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Herbs to treat Diabetes- Part-I

Diabetes has become a global problem in spite of advances in modern science. The WHO projects that diabetes deaths will double between 2005 and 2030. India has been projected by WHO as the country with the fastest growing population of Diabetic patients. The latest global figures on diabetes, released by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), has raised a serious alarm for India by saying that nearly 52% of Indians are not even aware that they are suffering from high blood sugar. India is presently home to 62 million diabetics - an increase of nearly 2 million in just one year. India is second only to China which is home to 92.3 million diabetics. By 2030, India’s diabetes numbers are expected to cross the 100 million mark. It is estimated that between 1995 to 2025 diabetic patients in India will increase by 195%.

Diabetes mellitus, or simply diabetes, is a group of metabolic diseases in which a person has high blood sugar, either because the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or because cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced. This high blood sugar produces the classical symptoms of polyuria (frequent urination), polydipsia (increased thirst) and polyphagia (increased hunger). People with diabetes, deal with health problems every single day. If diabetes is poorly controlled or left untreated, it may lead to blindness, kidney disease, blood vessel damage, infection, heart disease, nerve damage, high blood pressure, stroke, limb amputation, and coma.

Synthetic drugs like sulphonylureas, biguanidine, acarbose and insulin are widely used in allopathic treatment of Diabetes. However, diabetes is termed as ‘Silent killer’ and recently evidence of cases of “Insulin resistance” and the occurrence of side effects from prolonged administration of conventional drugs have triggered the search for safe and effective alternatives.

The treatment of Diabetes recommended in Ayurveda, as against modern medicine, is aimed at rejuvenating the body to not only balance sugar levels, but also foster a positive change in the patient’s life. Ayurvedic medicines work on the root cause of the disease strengthening the patient’s immunity and helping him/her lead an overall healthy life. There are several herbs which are found to be very effective in treating diabetes and lowering blood sugar level. The greatest advantages of these herbal diabetes medicine supplements are that they have no side effects.

Diabetes with constipation: Powders like Gandharva haritaki, Isabgol, Panchaskar, Hingvastak can be used to relieve constipation.

Diabetes with excessive thirst: Excessive thirst may be managed with the use of cold infusions (heema) of Dahayanak, usheera, Chandan etc. Praval, Guduchi, may also be used

Diabetes with excessive urination: excessive urination can be treated with the use of Trivang bhasma, jasad bhasma, etc

Generalised weakness and fatigue are the usual symptoms that can be treated with the use of herbs like Shatavari, Ashvagandha, Bala Yastimadhu. Complications like tapyadi loha, Vasant kusumakar rasa are also very effective. Impotency is a very distressing symptom of a diabetic patient. By assessing the age of the patient they may be advised Ashwagandha, Kaucha beeja, musali etc. Kirat tikata (Chirayata) A decoction of this plant is to be taken daily early morning. It is a very popular remedy used in all parts of the country for various skin disorders and hence

forms a perfect remedy for skin infections in Diabetics.

Eating a diet rich in fibre helps the body to absorb sugars slowly, which in turn keeps blood sugar levels balanced. Soluble type of fibre does the best job of stabilizing blood sugar level. Apples, apricots, beets, berries, carrots, citrus fruits, parsnips, and winter squash are some fruits and vegetables which are rich in soluble fibre. Soluble fibre is also helpful in lowering elevated LDL cholesterol levels, a serious problem in many people with diabetes. Diet which is a combination of vegetables and fruits get a rich array of antioxidants such as vitamin C. Antioxidants prevents the oxidation and damage of artery walls, which otherwise can lead to plaque buildup and heart disease.

Green Tea: This tea is unfermented and hence has high polyphenol content, which has strong

antioxidant and hypoglycaemic effects. The polyphenols help in a controlled release of blood




Botanical Source- It is the edible fruit (bitter melon or bitter gourd) obtained from a vine Momordia charantia (Family: Cucurbitaceae).

Chemical Constituents- It is also rich in vitamins A and C, beta carotene, as well as the minerals phosphorous, iron and potassium.

Therapeutic Actions/Effects-

Effects on Diabetes (Blood sugar):

• The fruit contains at least three active substances with anti-diabetic properties, including charantin, which has been confirmed to have a blood glucose-lowering effect, vicine and an insulin-like compound known as polypeptide-p. These substances either work individually or together to help reduce blood sugar levels.

• It contains a lectin that reduces blood glucose concentrations by acting on peripheral tissues and suppressing appetite - similar to the effects of insulin in the brain. This lectin is thought to be a major factor behind the hypoglycemic effect that develops after eating bitter melon.

• A 2000 mg daily dose of bitter melon significantly reduced blood glucose levels among patients with type 2 diabetes, although the hypoglycemic effect was less than a 1000 mg/day dose of metformin. Bitter melon intake improved glycemic control, increased cellular uptake of glucose and improved glucose tolerance.

Other Effects:

Karela fruit and seeds have been shown to reduce total cholesterol and triglyceride

levels, and is also an hepatoprotective.


