In Ayurvedic and Oriental Medicine, herbs are frequently used to help people regulate their blood sugar. It is less common, but not unheard-of, in the West.
The mechanism behind some herbs’ glucose-stabilizing effectiveness is unknown, and the herbs do not necessarily work well for everyone – despite anecdotal and research evidence of their efficacy.
If you have type 2 diabetes and are interested in using herbs as part of your treatment regimen, do it in consultation with your doctor. Those with type 1 diabetes are generally advised not to use herbs since serious complications can occur.
Herbs That Can Lower Blood Glucose
This list of herbs comes from the online journal for the American Association of Integrative Medicine.
- Aloe vera. Although this plant is cactus-like, it is actually part of the Lily plant family. Of the 240 aloe species, only four are known to have nutritional value. Aloe gel may lower blood glucose levels, according to some preliminary research.
- American ginseng. Research studies indicate that ginseng might reduce blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes. This may be due to tissue insulin sensitization and/or the stimulation of insulin release.
- Bilberry (huckleberry). Bilberry has been used for thousands of years in Europe to treat diarrhea. This herb also contains a strong antioxidant that increases circulation in the eyes. In studies, bilberry lowered blood sugar levels in dogs.
- Bitter melon (momordica charantia). If you want to pick bitter melon in the wild, you will have to travel to the Amazon Basin, Africa, Asia, the Caribbean or South America. In Asia, Latin America and Africa, bitter melon is sometimes called "vegetable insulin." There are at least three compounds in this herb said to have sugar-regulating properties.
- Blond psyllium (blond plantago). The seed husk of blond psyllium, taken orally or mixed with food, is reported to significantly lower postprandial serum glucose and insulin levels in type 2 diabetes patients. It also reduces total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels in those with hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol).
- Cinnamon bark (cassia cinnamon). Research indicates that cinnamon can lower cholesterol and blood glucose in people with type 2 diabetes. Just a little can have a significant effect.
- Devil’s claw. The flashy roots of devil’s claw, a plant native to South and Central Africa, may lower blood glucose levels. There could also be addictive effects related to diabetes medications.
- Eleuthro (Siberian ginseng) . Among this plant's components are polysaccharides that strengthen the immune system and lower blood sugar levels in research animals. Like other ginseng types, Siberian ginseng is considered an adaptogen, strengthening and balancing the body so it can heal itself.
- Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum). About 80 percent of the seed’s free amino acids are 4-hydroxyisoleucine. This amino acid stimulates insulin, but only in the presence of moderate to high concentrations of glucose. People allergic to soybeans, peanuts or green peas may also be allergic to fenugreek.
- Ginger (Zingiber officinale). Preliminary studies reveal ginger may raise insulin levels.
- Glucomannan (Konnyaku root). This root is a yam family member and is very high in fiber. It can help normalize glucose levels and relieve pancreatic stress.
- Gymnema sylvestre (gurmar). Gymnema is in the milkweed family. Its name in Sanskrit means “destroyer of sugar.” Early research shows that some of this tropical plant’s extracts reduce blood sugar and glycosated hemoglobin in types 1 and 2 diabetes.
- Holy basil (hot basil). There is some evidence that extracts from this plant can lower fasting and postprandial blood glucose in people with type 2 diabetes.
- Jambolan (Syzygium cumini). You would not know it by the name, but jambolan is closely related to the clove tree. The plant is native to East India and the Malay Peninsula. The medicinal properties in the plant’s bark are used in Asian medicine to treat diabetes, diseases of the spleen, diarrhea and sore throats.
- Kudzu. Though native to Japan and China, Kudzu grows well in the Southern U.S. It contains antioxidant properties and may also lower blood sugar and cholesterol.
Panax ginseng (Asian ginseng). Evidence suggests that taking Panax ginseng orally reduces fasting blood sugar levels and hemoglobin in those with type 2 diabetes.
- Prickly Pear Cactus (Nopal). The broiled stems of the prickly pear species Opuntia streptacantha can – in single doses – lower blood glucose in people with type 2 diabetes. Extended daily use results are unknown. Other species of prickly pear do not seem to affect glucose levels significantly.
- Red sandalwood (Pterocarpus marsupium). In India, this herb is a traditional treatment used to rejuvenate insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells. One research study done on glucose levels in rats showed that red sandalwood performed on par with the drug metformin.
- Stevia (sweet herb). A compound in stevia called stevioside may reduce postprandial glucose levels in those with type 2 diabetes.
- Turmeric. Ground from dried curcumin – a rhizome of the ginger family – turmeric is an ingredient in curry powder. Turmeric may lower blood glucose levels by blocking enzymes that change dietary carbohydrates into glucose. This herb may also lower cholesterol.
Source: American Association of Integrated Medicine