Diabetes is the one significant metabolic disorder globally. It affects about 12% of US adults. Further, statistics show that 90% of these adults live with type 2 diabetes (1).
Unlike type 1 diabetes, which is an autoimmune disease mainly treated with insulin therapy, Type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle disorder. Since type 2 diabetes is a disease of faulty lifestyle and increasing insulin resistance, it is better managed through non-pharmacological means. Thus, herbal supplements have a special place in managing type 2 diabetes along with weight loss, exercise, and dietary changes.
Additionally, the rise of prediabetes in the US is quite worrisome. It appears that another 30% of US adults are living with prediabetes. Prediabetes is borderline diabetes. It is not a disease. However, if prediabetes is not managed on time, most of those living with it may progress to diabetes (1).
Prediabetes is a wake-up call. Since it is not a disease, it is not treated with medications. However, it can be effectively reversed through lifestyle interventions and the use of herbal supplements.
Thus, herbal supplements are especially good for reversing prediabetes and managing mild diabetes. Whereas herbal supplements can be used with medications in moderate to severe diabetes. In moderate to severe diabetes, herbals help reduce insulin resistance and lower the risk of diabetes-associated complications.
One should combine herbals with lifestyle interventions like exercise and dietary changes for maximum benefits. Further, it is worth knowing that most herbals are pretty safe for combining with medications. Therefore, they may help lower the total dosage of drugs. Additionally, herbals have other benefits like lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. Finally, almost all herbals are an excellent source of antioxidants.
Berberine for type 2 diabetes
Berberine is an alkaloid extracted from various plants and shrubs called berberis. There is a reason why this natural extract is at the top of the list. It has a broad mechanism of action with numerous health benefits.
In diabetes, it activates the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) pathway and reduces insulin resistance. It can improve mitochondrial function, increase glucose breakdown by body cells. In addition, it increases the insulin sensitivity of various body cells. It may even help improve insulin secretion from exhausted beta-cells in the pancreas (2).
However, berberine has other benefits, like it can help lower cholesterol and improve endothelial NO. Thus, its regular use has a role in preventing diabetes-related complications. For example, it is suitable for preventing diabetic nephropathy (2).
There is strong evidence from clinical studies that berberine works. Thus, meta-analysis (analysis done by combining results of multiple clinical trials) shows that it can lower blood sugar whether used alone or in combination with medications (3).
Similarly, the meta-analysis also confirms that it may be used to lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, thus helping lower total cholesterol. Additionally, it appears to help normalize blood pressure (3).
There are two varieties of cinnamon used as condiments, Ceylon cinnamon (or true cinnamon) and cassia cinnamon. Among them, Ceylon cinnamon is generally regarded as better for lowering blood sugar.
However, the most commonly available cinnamon in supermarkets or that added to desserts is cassia cinnamon grown in countries like China and Indonesia. So, it explains why the commonly available cinnamon powder would not help.
The true cinnamon can help boost metabolism, help lower body weight, reduce insulin resistance, and lower cholesterol. These benefits of true cinnamon are proven beyond doubt in multiple clinical trials (4).
Also called bitter gourd or Momordica charantia is indigenous to India or South Asia. It has been used as a traditional remedy for diabetes for several centuries. In addition, it is one of the Ayurvedic remedies for managing diabetes. In recent years, it has been increasingly being used in the west as a natural remedy for diabetes (5).
Studies suggest that bitter melon extract or dried powder has an insulin-like effect. Thus, it has a moderate blood-glucose-lowering effect. It may be used alone to manage diabetes or combined with other oral drugs or herbs (6).
Green tea extract
It is packed with antioxidants and has numerous health benefits. In recent years, it is also increasingly used to reduce the risk of metabolic disorders. In addition, green tea extract may also aid weight loss, normalize lipid and glucose metabolism.
Since it helps normalize metabolism, there is a reason to believe that it can help with diabetes. There have been many studies regarding its role in managing diabetes in recent years. Pooled data from six clinical trials confirmed that it has a moderate blood-glucose-lowering effect. In addition, it can reduce insulin resistance, lower fasting blood glucose levels and HbA1c (7).
Additionally, green tea extract may also help lower arterial stiffness. It means that prolonged use of green tea extract may help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and risk of various diabetes-related complications (8).
Role and benefits of herbs in diabetes management
There are some unique benefits of using herbs in managing diabetes. First and foremost, herbs are safe for regular and prolonged use. Most of these extracts are from edible fruits, barks, roots, leaves, and other parts of the plants. They might cause minor gastrointestinal issues in some, but severe side effects are unreported.
Secondly, these herbs are especially good for early cases of diabetes. Thus, they might even be used by those living with prediabetes. They can be used in prediabetes and mild cases of diabetes without using any drugs. They are also good to combine with medications in more severe cases of diabetes.
Thirdly, all these herbs have a broad mechanism of action. It means that they lower blood glucose and lower cholesterol, body weight, and blood pressure. Thus, they have an important role in preventing diabetes-related complications.
Finally, preventing or effectively managing diabetes requires prolonged effort. Herbal supplements are pretty safe for long-term use. They do not have any severe side effects, unlike pharmacological drugs that may cause severe side effects in many.
Herbal drugs indeed have a milder effect, and they take a longer time to have maximum impact. Thus, a few weeks of regular use of these herbs is needed to experience maximum benefit. Moreover, it is absolutely safe to combine these herbs for greater efficacy.
Fortunately, we have combined a blend where you can enjoy the benefits of all these herbs in one - Ancient Bliss Berberine Plus.