Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder of the endocrine system. Metabolism is the process of making energy from the food you eat. A metabolic disease develops when there is any defect in this process. When this disorder develops, you might have an excess of some substances or a shortage of others that you need to stay healthy.
The metabolic disorder develops when the liver or pancreas does not function normally, like in the case of Diabetes.
Diabetes drugs are developed based on the medicinal herbs
Many conventional medicines have been derived and formed similar to a molecule in traditional medicinal plants.
For example, Metformin, considered to be an efficient oral glucose-lowering agent, is developed based on the plant Galega officinalis used to treat diabetes. Scientists form a molecule and its action similar to that of the natural herbal molecule. However, the human cannot match the millions of years of slow evaluation. So, natural made is always safe compared to human-made things. Also, nature gifted us with this healing molecule packed with a perfect combination of other natural ingredients to make it work at its best. However, humans try to isolate this molecule as a chemical, so its healing effect reduced additionally with numerous side effects.
Diabetes drugs develop resistance & side effects
Synthetic oral anti-diabetic agents have certain drawbacks, such as building resistance in the long run, adverse effects, and lack of action in a large segment of diabetes patients.
Approximately 44% of diabetes patients develop resistance to sulfonylurea treatment within six years.
Additionally, these oral agents are associated with adverse effects such as bloating, flatulence, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort. Some anti-diabetic agents can cause toxic effects; for example, thiazolidinedione may cause liver toxicity, and sulfonylureas may worsen heart disease, cause hypoglycemia, and increase body weight.
Many diabetes patients turn towards herbal treatment
The National Health Interview Survey found 22 % of diabetes used herbal remedies!
Plants provide hypoglycemic property and traditionally used to prevent or treat diabetes. These plants additionally have the benefits of delaying diabetic complications, exhibits antioxidant activity, and lower blood pressure & cholesterol.
21 Diabetes Herbs that lower blood sugar
As per ancient literature, more than 800 plants have anti-diabetic properties, and it indicates diabetes exists since the prehistoric age.
List of 21 diabetes herbs are as below:
1. Allium cepa (Onion)
Onion is a vegetable cultivated in China, India, America, Iran, Russia, Turkey, Egypt, and Pakistan.
Antidiabetic effect: it decreases fasting blood glucose levels and improves glucose tolerance.
Other medicinal uses: it helps reduce arteriosclerosis, lower blood cholesterol levels, and prevent the formation of blood clots.
How to use onion? Use this vegetable regularly in the cooking; search for suitable recipes (raw consumption is preferable).
2. Cuminum cyminum L. (Cumin)
Cumin seeds are grown in the Indian subcontinent, Northern Africa, Mexico, Chile, and China.
Antidiabetic activity: Studies show Cumin may decrease the serum levels of insulin, fasting blood glucose, and glycosylated hemoglobin, and also inflammatory indices.
Other medicinal uses: Studies show taking Cumin seeds decreased creatinine and urea nitrogen. It possesses antioxidant, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and hypolipidemic properties.
How to use cumin seeds? Take 1 ½ glasses of water, boil the water, add one teaspoon cumin, optionally, you can add stevia to sweeten, reduce the flame/heat, leave it for 10 minutes by closing the container with a lid, filter and drink the tea every morning in an empty stomach.
3. Trigonella foenum-graecum L. (Fenugreek)
Fenugreek grows in India, Morocco, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Turkey.
Antidiabetic activity: It slows down glucose and other simple carbohydrates absorption. The study report shows it increased insulin secretion and peripheral glucose uptake.
Other medicinal uses: It nourishes the digestive system, liver, promotes respiratory health, and lower cholesterol levels.
How to use fenugreek? Clean and soak 1 or 2 teaspoons of fenugreek seeds in the night, next morning eat the fenugreek and drink the liquid in an empty stomach.
4. Aloe Vera
It grows in South Texas, USA, Mexico, India, South America, Central America, Australia, and Africa. The aloe vera leaf gel contains about 98% water; balance 2% includes the magical healing compounds.
Antidiabetic activity: It improves the body tissues response towards insulin, thereby making insulin more productive and help lower blood glucose levels in diabetes.
Other medicinal uses: It has been in use for constipation, skin problems, worm/fungal infections, colic, lower blood pressure, and improves cholesterol levels.
How to use aloe vera? Clean aloe vera leaf, cut the spikes in the sides, remove the skin, wash the gel in running water (to remove yellow sap), and cut the gel to eat or grind the gel to drink. Alternatively, get the readily available juice and drink it as per their suggested dosage.
5. Cinnamomum Verum (Cinnamon)
The cinnamon stick is a spice cultivating in Sri Lanka, Brazil, Caribbean, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, and Burma. Traditionally used for blood sugar and cholesterol management.
