Diabetes: healthy herbs help manage and prevent

Cooking with Bitter Melon

Apple * Bitter Melon * Burdock root * Carob * Cinnamon * Dandelion Root * Fenugreek * Garlic * Goat's Rue * Gurmar * Ivy gourd * Jambul * Oregano * Prickly Pear * Eosemay * Stevia * Tea * White Kidney Bean * Yacon Root *

The ravages of diabetes effect on our health are well documented. The good news is that type II diabetes is the result of bad health and lifestyle decisions and can be turned around by making good ones. The bad news is it's easier said than done. Bad habits like drinking too much alcohol or eating too much sugar are both addictive and hard to overcome. Herbs can be great allies in this fight, even if you are not currently suffering from diabetes, almost everyone can benefit from using herbs to curb sugar intake and encourage home cooking of flavorful foods.

Sugar and artificial sweeteners. Baked goods are more diabetic friendly with spices like cinnamon and stevia. Artificial sweeteners (saccharin, sucralose, aspartame and others) have long been marketed to the American public as a free pass - the sweet foods we crave without the calories of real sugar. These chemicals are pervasive in many packages foods including "healthy" items like yogurts and diet drinks for diabetics. One of the most subversive side effects of consuming these chemicals is they increase hunger and sugar cravings. A study 1731 using both mice and human trials published in the current issue (March 2014) of Nature concludes that artificial sweeteners appear to lead to higher blood sugar, and so may exacerbate, rather than prevent, metabolic disorders such as Type 2 diabetes. Even though they pass through the digestive tract they seem to interfere with the friendly bacteria in our gut that help digest food. Bottom line, the best way to decrease your sugar intake is to limit the amount of added sugars in your diet and not rely on the shortcut of using artificial sugars. Herbalists and most natural health practitioners have long contended that artificial sweeteners can be long-term, harmful impacts on our health. Whole leaf Stevia and small servings of honey are recommended instead.

Some very interesting recent research suggests that cinnamon cassia (Cinnamomum aromaticum) is effective in improving blood glucose control in patients with type 2 diabetes. 1621 Botanicals like bitter melon and fenugreek can be used along with modern medicinal therapy with managing diabetes, both as medicinal foods and supplements. Bitter melon improves the body's ability to use blood sugar and improves glucose tolerances. James Duke writes "One of the phytochemicals, charantin is said to be more potent than tolbutamide, and has fewer side effects, " and recommends eating one small melon a day.(Duke,James, Ph.D.) Burdock root may also play a useful role in helping to control blood sugar levels due to the inulin content of the root. In Europe, the fresh root is used for lowering blood sugar, its inulin content making it particularly suitable for diabetes. 1382

Culinary herbs offer a way to help keep blood glucose in check. Greek oregano , marjoram (Origanum majorana), rosemary ), and Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens) were used in a recent study at the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaige. They found that extracts prepared from fresh green house grown herbs, (better yet those grown in your own garden), contain more polyphenols and flavonoids than the commercial, dried versions. These plant chemicals inhibit two enzymes - one called DPP-IV (also calld DPP-4) that plays a role in insulin secretion, and another called PTP1B that is involved in insulin signaling. These powerful plant compounds do not take the place of drug therapies,however they are a safe and effective way to help fight diabetes without adding to cost of treatment. Overall, herbs contain several flavonoids that inhibit DPP-IV and should be investigated further regarding their potential in diabetes management. 1723

If you are currently taking insulin or hypoglycemic drugs monitor your blood sugar levels closely and always confer with your doctor about any new herbal treatment.

Diabetes Remedies

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    books citedWorks Cited
    1. James Duke. "The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook" Rodale Books, (2000)
    2. Deng R. . A Review of the Hypoglycemic Effects of Five Commonly Used Herbs , American Botanical Council, (12-14-2012): ,
    3. Chan YS, Cheng LN, Wu JH, et al. . A review of the pharmacological effects of Arctium lappa (burdock). , Inflammopharmacology/HerbalGram, (): The roots and/or fruit of burdock may possess hypoglycemic effects. Sitosterol--D-glucopyranoside inhibits alpha glucosidase, which plays a role in breaking down sugars.,
    4. J Res Med Sci. 2012;17(4):355-360. . Cranberry Juice Consumption Lowers Cardiovascular Disease Risk by Altering Glucose and Lipid Profiles in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes , American Botanical Council, ( 07-15-2013): The authors conclude that consuming 1 cup of CJ for 12 weeks effectively reduced serum glucose and apoB, as well as increased apoA-1 and PON1 in patients with T2D who were taking glucose-lowering drugs.,
    5. Usha Lad & Dr. Vasant Lad. "Ayurvedic Cooking for Self Healing" The Ayurvedic Press, (2006)
    6. Phyllis A. Balch. "Prescription for Herbal Healing" Avery, (2002)
    7. Maud Grieve. "Modern Herbal Vol 1" Harcourt, (1931)
    8. Ed Smith . Single Herb Extracts , Therapeutic Herb Manual, (2006):
    9. Huxley R, Man Ying Lee C, Barzi F, et al. . Coffee, decaffeinated coffee, and tea consumption in relation to incident type 2 diabetes mellitus. , Archives of Internal Medicine. 2009; 169: 2053-2063, (12-2009): A new study published by American Medical Association shows a strong relationship between drinking coffee and tea and the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes.
    10. Maureen Keane, Daniella Chace, John A. Lung . What to Eat If You Have Diabetes , McGraw-Hill , (2006): Organic yacon syrup tastes like molasses and is used as a natural low-calorie sweetner.
    11. Lu T, Sheng H, Wu J, Cheng Y, Zhu J, Chen Y. . Cinnamon extract improves fasting blood glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin level in Chinese patients with type 2 diabetes. , Nutr Res., ( 2012;32(6):408-412): ,
    12. By Robert A. Newman, Ephraim P. Lansky, Melissa Lynn Block . Pomegranate: The Most Medicinal Fruit , Basic Health Publications, Inc, (2007): Antioxidant polyphenols in pomegranate juice, peels and seed oil protect against obesity by helping to restore balance in insulin-resistant people. ,
    13. Allyson M. Bower, Luis M. Real Hernandez, Mark A. Berhow, and Elvira Gonzalez de Mejia . Bioactive Compounds from Culinary Herbs Inhibit a Molecular Target for Type 2 Diabetes Management, Dipeptidyl Peptidase IV , J. Agric. Food Chem., 2014, 62 (26), , ( 06-15-2014): Overall, herbs contain several flavonoids that inhibit DPP-IV and should be investigated further regarding their potential in diabetes management., pp 6147?6158
    14. Jotham Suez, Tal Korem, David Zeevi, Gili Zilberman-Schapira, et al . Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota , Nature (2014) doi:10.1038/nature13793, (Sept 2014): Consumption of commonly used NAS formulations drives the development of glucose intolerance through induction of compositional and functional alterations to the intestinal microbiota.,