In Ayurvedic medicine, type 2 diabetes is often treated with traditional herbal medicines. These herbs are available in the west and may be helpful for people with glucose intolerance (prediabetes) and those whose type 2 diabetes is managed by diet and lifestyle changes alone.
In some cases, herbal medicines are used in addition to prescribed medicines to improve the response to oral hypoglycemic drugs. This should only be done with the permission and supervision of your own doctor. If you are taking prescribed medication to lower your glucose levels, always check with your doctor before taking any supplements, especially Ayurvedic herbs, as interactions are likely – in other words, your glucose levels will come down – so only use these herbal medicines if your doctor supports your decision to take them.
You will need to monitor your blood glucose levels closely and know how to reduce the dose of your prescribed drugs to avoid your blood glucose levels falling too low (hypoglycemia).
I’ve reviewed the evidence for each of the main herbal medicines used individually, below, then reviewed some combinations of Ayurvedic herbs, such as CuraLin, that are formulated to help improve the lives of people with type 2 diabetes.
Formulated by Ayurvedic experts, CuraLin combines ten, traditional Ayurvedic herbs used to treat type 2 diabetes. Combining smaller doses of different herbs which work in different ways can have beneficial, synergistic effects. This can produce better results, at lower doses, and reduces the risk of side effects.
|CuraLin, a supplement based on Ayurvedic principles and scientific research, contains:
CuraLin is produced to pharmaceutical (GMP) standards.
Click here to hear some inspiring user testimonials.
Cinnamon for type 2 diabetes
Cinnamon tree bark contains unique aromatic substances such as cinnamaldehyde and ethylcinamate that add a warm spiciness to dishes. Some of these unique, antioxidant polyphenols improve the sensitivity of insulin receptors so they respond to insulin hormone more effectively.
Data from 10 trials, involving 543 people, found that taking cinnamon at doses of at least 120mg per day, for at least 4 weeks, significantly reduced fasting blood glucose levels by an average of 24.59mg/dL (1.4mmol/L). Improvements were also seen in cholesterol balance.
Recent research suggests that cinnamon also improves working memory in people with prediabetes (poor glucose tolerance).
Gymnema sylvestre for type 2 diabetes
Gymnema sylvestre is a woody vine used in Ayurvedic medicine, whose Asian name, gurmar, means ‘destroyer of sugar.’
Gymnema leaves contain unique gymnemic acids which have a similar structure to glucose molecules. When chewed or applied to the tongue, these gymnemic acids bind to taste receptors on the tongue and block the ability to detect sweetness for up to 90 minutes.
As well as reducing detection of sucrose, glucose and other sugars, Gymnema also reduces the ability to taste artificial sweeteners such as saccharin and aspartame. This can help to reduce sugar cravings and the desire for sweet foods so you naturally select a diet with a lower glycemic index.
Test-tube studies also show that a Gymnema compound, called gymnemagenin, is active against 15 different proteins involved in carbohydrate metabolism, in a similar way to the antidiabetes drugs, repaglinide and sitagliptin.
Gymnema also appears to bind to glucose receptors in the intestines to reduce the absorption of dietary glucose. It stimulates secretion of insulin from the pancreatic beta-cells, lowers blood triglyceride levels and reduces fatty changes in liver and muscle cells.
In one of the first clinical trials to investigate the effects of Gymnema leaf, 22 people with type 2 diabetes added Gymnema sylvestre extracts (400 mg daily) to their usual hypoglycaemic medication (glibenclamide or tolbutamide) for 18 to 20 months. All showed improved glucose control and most (21 out of 22) had their dose of prescribed hypoglycaemic drugs reduced by their doctors as a result. Five (23%) were able to stop their prescribed medication altogether and maintain good glucose control using Gymnema extract alone. Significant improvements were seen in their blood levels of glycosylated haemoglobin A1c (a measure of long-term glucose control). There was no control group with which to compare these findings, however.