Antidiabetic property: it improves the insulin-signaling pathway. It increases insulin receptors that improves insulin sensitivity and glucose entry into the cells.
Other medicinal uses - It is a warming circulatory tonic, as well as a digestive aid to soothe upset stomach, gas, bloating, and occasional indigestion.
How to use cinnamon? Take 1 ½ glasses of water, boil the water, break the cinnamon sticks into pieces, optionally you can add few stevia leaves to sweeten, reduce the flame/heat, leave it for 10 minutes by closing the container with a lid, filter and drink the tea every morning in an empty stomach or in-between meals.
6. Ocimum sanctum (holy basil or tulsi)
Basil is indigenous to India. In the Ayurveda system, it is often referred to as an “Elixir (uh·lik·seeuh) of Life” for its healing powers; it can treat many different common health conditions.
Antidiabetic effect: It stimulates insulin secretion from pancreatic Beta cells. It possesses hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effects.
Other medicinal uses: It is useful for asthma, colds, flu, sinusitis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, aches, indigestion, ulcers, and intestinal parasites.
How to use Tulsi? Just eat 5 to 6 fresh leaves the first time in the morning. Alternatively, prepare tulsi tea using dried leaves or take a tulsi capsule.
Its root is grown across the northeastern United States, China, and Korea. It is an herb trusted for over 5000 years for its ability to promote vigor.
Antidiabetic activity: Studies have shown that ginseng increases insulin production and reduces cell death in pancreatic β-cells. Ginseng supplementation show improvement of blood glucose concentrations with a significant reduction in serum insulin level.
Other medicinal uses: It promotes vigor, nourishes the nervous system, enhances hormonal secretion, helps lower cholesterol, and increases immunity.
How to use Ginseng? Half to one teaspoon of Root powder swallow with water. Alternatively, prepare tea and drink.
8. Mangifera indica (Mango)
Mango producing countries include India, China, Thailand, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Indonesia, Brazil, Nigeria, and Egypt.
Antidiabetic activity: It is useful as an antidiabetic agent in Nigerian folk medicine. The study shows its leaves inhibited alpha-amylase activity and thus reduces postprandial (powst·pran·dee·uhl) hyperglycemia. It also improves glucose uptake by the skeletal muscle, adipose tissue, and liver.
Other medicinal uses - Lowers blood pressure, Fights anxiety, treats gall and kidney stones, cure respiratory problems, treats dysentery, and as a stomach tonic.
How to take mango leaves? Put 4 to 5 tender mango leaves in hot water, close the container with a lid, and leave it overnight. The next morning, filter and drink the liquid on an empty stomach.
9. Psidium guajava Linn. (guava)
It is grown in India, China, Thailand, Mexico, Central, and South America.
Antidiabetic property: Traditionally used for the treatment of diabetes in East Asia and other countries. It inhibits various enzymes that convert carbohydrates into glucose in the digestive tract, thus lower postprandial blood glucose spikes. It also improves hyperinsulinemia. In Japan, Guava Leaf Tea (Bansoureicha®) containing the guava leaf extract has been approved and is now commercially available.
Other medicinal uses - It also possesses antioxidant, hepatoprotective, anti-allergy, anti-microbial, cardioactive, anti-cough, and anti-inflammatory. It also improves triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
How to take guava leaves? Clean 4 to 5 leaves of guava in a running water, cut it into pieces, optionally you can add stevia to sweeten, put these into 2 cups of boiling water, minimize the flame/heat, leave it for five minutes by closing the container with a lid, filter the content, and drink the tea.
10. Catharanthus Roseus (Nithya Kalyani)
It is grown widely in India, Malaysia, Spain, Nigeria, West Indies, United States, and China for its pharmaceutical compounds.
Antidiabetic effect - It is probably enhancing the secretion of insulin from the β-cells or through an extra-pancreatic mechanism.
Other medicinal uses - Traditionally used for relieving muscle pain and depression of the central nervous system. In Malaysia, Nigeria, and West Indies, the plant used for tackling hypertension, diabetes, and insomnia. Two anticancer medicines, Oncovin® and Velban®, derived from it, which are sold for US$ 100 million per year.
How to use its flower? Take 1 ½ glasses of water, boil it, add 3 to 5 flowers (fresh or dried), optionally you can add few stevia leaves to sweeten, reduce the flame/heat, leave it for 10 minutes by closing the container with a lid, filter and drink the tea every morning in an empty stomach.
11. Cassia Auriculata (Avarampoo)
It is grown in India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and in several African countries.
