose, the body’s main source of energy. In diabetics, the body either lacks insulin or produces it but uses it ineffectively; meanwhile, glucose remains unused and circulating in the bloodstream. In some cases, untreated diabetes can be fatal.

More than sixteen million people are afflicted with diabetes in the United States, where it is the fifth leading cause of death, according to the American Diabetes ­Association. Records of its existence date to about 1500 b.c., but little is known about its cause, and a cure doesn’t exist. Most diabetics, however, can keep the disease in check through proper diet and regular exercise. Moreover, research has shown that some substances found in plants can contribute to this care, and other phytochemicals are under investigation.

What Diabetes Is

The body uses insulin to metabolize, or process, carbohydrates and to help tissues use glucose. Diabetics are generally grouped into two categories:

• Type I diabetics don’t produce insulin. This condition usually appears for the first time in people younger than age thirty. Although it is the more serious of the two types of diabetes, it accounts for only 8 percent of all cases of diabetes in the United States. Type I diabetics must take insulin orally or by injection to survive, but a healthful diet and exercise are also important to prevent complications stemming from the disease.

• In Type II diabetes, the body produces insulin but can’t use it to regulate glucose. The result is hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, which over time can damage the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and/or heart. About 92 percent of American diabetics fall into this category, and most are middle-aged and overweight. Most Type II diabetics can be treated by following a low-fat, low- to moderate-carbohydrate, high-fiber diet and getting regular exercise, both of which increase the body’s ability to use insulin, and thus glucose, effectively.

The Role Plants Play

Antidiabetic medications have some unpleasant side effects, so researchers continue to search for safer alternatives. Test-tube screenings of 295 plants used in traditional herbal medicine showed that about 240 of them were potentially antidiabetic, and more than 200 of their constituents were found to be hypoglycemic, meaning that they lower blood sugar levels, and to improve the body’s ability to use insulin more effectively. Although as many as two-thirds of these plants may also be harmful, the herbs discussed below have been confirmed to be both safe and effective. Before trying any of these treatments, however, consult your health-care practitioner. Never give up insulin or other prescribed medication without advice from a specialist.





elderberry, echinacea, bee hive

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Feb. 17-18, 2018
Belton, Texas

Sit in on dozens of practical workshops from the leading authorities on Natural Health, Organic Gardening, Real Food and more!

LEARN MORE