Ever notice the warnings on herbs? If you're a diabetic, you may not venture out and try herbs like cinnamon to control your blood sugar, even though cinnamon is a well known remedy for diabetes. You may read the fine print warnings and go into a fear mode. Some of these warnings might read, “Don't use this herb if you are a diabetic.”
But the truth is that these warnings are actually a clue as to the herb's usefulness for diabetics!
Warning messages on herbal remedies
The only reason why these medical warnings are on some herbs is because the herbs lower blood sugar levels. And that's a good thing for Type 2 diabetics who need better blood sugar regulation during the day. Even Type 1 diabetics will often benefit from better blood sugar regulation since their insulin may only offer some control to blood sugar levels.
That's why herbs such as cinnamon, bitter melon, Gymnema, garlic, and fenugreek are commonly included in over the counter blood sugar control formulas that anyone – even diabetics can take.
The real warning on some herbs should state, “If you are on insulin or blood sugar medications, work with a knowledgeable, experienced herbalist and your doctor and check your blood sugar levels at the doctor's office every two weeks.” This way you can avoid any medication overdoses that occur because your body is healing itself!
Certain herbs lower blood sugar
The truth is that there are herbs that work quite effectively to decrease blood sugar levels. Cinnamon is one of them, but early studies showed that cinnamon only lowered blood sugar about 8 to 10%.
In a more recent study of 60 Type 2 diabetics, volunteers consumed two 500 mg capsules of cinnamon a day, 4 per day or 6 per day for 40 days or placebo. Those who consumed the lowest levels reduced their fasting glucose levels 18% and those who took higher dosages reduced them 29%.
How do blood sugar drop percentages compare to blood sugar levels?
It's important to understand what these percentages really mean to diabetics. Here's a chart to explain it:
Starting Blood Sugar Level 10% Drop 18% Drop 29% Drop 40% Drop
300 mg/dl 270 mg/dl 246 mg/dl 213 mg/dl 180 mg/dl
250 mg/dl 225 mg/dl 205 mg/dl 177 mg/dl 150 mg/dl
200 mg/dl 180 mg/dl 164 mg/dl 142 mg/dl 120 mg/dl
180 mg/dl 162 mg/dl 148 mg/dl 128 mg/dl 108 mg/dl
From these charts you can see that although an herb may drop fasting blood sugar levels by 10%, it's not good enough for most diabetics. Their blood sugar levels still remain too high. Even with a 29% drop in blood sugar, the levels are still elevated above the pre-diabetic limit of 100 mg/dl.
Any drop in blood sugar levels will slow down the damage that occurs when blood sugar is deposited in the tissues. However, the damage doesn't stop until the blood sugar level stays in the normal range, right around 80 mg/dl for fasting levels.
Try using bitter melon as an alternative to cinnamon
In one study, bitter melon reduced blood sugar levels without taking the blood sugar levels out of the normal zone. Many diabetics have found significant decreases of blood sugar in patients from the use of bitter melon capsules. For example, one patient had a 40% decrease in blood sugar levels after about a month, showing decreases from the first week on.
This is much better than the effects of cinnamon, plus bitter melon also strengthens the heart and reduces hardening of the arteries. Use the services of an herbalist in conjunction with your medical doctor when you decide to use bitter melon.
Gymnema Sylvestre herb is another better alternative to cinnamon
Gymnema sylvestre, called Gymnema for short, does something that cinnamon doesn't do – it regenerates the pancreas cells. It also controls sugar cravings. It's an herb that has been used in India for centuries. Only 500 mg of the herb was enough to reduce blood glucose levels, curb hunger, beat fatigue, and reduce Hemoglobin A1c levels in one human study.
Gymnema is perfect for patients who end to crave chocolates, candies, pastas and bread and need something to help them lower blood sugar levels. Taking Gymnema in the middle of a craving for these foods will stop the craving within minutes.
Always look at the big picture when you want to achieve something with herbs. Your miracles are waiting to happen.
Clouatre, D.L., Rao, S.N., and Preuss, H.G. Bitter melon extracts in diabetic and normal rats favorably influence blood glucose and blood pressure regulation. J Med Food 2011 Dec; 14(12): 1496-504. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21861717
Khan, Alam, et al. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care, Dec 2003; 26(12): 3215-3218. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/26/12/3215.full
Kumar, S.N., Mani, U.V., and Mani, I. An open label study on the supplementation of Gymnema sylvestre in type 2 diabetics. J Diet Suppl 2010 Sep; 7(3): 273-82. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22432517
Tiwari, P., Mishra, B.N., Sangwan, N.S. Phytochemical and pharmacological properties of Gymnema sylvestre: an important medicinal plant. Biomed Res Int 2014; 2014: 830285. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24511547