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Nature’s Diabetes Defense

Author: Sarah Altshul
Source: Natural Cures, Prevention Guide, October-December 2006

First focus on nutrition, advises David Heber, MD, PHD, professor and director, UCLA Center for Human Nutrition. Once you have gotten yourself on a healthy eating and exercise program, you can consider adding herbs as fine tuning, says Heber.

Taken regularly over time, certain herbs can help lower blood sugar, others improve cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol and strengthening blood vessels, which are two crucial elements for people with type 2 diabetes.

Finally, herbs that contain powerful antioxidants can help reduce inflammation, which may lead to the development of type 2 diabetes and is also implicated in heart disease, kidney problems, and other life threatening conditions.

Discuss taking herbs with your doctor amd make sure to monitor your blood sugar levels regularly, when you factor herbs into your new active lifestyle and smart eating plan, you strengthen organ systems weakened by type 2 diabetes – and you just might be able to avoid taking blood sugar-lowering drugs. Here are some that show promise.


This familiar spice not only reduces blood sugar, but also lowers cholesterol and triglycerides, and best of all, cinnamon is delicious sprinkled on oatmeal and other whole grain breakfast cereals. In a study conducted by the USDA’s Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in Maryland, 30 women and men with type 2 diabetes dusted cinnamon on food. Their blood sugar dropped by 18 to 29%, total cholesterol by 7 to 27%, and their triglycerides plummeted 23 to 30% in just 40 days. “Effects of this magnitude could help prevent or alleviate diabetes-and its complications,” says Richard Anderson, PhD, of the USDA’s Human Nutrition Research Center. “I took about 1/2 teaspoon a day and after 3 months, my cholesterol dropped by 60 mg/dl.”


Fennugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is a staple Ayurvedic medicine and is a spice found in curry blends. Its seeds, rich in fiber and protein, were used in ancient Chinese medicine to help people recover from illness. In studies, a fenugreek compound, called 4-hydroxy-isoleucine, stimulated pancreatic insulin production in rats, and fenugreek seed reduced fasting blood sugar levels. In other studies, people with diabetes who were given the herb handled glucose better in glucose tolerance tests. Finally, researchers found that people with type 2 diabetes who took fenugreek had reduced blood sugar levels after eating.


In Ayurveda, India’s traditional medical system, gymnema (Gymnema sylvestre) is a widely used treatment for diabetes and obesity. Its Hindi name “gurmar” means “destroyer of sugar.” The herb contains a compound called gymnenin, which lessens your ability to taste sweets, and also diminishes appetite for up to 90 minutes. Two long-term studies showed that the herb reduced fasting blood glucose in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Using Herbs Safely

Monitor blood sugar frequently. Discuss your plan with your doctor and don’t use herbs if you are pregnant or nursing, unless an herbal practitioner recommends otherwise. Give it time to work – most herbs take at least 6 to 8 weeks to show full results.