Controlling Diabetes with Ginseng?
Are there any herbs or dietary supplements that can help control blood sugar? I recently learned that I have type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes.
Type 2, or adult-onset diabetes, occurs when the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin -- and we need insulin to help us absorb glucose (one type of blood sugar), which, in turn, helps regulate our metabolism. Fortunately, type 2 diabetes can often be controlled with weight loss, exercise, and stress reduction. (Type 1, or juvenile diabetes, is an autoimmune disorder -- insulin-secreting cells in the pancreas are destroyed by the immune system. Treatment requires regular injections of insulin.)
A number of herbs and dietary supplements can help with blood-sugar control. In fact, results of a Canadian study, published in the April 10, 2000 issue of "Archives of Internal Medicine," showed that taking three grams of American ginseng with meals can lower blood sugar by 20 percent. This news comes as something of a breakthrough, not just because ginseng was proven effective, but because the study itself was one of the first to test an herbal product scientifically.
Researchers don't know if Asian ginseng would have the same effect on blood sugar or why American ginseng worked so well in this study. They suggested that the ginseng may have slowed digestion -- and therefore decreased the rate of carbohydrate absorption into the blood stream; they also think ginseng may modulate insulin secretion.
You can also try a number of other plants used in traditional medicine to control blood sugar. These include prickly pear (Opuntia), from Mexican folk medicine; gurmar (Gymnema sylvestre), an Ayurvedic remedy; and bitter melon (Momordica charantia), a fruit used in Chinese and Indian cuisine. All of these are valued for their hypoglycemic effect, and extracts of all are available in health food stores. You also could take GTF chromium, 1,000 micrograms daily. Many people with adult-onset diabetes are deficient in this trace mineral.
In my view, the single most important means of controlling type 2 diabetes is daily aerobic activity. Just 30 minutes of aerobic exercise per day can prevent diabetes among those at risk. If you've already developed diabetes, exercise can eliminate the symptoms.