There is a lot of news and information — and misinformation — about diabetes nowadays. It affects millions of Americans of all ages and races. Do you have diabetes or are you worried about getting it? It’s a myth that only fat people become diabetics. You can be a slim, athletic person with a very healthy lifestyle and still get diabetes. It can be an inherited trait. It can be caused by other illnesses and even by pregnancy. There is also some scientific evidence that additives like nitrites in food can contribute to diabetes. A parasite called eurytrema has also been identified as a culprit.
While there is yet no cure as such, it’s also a myth that diabetes can’t be relieved or stopped. What herbs and natural methods can we use to prevent and treat diabetes?
The goal in all forms of diabetes is to increase the amount of insulin the body produces, reduce blood glucose and improve blood circulation. Some herbs and natural foods promote this balance.
American and Panax ginseng — not Siberian — are used in traditional medicine to treat diabetes. A Canadian study tried American ginseng with patients for whom medication did not fully control blood sugar levels. One study revealed that when taken in conjunction with a pectin-like fiber, ginseng could help normalize blood sugar. The second study indicated that ginseng could also improve the body’s use of insulin. More tests need to be made but it was clear that the effects were real.
Ordinary cinnamon may be very helpful. Preliminary tests showed lowered glucose levels with very small amounts of cinnamon. In fact less seemed to work better than more. Patients taking only one gram per day had the longest-lasting effects. You can take cinnamon in capsules or just sprinkle some on your food.
Ginkgo helps with inadequate blood circulation, the cause of diabetes’ many debilitating side effects. Look for ginkgo extract capsules with a high level of flavoglycoside, the active ingredient.
Blueberries and blueberry juice have very high levels of flavonoid antioxidants. They help with weight loss and improve the way the body stores and processes glucose. The scientists who did the preliminary studies were especially interested in how blueberries affect “metabolic syndrome”, a collection of conditions that increase the risk of both diabetes and heart trouble. Blueberry leaves have even more antioxidants than the fruit does. Look for blueberry leaf extract at your health food store.
There is some evidence that flavonoids improve blood circulation and may have insulin-like effects. Besides blueberries, they’re also found in cranberries, black grapes, green tea and cocoa — although a study showing high antioxidant levels in dark chocolate was funded by a candy company and may be exaggerated. Flavonoids also improve memory and may be useful in treating Alzheimer’s patients. An herb called Indian kino contains very high levels of a flavonoid called epicatechin. Known in the western world as dragon’s blood, kino has been used for centuries to treat diabetes in India.
Onions appear to be helpful because they have lots of chromium, an element which tells your body to produce more insulin and improves your ability to use the insulin you have. It may also help the body use carbohydrates more efficiently.
Lentils, beans — black, red, white, lima, soy or garbanzo — and split peas are great. The high fiber content binds to carbohydrates and slows the digestive rate. This prevents blood sugar spikes after meals. There is some evidence that if eaten regularly beans can lower your overall blood sugar levels. They’re also an excellent source of protein.
Check your fasting blood sugar levels before and during using these nutrients. It may take up to a month before you will notice significant results. If you want to try controlling diabetes via completely natural means, check with your regular doctor and work with a good naturopathic physician. Traditional Ayurvedic medicine from India has a number of formulas and recommended diets and recipes for diabetics.