Antidiabetic activity: Traditionally has been used to treat diabetes. It boosts insulin levels in the body naturally. The study suggests it possess insulinogenic action through pancreatic as well as extra-pancreatic.
Other medicinal uses - It is useful in disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, improve liver function, and rectify constipation. It is also helpful for joint & muscle pain (rheumatism), and urinary tract disorders.
How to use its flower? Take 1 ½ glasses of water, boil the water, add 3 to 5 flowers (fresh or dried), optionally you can add few stevia leaves to sweeten, reduce the flame/heat, leave it for 10 minutes by closing the container with a lid, filter and drink the tea every morning in an empty stomach.
12. Eugenia jambolana (Jamun)
It grows in the Indian subcontinent, Asia, Africa, and South America.
Antidiabetic activity – Traditionally, its leaves, berries, and seeds used as a viable herb for treating diabetes. It possesses antihyperglycemic and antioxidant properties. It reduces Fasting blood sugar, raises superoxide dismutase, and reduces HOMA-IR (Insulin Resistance). Its antidiabetic activity appears to be both pancreatic by stimulating the release of insulin and extrapancreatic by directly acting on the tissues.
Other medicinal uses - It is also useful to improve blood cholesterol, flatulence (intestinal gas), Gastritis (stomach inflammation), constipation, diarrhea, and liver disorders.
How to take Jamun seed? Take one tablespoon of seed powder, put it into your mouth, and swallow with water 15 minutes before food. Do it twice a day for maximum health benefits.
13. Aegle Marmelos (Bilva, Bael)
It grows in India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, and other Asian countries.
Antidiabetic activity - In an animal study, it enhances the regeneration of β-cells. Fruit extract had hypoglycemic activity; this effect may attribute to its antioxidant activity and its high content of active constituents.
Other medicinal uses - Its fruits and leaves improve digestion and reduce urea. It possesses antiulcer, antioxidant, antimalarial, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, radioprotective, antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, and cholesterol-lowering properties.
How to use its fruits or leaves? Dried fruits are available in the market, take 2 to 3 pieces, and increase as per your requirement based on your blood sugar control. Take one teaspoon of dried leaf powder and swallow with a glass of water.
14. Coccinia Grandis (Ivy gourd)
It is a vegetable widely cultivated in China, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Africa.
Antidiabetic activity - The ingredients present in it act like insulin as well as insulin sensitizer that help control hyperglycemia in diabetes.
Other medicinal uses - It possesses anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant properties. It protects against plaque formation, and thus to some extent, it may prevent heart diseases and strokes.
How to use Ivy gourd? You can cook the vegetable twice weekly, search for various recipes. Take one teaspoon of leaf powder with warm water or prepare tea and drink.
15. Momordica charantia (Bitter Melon or Bitter Gourd)
It is a bitter-tasting vegetable, thus got this name. It is grown in India, Malaysia, China, Africa, the Middle East, the United States, and Thailand.
Antidiabetic activity - It contains insulin-like a compound that causes more glucose to enter the cells, thus help lower blood sugar levels. It is believed to increases glucose consumption by the cells, improves glucose tolerance, and decrease hepatic glucose production.
Other medicinal uses - Traditionally used as anticancer, anti-inflammation, antivirus, and cholesterol-lowering effects.
How to use Bitter melon? You can cook the vegetable twice weekly, search for various recipes. Alternatively, take one teaspoon of leaf powder and swallow with warm water or prepare tea and drink.
16. Salacia Oblonga
It grows in Sri Lanka, India, China, and other Southeast Asian countries.
Antidiabetic activity - Traditionally, its root and stem are used for blood-glucose management, useful for type 2 diabetes management, and also beneficial for type 1 diabetes. It inhibits α-glucosidase and α-pancreatic amylase activity and decreases postprandial glucose. It increases the uptake of free fatty acid (FFA), thus reduces plasma FFA and insulin resistance. It increases glucose uptake by the liver and skeletal muscle and decreases plasma glucose levels.
Other medicinal uses - Its bark is useful for treating diarrhea, fever, arthritis, gonorrhea, and skin diseases.
How to use its root/bark? Grind it into a powder, take ½ to 1 teaspoon daily, or a comparable amount of extract with a glass of water.
17. Gymnema Sylvestre
It grows in the tropical forests of central, western, and southern India and the tropical areas of Africa, Australia, and China.
Antidiabetic activity - It is nicknamed as the sugar destroyer because it destroys the sweet taste by masking the sweet taste buds in the tongue. It increases insulin secretion & glucose utilization promotes islet cell regeneration and inhibits glucose absorption by the intestine.
Other medicinal uses - It also possesses antimicrobial, cholesterol-lowering, and hepatoprotective properties.