In another open-label study, 58 people with type 2 diabetes were divided into two groups. All continued with their usual diet, exercise and diabetes medications, but 39 were also asked to take 250mg Gymnema sylvestre capsules twice a day, before meals, for 3 months.
Two of those taking the Gymnema supplements (10.3%) were able to discontinue their conventional oral hypoglycemic drugs (with their doctors’ consent), while in the control group, more than a third needed to increase their use of prescribed diabetes medication. Taking gymnema was also associated with a reduced fatigue, hunger and overeating.
Although this trial involved a control group, the randomisation was based on a willingness to take part, and everyone knew who was taking the herbal medicine, which could have affected the results.
Turmeric for type 2 diabetes
Turmeric is derived from the root-like rhizomes, or underground stems, of a ginger-like plant called Curcuma longa. Used as a yellow-orange spice in the kitchen, it contains an antioxidant mixture of pigments (curcuminoids) of which the most active is curcumin.
Turmeric has beneficial effects on pancreatic function to improve the release of insulin from beta-cells – even in healthy volunteers. Fourteen people without diabetes underwent glucose tolerance tests on two occasions during which they drank a solution containing 75g glucose and took capsules containing either a placebo or 6 grams turmeric. Blood samples taken over the following two hours showed that turmeric enhanced their release of insulin.
Curcumin supplements have also been shown to improve insulin resistance by activating insulin receptors.
In people with poor glucose tolerance (prediabetes), turmeric can delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. A study involving 240 people who were classed as prediabetic compared the effects of taking curcumin capsules against placebo.
After 3 months of diet and exercise advice, those taking part were randomised to take either placebo or curcumin (3 capsules twice a day, each capsule standardised to provide 250 mg curcuminoids) for a further nine months.
After the 9 months treatment, none of those taking curcumin had progressed to type 2 diabetes, compared with one in six of those taking placebo now classed as having type 2 diabetes. Those taking curcumin showed significant improvements in the function of insulin-producing pancreatic beta-cells.
In those taking the turmeric (curcumin) extracts, significant improvements occurred in fasting blood glucose levels and oral glucose tolerance tests when measured at 3 months, 6 months and 9 months. In those taking placebo, however, results worsened slightly over time.
Only minor side effects were reported (eg itching in 1 person, vertigo in 1, constipation in 2) which may not have been related to the turmeric treatment.
Turmeric for diabetes complications
Laboratory studies suggest that the anti-inflammatory effects of turmeric may also reduce the development of diabetic complications caused by raised glucose levels on nerves (diabetic neuropathy), blood vessels (diabetic vascular disease) and kidneys (diabetic nephropathy). Turmeric can reduce the amount of albumin lost in the urine (proteinuria) as a result of kidney damage, and can help to protect the liver against fatty liver disease and fibrosis.
Curcumin also helps to regulate the production of hormones linked with obesity, such as resistin (which links obesity with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes), leptin (the satiety hormone) and adiponectin (a hormone involved in fat breakdown) and may help to support weight loss.
Bitter melon for type 2 diabetes
Bitter melon (Momordica charantia), also known as balsam pear and Karela, is the unripened fruit of an Asian vine. It is used as a vegetable (steamed or sautéed) and is used in Ayurvedic medicine to improve glucose tolerance.
Bitter melon contains a chain of amino acids known as polypeptide-p, which is structurally similar to bovine insulin. It also contains a mixture of steroidal compounds, known as charantin, which can reduce glucose levels, reduce glucose absorption from the diet and reduces the production of glucose in the liver. Because of these actions, Bitter melon is often referred to as ‘plant insulin’.
A 2012 Cochrane review of four randomised controlled trials, involving 479 people, assessed the effects of Momordica charantia with placebo and concluded there was insufficient evidence to draw a conclusion and that further studies were needed.
Since then, a study involving 95 people, compared the effects of bitter melon (doses of 2g per day, and 4g per day) against the oral hypoglycaemic drug, glibenclamide (5 mg/day) for 10 weeks. Significant improvements in fasting blood glucose levels and HbA1c were seen in all three groups, although these were greater in those taking glibenclamide. But whereas heart disease risk factors deteriorated in those taking glibenclamide, blood lipids, weight and blood pressure improved in those taking Bitter melon.
