Diabetes is a lifelong condition that affects the blood sugar and insulin levels in the body. Treatment includes lifestyle strategies and sometimes medication, but some complementary therapies, such as herbs and supplements, may help. In diabetes, the body either does not produce enough insulin or produces insulin that the body does not use properly.
Herbs and supplements will not cure diabetes and do not constitute a standalone treatment, but some may combine with conventional treatment to provide relief from symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. Here are seven herbs and supplements that may be of benefit to people with type 2 diabetes.
1. Aloe vera
Consuming aloe vera pulp might help repair and protect the pancreas.
Aloe vera is a common plant with many different uses. Many people are aware of its benefits for skin care, but it may also have other benefits, including slowing the progress of type 2 diabetes.
Ways of taking aloe include:
- adding juiced pulp to a drink or smoothie
- taking capsules that contain aloe as supplements
- People should not eat aloe vera skin care products.
Cinnamon is a fragrant spice that comes from the bark of a tree. It is a popular ingredient in sweets, baked goods, and other dishes.
It has a taste that can add sweetness without any additional sugar. It is popular with people with type 2 diabetes for this reason alone, but it may also offer other benefits.
A 2010 review found evidence from studies involving humans that cinnamon may improve levels of:
- insulin and insulin sensitivity
- lipids, or fats, in the blood
- antioxidant status
- blood pressure
- lean body mass
3. Bitter melon
Momordica charantia, or bitter melon, is a medicinal fruit. Practitioners of traditional Chinese and Indian medicine have used bitter melon for centuries. People can cook the fruit and use it in many dishes. Some scientists have been looking into its potential medicinal uses.
There is some evidence that bitter melon may help with the symptoms of diabetes. One review has noted that people have used many parts of the plant to help treat diabetes. Research has shown that taking bitter melon in the following forms can lead to a reduction in blood sugar levels in some people:
- blended vegetable pulp
Eating or drinking the bitter melon can be an acquired taste, but taking supplements may make it more palatable. There is not enough evidence to support using bitter melon instead of insulin or medication for diabetes.
4. Milk thistle
Milk thistle may have anti-inflammatory properties, making it potentially useful for people with diabetes. People have used milk thistle since ancient times for many different ailments, and especially as a tonic for the liver.
Silymarin, the extract from milk thistle that has received the most attention from scientists, is a compound with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These are the properties that may make milk thistle a useful herb for people with diabetes.
Fenugreek is another seed that may help lower blood sugar levels. The seeds contain fibers and chemicals that help to slow down the digestion of carbohydrates and sugar.
There is also some evidence that the seeds may help delay or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. The researchers concluded that taking the seed led to:
- increased levels of insulin in the body, leading to a reduction in blood sugar
- lower cholesterol levels
These are some of the best herbal leaves for diabetes.