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L.Srikumar Pai
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Herbal remedies for Diabetes
( Natural treatments for diabetes)

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Diabetes mellitus is a complex metabolic disorder resulting from either insulin insufficiency or insulin dysfunction. Type I diabetes (insulin dependent) is caused due to insulin insufficiency because of lack of functional beta cells. Patients suffering from this are therefore totally dependent on exogenous source of insulin while patients suffering from Type II diabetes (insulin independent) are unable to respond to insulin and can be treated with dietary changes, exercise and medication. Type II diabetes is the more common form of diabetes constituting 90% of the diabetic population. Symptoms for both diabetic conditions may include: (i) high levels of sugar in the blood; (ii) unusual thirst; (iii) frequent urination; (iv) extreme hunger and loss of weight; (v) blurred vision; (vi) nausea and vomiting; (vii) extreme weakness and tiredness; (viii) irritability, mood changes etc.

List of Indian herbs used to treat diabetes


A couple of studies have found that cinnamon improves blood glucose control in people with type 2 diabetes. In the first study, 60 people with type 2 diabetes were divided into six groups. Three groups took 1, 3 or 6 g of cinnamon a day and the remaining three groups consumed 1, 3 or 6 g of placebo capsules. After 40 days, all three doses of cinnamon significantly reduced fasting blood glucose, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol.

In another study, 79 people with type 2 diabetes (not on insulin therapy but treated with other diabetes medication or diet) took either a cinnamon extract (equivalent to 3 g of cinnamon powder) or a placebo capsule three times a day.

After four months, there was a slight but statistically significant reduction in fasting blood glucose levels in people who took the cinnamon (10.3%) compared with the placebo group (3.4%), however, there was no significant difference in glycosylated hemoglobin or lipid profiles. For more about cinnamon, read Cinnamon and Blood Sugar and Is Cinnamon a Proven Diabetes Remedy?

Trigonella foenum graecum: (fenugreek)

It is found all over India and the fenugreek seeds are usually used as one of the major constituents of Indian spices. 4-hydroxyleucine, a novel amino acid from fenugreek seeds increased glucose stimulated insulin release by isolated islet cells in both rats and humans  Oral administration of 2 and 8 g/kg of plant extract produced dose dependent decrease in the blood glucose levels in both normal as well as diabetic rats  Administration of fenugreek seeds also improved glucose metabolism and normalized creatinine kinase activity in heart, skeletal muscle and liver of diabetic rats. It also reduced hepatic and renal glucose-6-phosphatase and fructose −1,6-biphosphatase activity  This plant also shows antioxidant activity

Momordica charantia: (bitter gourd)

Momordica charantia is commonly used as an antidiabetic and antihyperglycemic agent in India as well as other Asian countries. Extracts of fruit pulp, seed, leaves and whole plant was shown to have hypoglycemic effect in various animal models. Polypeptide p, isolated from fruit, seeds and tissues of M. charantia showed significant hypoglycemic effect when administered subcutaneously to langurs and humans . Ethanolic extracts of M. charantia (200 mg/kg) showed an antihyperglycemic and also hypoglycemic effect in normal and STZ diabetic rats. This may be because of inhibition of glucose-6-phosphatase besides fructose-1, 6-biphosphatase in the liver and stimulation of hepatic glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase activities

Allium cepa: (onion)

Various ether soluble fractions as well as insoluble fractions of dried onion powder show anti-hyperglycemic activity in diabetic rabbits. Allium cepa is also known to have antioxidant and hypolipidaemic activity. Administration of a sulfur containing amino acid from Allium cepa, S-methyl cysteine sulphoxide (SMCS) (200 mg/kg for 45 days) to alloxan induced diabetic rats significantly controlled blood glucose as well as lipids in serum and tissues and normalized the activities of liver hexokinase, glucose 6-phosphatase and HMG Co A reductase When diabetic patients were given single oral dose of 50 g of onion juice, it significantly controlled post-prandial glucose levels

Allium sativum: (garlic)

This is a perennial herb cultivated throughout India. Allicin, a sulfur-containing compound is responsible for its pungent odour and it has been shown to have significant hypoglycemic activity . This effect is thought to be due to increased hepatic metabolism, increased insulin release from pancreatic beta cells and/or insulin sparing effect . Aqueous homogenate of garlic (10 ml/kg/day) administered orally to sucrose fed rabbits (10 g/kg/day in water for two months) significantly increased hepatic glycogen and free amino acid content, decreased fasting blood glucose, and triglyceride levels in serum in comparison to sucrose controls

Azadirachta indica: (Neem)

Hydroalcoholic extracts of this plant showed anti-hyperglycemic activity in streptozotocin treated rats and this effect is because of increase in glucose uptake and glycogen deposition in isolated rat hemidiaphragm  Apart from having anti-diabetic activity, this plant also has anti-bacterial, antimalarial, antifertility, hepatoprotective and antioxidant effects

Eugenia jambolana: (Indian gooseberry, jamun)

In India decoction of kernels of Eugenia jambolana is used as household remedy for diabetes. This also forms a major constituent of many herbal formulations for diabetes. Antihyperglycemic effect of aqueous and alcoholic extract as well as lyophilized powder shows reduction in blood glucose level. This varies with different level of diabetes. In mild diabetes (plasma sugar >180 mg/dl) it shows 73.51% reduction, whereas in moderate (plasma sugar >280 mg/dl) and severe diabetes (plasma sugar >400 mg/dl) it is reduced to 55.62% and 17.72% respectively  The extract of jamun pulp showed the hypoglycemic activity in streptozotocin induced diabetic mice within 30 min of administration while the seed of the same fruit required 24 h. The oral administration of the extract resulted in increase in serum insulin levels in diabetic rats. Insulin secretion was found to be stimulated on incubation of plant extract with isolated islets of Langerhans from normal as well as diabetic animals. These extracts also inhibited insulinase activity from liver and kidney [

Mangifera indica: (Mango)

The leaves of this plant are used as an antidiabetic agent in Nigerian folk medicine, although when aqueous extract given orally did not alter blood glucose level in either normoglycemic or streptozotocin induced diabetic rats. However, antidiabetic activity was seen when the extract and glucose were administered simultaneously and also when the extract was given to the rats 60 min before the glucose. The results indicate that aqueous extract of Mangifera indica possess hypoglycemic activity. This may be due to an intestinal reduction of the absorption of glucose .

Ocimum sanctum: (holy basil)

It is commonly known as Tulsi. Since ancient times, this plant is known for its medicinal properties. The aqueous extract of leaves of Ocimum sanctum showed the significant reduction in blood sugar level in both normal and alloxan induced diabetic rats  Significant reduction in fasting blood glucose, uronic acid, total amino acid, total cholesterol, triglyceride and total lipid indicated the hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effects of tulsi in diabetic rats  Oral administration of plant extract (200 mg/kg) for 30 days led to decrease in the plasma glucose level by approximately 9.06 and 26.4% on 15 and 30 days of the experiment respectively. Renal glycogen content increased 10 fold while skeletal muscle and hepatic glycogen levels decreased by 68 and 75% respectively in diabetic rats as compared to control . This plant also showed antiasthemitic, antistress, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antitumor, gastric antiulcer activity, antioxidant, antimutagenic and immunostimulant activities.

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