Botanical Source- They are the seeds of the plant Trigonella foenum- graecum (Family: Fabaceae).

Chemical Constituents- Methi contains protein, fibre, vitamin C, niacin, potassium, iron and alkaloids. It also contains a compound diosgenin which has oestrogen-like properties, as well as steroidal saponins.

Therapeutic Actions/Effects-

Effects on Diabetes (Blood sugar):

• Fenugreek seeds improve glycemic control and decreases insulin resistance in mild type-2 diabetic patients. There is also a favourable effect on hypertriglyceridemia.

• Galactomannan, a natural soluble fibre present in fenugreek slows down the rate of sugar absorption into blood. Fenugreek also contains amino acid responsible for inducing the production of insulin.

• 4-hydroxyleucine, a novel amino acid from fenugreek seeds increased glucose stimulated insulin release by isolated islet cells in both rats and humans.

• Administration of fenugreek seeds also improved glucose metabolism and normalized creatinine kinase activity in heart, skeletal muscle and liver of diabetic rats.

Other Effects:

• It is effective in reducing body weight. The natural soluble fibre in the fenugreek swells and fills the stomach thereby suppressing appetite. It flushes out the toxins, burns the body fats and improves digestion.

• It helps to reduce cholesterol level and has cardiovascular benefits. It lowers the risk of heart attack. It is also an excellent source of potassium which counters the action of sodium to help control heart rate and blood pressure.


Botanical Source- It consists of the bark of the tree Pterocarpus marsupium (Family: Leguminosae) commonly called as Indian Kino Tree.

Chemical Constituents- It is a rich source of Pterosupin, Pterostilbene, Marsupsin and (-) Epicatechin which are identified as blood sugar lowering compounds.

Therapeutic Actions/Effects-

Effects on Diabetes (Blood sugar):

• (−) Epicatechin, its active principle, has been found to be insulinogenic, enhancing insulin release and conversion of proinsulin to insulin in vitro. Additionally it has an insulin-mimetic effect on osmotic fragility of human erythrocytes and it inhibits Na/K ATPase activity from patient’s erythrocytes. It corrects the neuropathy, retinopathy and disturbed metabolism of glucose and lipids. It maintains the integrity of all organ systems affected by the disease and is thus known to prevent diabetic complications. It is reported to be a curative for diabetes, Non Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (NIDDM) and a good adjuvant for Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM), in order to reduce the amount of needed insulin. It is advised along with existing oral hypoglycemic drugs. It has gentle hypoglycemic activity and hence induces no risk of being hypoglycemic.

• It helps prevent pancreatic alpha cell damage and even help regenerate the beta cells. The gum resin of P. marsupium is the only herbal product ever found to regenerate beta cells that produce insulin in the pancreas. P. marsupium is also available in powder form which is made from the bark of the tree.

• The dried aqueous decoction of heart wood is used as an astringent and in the treatment of inflammation and diabetes. The bark and heartwood of the tree has been used historically in the treatment of diabetes.

• Modulation of cytokine TNF-α by the rasayana drug P. marsupium is related with its potential anti-diabetic activity.

Other Effects:

• It rejuvenates each and every cell of the body.

• It purifies the blood and removes all toxins from it.

• It is very useful in diseases which originate from external causes like infection, worm infestation etc.

• In a chronic model of diabetes, during the 115 day study period, Pterocarpus marsupium extract was shown to slow the development, progression and severity of cataractGREEN TEA

• In a chronic model of diabetes, during the 115 day study period, Pterocarpus marsupium extract was shown to slow the development, progression and severity of cataract, a common complication of chronic diabeGREEN TEA


Botanical Source: Green tea is made from the

of a flowering plant Camellia sinensis (Family:

Theaceae) that have undergone minimal oxidation

during processing.

Chemical Constituents- The active constituents are

polyphenols (catechins and flavonols). Other

constituents are caffeine and essential oil. The

dominant and most important catechin is (-)

epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) a potent a


Therapeutic Actions/Effects-

Effects on Diabetes (Blood sugar):

Effects on Diabetes (Blood sugar)erum glucose by inhibiting the activity of the starchhe activity of the starch

digesting enzyme, amylase. Tea inhibits both salivary and intestinal amylase. As a

result, the starch is broken down more slowly and the sudden rise in serum glucose is


 Caffeine present in the tea leaves enters the body and forces the working muscles to

utilize as much fat as possible. This delays the immediate depletion of glycogen.

When this happens, the saved glycogen can be used for the remainder of the workout

where normally it would be entirely depleted.

 Intake of tea catechin, together with regular exercise helps to reduce diet-induced

obesity. This effect might be attributed to the activation of whole-body energy


Other Effects:

 Green tea polyphenols have demonstrated significant antioxidant, anticarcinogenic,

anti-inflammatory, thermogenic, probiotic and anti-microbial properties in numerous

human, animal and in vitro studies.

 It is also a neuroprotective in action and enhances cognition. It also boosts the

immune system.



