Mother Earth Living

Managing Type 2 Diabetes with Natural Remedies

Try managing type 2 diabetes with natural remedies, including fenugreek, alpha lipoic acid, bitter melon and a variety of spices.

Read more about how to treat HPV symptoms naturally: Treating HPV Symptoms with Natural Remedies.

Managing Type 2 Diabetes with Natural Remedies

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?
J.B.
Dearborn, Michigan

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
circulatory damage.

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
oxidative damage.

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
simple sugar.

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.

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.

Please send your questions to Herbs for Health “Q & A,” 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609; fax (785) 274-4305; or e-mail us at letters@herbs forhealth.com. Provide your name and full address for verification, although both will be kept confidential.

The information offered in “Q & A” is not intended to be a substitute for advice from your health-care provider.

  • Published on Mar 1, 2005
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