How to use its leaf? Grind it into a powder, take ½ to 1 teaspoon daily, or a comparable amount of extract with a glass of water.
18. Scoparia Dulcis (Kallurukki)
It is grown in America, Asia, and Africa.
Antidiabetic activity - It appeared to reduce blood & urine sugar gradually, also not drop below average, so it will not cause hypoglycemia.
Other medicinal uses - It is useful for digestive problems, kidney stones, pulmonary conditions, fever, hypertension, hemorrhoids, diarrhea, dysentery, anemia, albuminuria, and diabetes.
How to use it? Ground the whole plant and take a teaspoon powder swallow with water, or it boiled to get a tea to drink.
19. Portulaca oleracea L
It grows in southern Europe, Mediterranean countries, North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. It contains five times higher omega-3 fatty acids than spinach. It is famous as a traditional medicine in China for the treatment of hypotension and diabetes.
Antidiabetic activities - It increases insulin sensitivity (alleviates insulin resistance) and improves impaired glucose tolerance and lipid metabolism.
Other medicinal uses - It possesses antioxidant, anti-hyperglycemic, anti-hyperlipidemic, renoprotective, and hepatoprotection. It also treats headaches, intestine problems, liver, stomach, cough, shortness of breath, and arthritis.
How to use it? It is a component of green salad, and its soft stem and leaves used raw, alone, or with other greens. Search for various healthy recipes.
20. Silybum marianum (Milk thistle)
It is grown in Europe, American, Australia, Africa, Egypt, India, and China.
Antidiabetic activity: In patients with diabetes and alcoholic liver cirrhosis, milk thistle for six months produced a significant reduction in fasting blood glucose, mean daily glucose levels, and insulin requirement was also decreased by 20%.
Other medicinal uses – It helps reduce several diabetic complications such as diabetic neuropathy, diabetic nephropathy, and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, mainly through its antioxidant properties.
How to use its leaves/seeds? Eat Milk thistle leaves and flowers as a vegetable for salads and a substitute for spinach. Eat the fresh ground seeds, or get a good quality capsule. If using the seeds, buy them whole and then grind them as needed. Roast the seeds for the use as a coffee substitute.
21. Opuntia Streptacantha (Nopal)
American Indians used prickly pear juice to treat burns, and it has a long history in traditional Mexican folk medicine for treating diabetes.
Antidiabetic activities - Cactus pear fruit can lower high blood glucose levels as well as maintain normal levels by decreasing the intestinal absorption of glucose. Fiber and pectin in the fruit may be responsible for this activity.
Other medicinal uses - Also used in treating lipid disorders (it lower cholesterol levels), aids in weight loss, improve digestion, boost immunity, reduce inflammation, lower Alzheimer’s risk, and heal ulcers.
How to use its fruits/shoots? Consume the tender young part of the cactus stem as a vegetable in salads. Consume the cactus pear fruit as fresh.
Is it ok to take the herbs for an extended period?
In Ayurveda, mostly treatment period would be for 41 to 48 days. Also, it is not advisable to take any medicine, including herbs, for an extended period (for years) or a lifetime. However, you can choose a set of some herbs that are effective for you and rotate its use every month to enjoy the benefits without any harmful side effects.
Allium cepa is perfectly ok to use daily without any restriction. Ivy gourd, bitter gourd, and milk thistle can be used as vegetables weekly once or twice. Cumin seed, cinnamon stick, and ginseng root as tea separately or in combination for better blood sugar effects. Guava and mango leaf tea can be taken daily individually or as a combination. Change or modify the tea recipe for every month. You can consume other herbs as directed in a cyclic rotation.
The word of caution – Please include one herb at a time, use it at least for a week, and test blood sugar to know how your body reacts to it, then slowly add next herb and so on until you reach your target.
Can I take diabetes herb along with my regular medicine (drug)?
You can take diabetes herbs along with your drugs; however, you should be more vigilant because you may end up in low blood sugar (Hypo). Also, some herbs may interfere with your drug, and it might increase or decrease its effectiveness or worsen the side effects.
Co-administration of conventional drug and herbal medicine may cause potential interactions that lead to adverse events. So, get a doctor’s consent before starting herbal treatment.
So, you need to do enough research by taking into account the health problems you have and the drug you are on before start taking herbs.
Are herbs available in the market safe to consume?
There is no single definite answer to this because it depends upon the supplier. So, you should be more vigilant and analyze the supplier by going through reviews by fellow users (also, you should be cautious whether the reviews are genuine).
It is always preferable to have herbs by taking decoction by boiling it in low flame for an extended period because this helps to destroy any microorganism in the herbs while processing.