It was the World's Diabetes day last Thursday so I have decided to give a little insight of herbal management to support those affected with diabetes. There are various types of this highly prevalent condition. The UK represents 6% of their population which is affecting 1 in every 16 people. The Czech Republic is worst with its 10% affecting 1 out of every 10 people. Sadly, the diabetes epidemic is affecting the entire world population and is still rising. Diabetes has been noted as the fifth most common cause of death. So what is diabetes, what factors contribute to its development and how can it be dealt with?
Briefly, diabetes mellitus (DM) is a chronic progressive endocrine condition manifesting with elevated blood glucose levels (hyperglycaemia) subsequently causing various complications affecting eyes, kidneys, nerves and blood vessels. There are few types of diabetes with its most common Type 2 diabetes counting for 90% of all DM. There's also Type 1 insulin-dependent diabetes, gestational diabetes, Type 3c diabetes, and less known types such as Maturity onset diabetes of the young, Neonatal diabetes, Wolfram syndrome, Alström syndrome and Latent autoimmune diabetes in adults. Depending on the type, factors involved in DM development may include insulin resistance, chronic inflammation, autoimmune dis-regulation, diet and lifestyle factors, ethnicity, genetics, pregnancy or prenatal environmental factors.
Herbal management of Type 2 DM.
Although dietary and lifestyle changes play a vital role in diabetic patients, herbal support is very much effective as a primary or secondary treatment alongside conventional medicine. Depending on the stage, progression and extent of disease complications, diabetes is reversible condition. As you know already, herbal medicine treats holistically and looks at the underlying causes, background conditions and associating factors as a whole. Because each treatment plan would be individual, I'm going to highlight herbs specific to DM only.
GYMNEMA SYLVESTRE - regulates and lowers blood sugar levels by stimulating insulin release when needed, supports pancreatic function, and anaesthetises sweet taste buds; for this unique action this herb is very effective in metabolic and weight control for patients with increased appetite and sweet cravings. I promise your chocolate cake won't taste sweet anymore!
GALEGA OFFICINALIS - Goat's rue, contains bitter principles, effectively lowers blood sugar levels. Not to be used in pregnancy!
CODONOPSIS PILOSULA - regulates blood sugar levels and supports digestive weakness, found to be effective in gestational diabetes.
MOMORDICA CHARANTIA - Bitter melon is a tropical fruit eaten as a vegetable but very bitter, has profound hypoglycaemic actions as it inhibits glucose absorption and regulates blood sugar; can be eaten raw, cooked, juiced or powdered. Not to be used in pregnancy!
CINNAMOMUM ZEYLANICUM - common cinnamon bark, moderately regulates blood sugar levels by enhancing use of endogenous insulin, effective in metabolic syndrome and gestational diabetes and other digestive upsets. Can be also easily taken in powder form for its pleasant taste.
Other herbs specific in diabetic treatment are vascular tonics, bitters, nervines and pancreatic trophorestoratives. Herbs specific to diabetic complications include Vaccinium myrtillus, Allium sativa, Olea europa, Centela asiatica, Gingko biloba, Andrographis paniculata, Cynara scolymus or Capsicum spp for topical applications.
Please note that blood sugar lowering herbs must be taken with caution and under the herbalist's supervision particularly if taken consecutively with anti diabetic drugs or if pregnant.
There is a significance of a plant-based diets to improve insulin resistance and prevent Type 2 diabetes, therefore dietary changes and nutritional support play an important part of the diabetes management alongside the herbal support.
For further support and personalised holistic treatment plan please contact your local qualified herbalist.
Love and hugs.