Keep Diabetes In Check With Plants

| January/February 1997

  • Panax ginseng
  • Fenugreek
  • Bitter melon

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.

Subscribe today and save 58%

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living !

Mother Earth LivingWelcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $19.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $24.95.

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds