Home remedies for controlling diabetes
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Expert-reviewed by Ashwini S.Kanade, Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator with 17 years of experience
Fact-checked by Aditya Nar, B.Pharm, MSc. Public Health and Health Economics

If you are on oral anti-diabetic medication, you’re probably looking for alternative herbal remedies that can help reduce your blood sugar levels naturally and do not abdominal discomfort, flatulence, bloating, diarrhoea or weight gain, like the medication does. (1) 

It is possible to control your diabetes better with the right diet plan, home remedies and light exercise. Get a free consultation with our programme counsellor, register now!

Here are a few research-backed home remedies that are likely to work:

Fenugreek (Methi)

Yes, the humble methi in your kitchen can be your armour against high blood sugar levels.

How it helps:

Fenugreek is rich in dietary fibre and saponin; which helps it to slow down both the digestion and absorption of dietary carbohydrate. (2)

How to use:

Research shows that consuming 5 grams of fenugreek seed powder 20 minutes before meals, four times a day has a beneficial effect on reducing blood glucose. If you are on an oral antidiabetic, make sure you leave a gap of at least 2 hours between taking your drug and the fenugreek to avoid interference.

A word of caution:

Pregnant diabetics must not use fenugreek since it may induce labour. (3)

Indian Blackberry (Jamun)

Jamun seeds have been traditionally used for diabetes. (4)

How it helps:

Research shows that the seeds contain compounds called jamboline and jambosine that slow down the rate at which starch converts into sugar. (5) It is also believed that jamun seeds may help to either increase insulin secretion in the pancreas or prevent its degradation. If you take about 10 grams of jamun seed powder orally every day, and also control your diet and exercise regularly, it can help reduce your blood sugar levels. (6)

How to use:

Vaidya Jagjit Singh, BAMS, recommends you boil 250 grams of ripe jamun fruits in 500 ml of boiling water, then crush the fruits in the water itself, filter and drink the liquid twice a day.

A word of caution:

If you have a cough or are pregnant, avoid taking jamun.

Read more about the health benefits of jamun here.

Cinnamon (Dalchini)

If you like the flavour of cinnamon, you just got lucky, because studies have found this bark helps in diabetes.

How it helps:

Cinnamon is thought to improve the uptake of glucose by cells and also stimulate insulin release and improve insulin receptor activity. (7) Cinnamon itself and the extract have been shown to reduce fasting blood glucose in type 2 diabetes. (8)

How to use:

You could consume anywhere between half a teaspoon to 3 teaspoons of ground cinnamon to see this beneficial effect. (9) You can either have this on an empty stomach or boil it with water to make a tea-like concoction that you can drink throughout the day.

A word of caution:

Its action is not so noticeable in post-menopausal women. (10) Also, cinnamon can aggravate liver problems, so be careful if you have any such issues. (9) Make sure you use Ceylon cinnamon and not Cassia cinnamon; the latter contains coumarin, which can be harmful in high doses. 

Read more about why dalchini is a must for diabetics here.

Bitter gourd (Karela)

You probably know of bitter gourd or melon for – what else – its bitterness. But did you know that it has valuable anti-diabetic effects? It has been found that drinking the juice of the bitter gourd pulp significantly reduces both fasting and postprandial blood sugar levels. (10)

How it helps:

Bitter gourd contains an insulin-like substance called polypeptide-p; but it may also help to cut down those hunger pangs that strike unbidden because it also has an appetite-suppressing effect. (11)

How to use:

You can safely drink about 50 – 100 ml of bitter melon juice every day; more than this, and you may yourself struck by an attack of diarrhoea.

A word of caution:

Pregnant women must not consume bitter gourd as it may lead to bleeding and miscarriage. (12)

If reading about these herbal remedies enthuses you to try them out for your diabetes – go for it! But before that, a word or two of caution.

Don’t expect miracles

Firstly, do not be lulled into a sense of complacency that using herbal remedies means you can ease up on the other, tough stuff that goes into controlling diabetes. As Dr. Kalaranjani, BAMS, tells us, “I’m sceptical about these herbal remedies working wonders for diabetics who do not pay attention to the basics of a controlled diet and regular exercise. Home remedies can only supplement existing anti-diabetic medication – whether based on modern medicine or Ayurveda. They definitely cannot be a substitute for medication combined with a holistic healthy lifestyle.”

Secondly, stay aware that herbs, with their multiple ingredients, may have an interaction with your anti-diabetic medication. In some cases, the herb may enhance the effects of your drug and maybe over time, with careful monitoring, you could be able to (under medical supervision, of course) cut down the dose of your anti-diabetic drug. However, it is equally likely that interaction between the drug you take and the home remedy you try carries the risk of causing side effects or adverse effects.  Unfortunately, such herb-drug interactions haven’t really been studied in detail until now, so there isn’t a lot of data available. (13) In other words, talk to your physician before you decide to try out any of these home remedies for diabetes.

Footnote

Vaidya Jagjit Singh is an Ayurvedic physician who owns and practices at Chandigarh Ayurved Centre, Chandigarh.

Dr . A. Kalaranjani, is an Ayurvedic physician who consults at her Sanjeevani  Ayur Clinic, K R Puram, Bengaluru.

Photo Courtesy: Pixabay, Storyblocks

References:

  1. A.Y.Y. Cheng, I.G. Fantus. Oral antihyperglycemic therapy for type 2 diabetes mellitus.  CMAJ. 2005 Jan; 172(2); 213–226. ddoi:  10.1503/cmaj.1031414
  2. N. Neelakantan, M. Narayanan, R.J. deSouza, R.M. van Dam. Effect of fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecumL.) intake on glycemia: a meta-analysis of clinical trials. Nutrition Journal 2014; 13:7; https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-13-7
  3. K. Kumar, S. Kumar, A. Datta, A. Bandyopadhyay. Effect of fenugreek seeds on glycemia and dyslipidemia in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Int J Med Sci Public Health 2015;4(7); 997-1000 available at https://www.ejmanager.com/mnstemps/67/67-1426066957.pdf
  4. V.M. Jadhav. Herbal medicine : Syzygium cumini :A Review. Journal of Pharmacy Research 2009;  2(8); 1212-1219 available at  http://jprsolutions.info/files/final-file-56b225bf628a11.26562478.pdf
  5. S.I. Rizvi, N. Mishra. Traditional Indian Medicines Used for the Management of Diabetes Mellitus. J. Diabetes Res. 2013 June; 2013: 712092. doi:  10.1155/2013/712092
  6. G. Shivaprakash, M.R.S.M. Pai, M. Nandini, K. Reshma, D.A. Sahana, K. Rajendran et al. Antioxidant potential of Eugenia jambolana seed; a randomized clinical trial in type 2diabetes mellitus. International Journal of Pharma and Bio Sciences. June 2011; 2(2)
  7. P. Ransinghe, R.Jayawardana, P. Galappaththy, G.R. Constantine, G.N. de Vas, P. Katulanda. Efficacy and safety of ‘true’ cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) as a pharmaceutical agent in diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabet Med. 2012 Dec; 29(12); 1480-92. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-5491.2012.03718.x.
  8. P.A. Davis, W. Yokoyama. Cinnamon intake lowers fasting blood glucose: meta-analysis. J Med Food. 2011 Sep; 14(9); 884-9. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2010.0180.
  9. WebMD. Does Cinnamon Help Diabetes? Available at https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/cinnamon-and-benefits-for-diabetes
  10. R. Deng. A Review of the Hypoglycemic Effects of Five Commonly Used Herbal Food Supplements. Recent Pat Food Nutr Agric. 2012;  Apr 1; 4(1); 50–60. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3626401/
  11. Diabetes.co.uk. Bitter melon and diabetes. Available at http://www.diabetes.co.uk/natural-therapies/bitter-melon.html
  12. L. Barhum. Bitter melon and diabetes: How does it affect blood sugar levels? June 2017 Available at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317724.php
  13. R.C. Gupta, D. Chang, S. Nammi, A. Bensoussan, K. Bilinkski, B.D. Roufogalis. Interactions between antidiabetic drugs and herbs: an overview of mechanisms of action and clinical implications. Diabetol Metab Syndr. 2017; 9: 59;  doi:  10.1186/s13098-017-0254-9

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for patient awareness only. This has been written by qualified experts and scientifically validated by them. Wellthy or it’s partners/subsidiaries shall not be responsible for the content provided by these experts. This article is not a replacement for a doctor’s advice. Please always check with your doctor before trying anything suggested on this article/website.

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