Botanical Source: It - It contains as its major active

Botanical Source: It comprises of the root- It contains as its major active

perennial herb Glycyrrhiza glabra L. (Famil- It contains as its major active

Fabace- It contains as its major activeontains as its major active

principle the triterpene glycoside glycyrrhizin (also

known as glycyrrhizic or glycyrrhizinic acid) in

concentrations ranging from 1% to 24%. The

remarkably sweet saponin glycoside glycyrrhizin is

what gives licorice its characteristic flavor. (Glycyrrhizin is 30 to 60 times sweeter than

sugar). Other constituents of licorice include flavonoids, isoflavonoids and pterocarpans,

chalcones, coumarins, triterpenoids, triterpene saponin glycosides, sterols, gums, and others.

Therapeutic Actions/Effects-

Effects on Diabetes (Blood sugar):

 Bioactive pentacyclic triterpenoids, such as, glycyrrhizin and glycyrrhetinic acid, have

shown multiple biological activities with apparent effects on glucose absorption,

glucose uptake, insulin secretion, diabetic vascular dysfunction, retinopathy and

nephropathy. It was found that glycyrrhizic acid reduced blood glucose levels by

improving insulin sensitivity.

 Glycyrrhizin, the main water-soluble constituent of the root of liquorice (Glycyrrhiza

glabra), is quite effective against hyperglycaemia, hyperlipidaemia and associated

oxidative stress, and may be a potential therapeutic agent for diabetes treatment.

 Scientists identified a group of natural substances with an anti-diabetic effect, the

amorfrutins, in the plant's edible root. They demonstrated using diabetic mice, that the

amorfrutins not only have characteristics that reduce blood sugar, they are also anti-

inflammatory in their effect. Moreover, they also prevent fatty liver, a common

disease caused by excessively fat-rich nutrition. The health-beneficial effects are

based on the fact that the amorfrutin molecules dock directly onto a receptor in the

nucleus called PPARγ". PPARγ plays an important role in the cell's fat and glucose

metabolism. The binding of the amorfrutin molecules activates various genes that

reduce the plasma concentration of certain fatty acids and glucose. The reduced

glucose level prevents the development of insulin resistance which is the main cause

of adult diabetes.

(Using licorice with metformin may cause hypoglycemia and can also cause increase in the

blood pressure).

Other Effects:

 Licorice is used for various digestive system complaints including stomach ulcers,

heartburn, colic and ongoing inflammation of the lining of the stomach (chronic


 Some people use licorice for sore throat, bronchitis, cough, and infections caused by

bacteria or viruses.

 Licorice is also used for osteoarthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), liver

disorders, malaria, tuberculosis, food poisoning, and chronic fatigue syndrome



Botanical Source: Brahmi or Mandukaparni is a

small, herbaceous, annual plant called Centella

asiatica belonging to the family Asteraceae.

Chemical Constituents- The herb contains the

alkaloids brahmine, herpestine and a mixture of

three bases. The herb also contains the saponins,

hersaponin and bacosides A and B.

Therapeutic Actions/Effects-

Effects on Diabetes (Blood sugar):

 New research coming out of England and Italy found that gotu kola can help prevent

and treat many of the complications of diabetes, such as swelling, poor circulation,

nerve damage, and general vascular disease. This is an urgent finding, because

millions of people suffer with diabetes-related health issues each year ranging from

skin ulcers to amputation.

 Effective in diabetes associated peripheral neuropathy.

 This plant has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve varicose veins and

hemorrhoids, reduce anxiety, and even improve memory.

 Effective in wound healing promotion and also suppress the scar in diabetic wound


Other Effects:

 It provides strength to brain cells, improves memory and is well known for



Botanical Source: Gymnema sylvestre R.Br.

(Asclepiadaceae) is a woody climbing shrub and has

a long history of use in India’s Ayurvedic medicine.

Chemical Constituents- The major bioactive

constituents of G. sylvestre are a group of oleanane-

type triterpenoid saponins known as gymnemic acids.

G. sylvestre leaves contain triterpene saponins

belonging to oleanane and dammarene classes.

Besides this, other plant constituents are flavones, anthraquinones, hentria-

contane, pentatriacontane, α and β-chlorophylls, phytin, resins, d-quercitol, tartaric acid,

formic acid, butyric acid, lupeol, β-amyrin-related glycosides and stigmasterol. The plant

extract also tests positive for alkaloids. Leaves of this species yield acidic glycosides and

anthroquinones and their derivatives.

Therapeutic Actions/Effects-

Effects on Diabetes (Blood sugar):

 Preliminary human evidence suggests that gymnema may be effective in the

management of blood sugar levels in type 1 and type 2 diabetes, as an adjunct to

conventional drug therapy, for up to 20 months. Gymnema appears to lower serum

glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) levels following chronic use, but may

not have significant acute effects.

 The leaves of the plant contain gymnemic acids, which have been shown to slow the

transport of glucose from the intestines to the bloodstream. This, in turn, helps keep

blood sugar levels in the healthy range.

 It increases utilization of glucose as it increase the activities of enzymes responsible

for .

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