It can be a frustrating experience dealing with diabetes. Once the body has lost its ability to regulate glucose levels, it needs outside assistance. This is usually done medically with the form of diet control, medication to help the body’s insulin work more efficiently, and if all else fails, insulin injections. Although blood glucose levels still have to be monitored daily, there are some natural ways to help the body control blood sugar levels.
Herbs That Lower Blood Sugar
There are a number of herbs that have a hypoglycemic (lower blood sugar) effect on the body, as well as those that have a normalizing effect on blood sugar. Here are a few to consider:
- Blueberry – Blueberries are very medicinally active plants. In addition to the well advertised anti-oxidant effects, they are also beneficial in hormonal balancing, and the leaves make an effective and safe tea for lowering blood sugar.
- Bilberry – In the same family as blueberry, this plant not only has a hypoglycemic effect, but will also protect the eyes that are generally compromised with diabetes.
- Gynura (Gynura procumbems) – Although almost unheard of in the West at present, this Asian herb is a traditional remedy for regulating blood sugar. Although it will lower blood sugar in cases where it is high, it does not do so when the blood sugar is normal, so it is safe to use. According to Otto Richter of Richter’s Herbs, it also protects the eyes, kidneys, is anti-viral, and has a beneficial effect on cholesterol and blood pressure. Although difficult to find in health foods stores at present, it can be grown at home, and the leaves eaten in salads or a stir fry.
- Bitter melon – In traditional Chinese medicine, bitter melon is used to control blood sugar. Usually it is eaten in a stir fry or soup.
- Fenugreek – Fenugreek has a long history of helping to regulate glucose levels, as well lower cholesterol levels which should help protect the heart. Heart disease is a major concern for diabetics.
- Wolfberry (Goji) – One of the more marketed berries is the Chinese wolfberry or goji berry. Although health food marketing companies would like its customers to believe that there is a difference between inexpensive Chinese wolfberry and expensive Tibetan goji berries, the fact remains it is the same plant and comes from the same area. The only difference is the price the consumer pays. Look for an inexpensive source in the Asian markets in most major cities. They are also marketed under the Latin name Lycium. Whatever it is called, wolfberries are packed with nutrients and medicine to treat a number of health conditions. In particular, they help regulate blood sugar, rebuild tissue, and provide a boost of energy.
- Chia Seeds – It has been found that this miracle food, which is easy to grow, has a long storage life, and is packed with nutrients and fibre, is also good for regulating blood sugar. Apparently the seed is covered with a coating that becomes jelly-like when soaked in water. This coating slows the digestion and provides a lower glycemic index, which helps keep blood glucose levels within normal range.
- Culinary Herbs – There are a number of kitchen spices that can help the body regulate glucose levels and would be worth including in the diet. According to Dr James Duke, bay leaf, cinnamon, turmeric, and cloves all help the body use insulin more efficiently.
- Dietary Additions – Since food is medicine in many cultures, there are some foods that have been recognized as being beneficial to diabetics. Amongst those foods are: tea, olive oil, beans, garlic, onions, and foods high in pectin such as apples and carrots.
Supplements to Help the Body Regulate Blood Sugar
The body needs certain vitamins and minerals to be able to regulate glucose levels properly. Two major ones are:
- Vitamin C
- Stevia – Stevia is a plant that is much sweeter than sugar and does not use insulin to be processed in the body. For those that have tried stevia in the past and did not care for it, there is new variety of stevia, Crazy Sweet™ (Stevia rebaudiana 'AC™ GIIA11'), that has a more pleasant after taste. Stevia can be used in leaf, powder, and liquid forms in teas, cooking and baking.
- Xylitol – Found in fruit and vegetables, this sweetener has become popular as being a healthy alternative.
- Avoid Aspartame/NutraSweet – Although the proof is not conclusive, there is a ground swell of opinion that aspartame is linked with causing brain tumours.
It is always wise to discuss a new treatment with a health care professional that is well versed in herbs, pharmacology, and both allopathic and natural medicine. Whenever changes are made, they should be continued for a period of time to allow blood sugar readings to stabilize.
With a little common sense in the diet, exercise, proper monitoring, and a few beneficial herbs, diabetes can be brought under control.