Another study confirmed that Bitter melon has a hypoglycemic effect, but that a dose of 2g per day has less of an effect than a 1g dose of the prescribed drug, metformin.
Fenugreek for type 2 diabetes
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is an aromatic spice whose seeds are used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat type 2 diabetes and raised cholesterol levels.
A study involving 69 people whose type 2 diabetes was not responding to oral hypoglycemic drugs (sulfonylureas) assessed the effect of adding fenugreek to their treatment.
One group took fenugreek extracts three times a day for 12 weeks, while another took placebo in addition to their usual medication. Those who took fenugreek showed statistically significant improvements in their fasting blood glucose levels, glucose levels 2 hours after eating, and HbA1c levels compared to those in the control group on medication alone.
The researchers concluded that combining fenugreek extracts with sulfonylurea hypoglycemic drugs could lower blood glucose levels and improve clinical symptoms in people with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes.
NB Only take herbal medicines in addition to prescribed medication with the permission and supervision of your doctor.
Mild flatulence or diarrhoea have been reported as a side effect in 10-20% of people using defatted fenugreek extracts, but powdered fenugreek seeds seem to be well tolerated.
There is a possible interaction with aspirin, warfarin and other blood thinning drugs.
Allergic reactions have been reported.
Amla fruit for type 2 diabetes
Amla fruit (Emblica officinalis, or Phyllanthus emblica) is popularly known as the Indian gooseberry.
Amla fruit are a rich source of antioxidant polyphenols plus vitamin C. In fact, the pulp contains as much as 600mg vitamin C per 100g – twenty times higher than in orange juice. Amla powder is popular as a superfood to add to smoothies, and is also applied to the hair to promote shine.
Amla fruit is also used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat diabetes and its complications such as diabetic neuropathy, cataracts and nephropathy. Amla fruit extracts have been found to stimulate insulin release in response to glucose.
A small study tested the effects of Amal fruit powder in 32 volunteers, half of whom had type 2 diabetes, and half who acted as matched healthy controls. Those with diabetes were given either an antidiabetes drug (glibenclamide) or three different doses of powdered, dried Amla fruit (1g, 2g or 3g) once a day after breakfast for 21 days. The controls received either cellulose powder or one of the three doses of Amla fruit.
After 21 days, fasting blood glucose levels were significantly reduced in all those who took Amal powder, as were glucose levels measured two hours after eating a meal (in both healthy volunteers and people with type 2 diabetes). Blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels also improved. It took 15 days to achieve significant reductions in glucose levels in those with diabetes, suggesting that Amla powder takes at least a couple of weeks to show benefit.
Holy basil for type 2 diabetes
Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum or Ocimum album) is an aromatic Indian herb related to the European garden basil (Ocimum basilicum). Also known as tulsi, Holy basil is so revered in Ayurveda medicine that it is referred to as an Elixir of Life for its numerous healing properties.
Holy basil is used in Ayurvedic medicine to lower blood glucose levels, reduce high blood pressure and to relieve inflammation. Laboratory studies suggest that Holy basil improves pancreatic beta cell function and insulin secretion, and increases the uptake of glucose by muscle cells.
In one trial, 40 people with type 2 diabetes were given either holy basil leaves or placebo (spinach) for eight weeks. Then, after a wash-out period, they switched to the other treatment to act as their own controls. All their other diabetes medication was stopped (only do this under medical supervision). When taking Holy basil, average fasting blood glucose levels fell by 17.6%, and post-meal glucose levels fell by 7.3% compared with placebo.
Another study involved 60 people with type 2 diabetes who all continued their usual treatment with the oral hypoglycaemic drug, glibenclamide. Half also took Holy basil (250mg capsule half an hour before breakfast and 250mg half an hour before dinner) in addition to glibenclamide, for up to 90 days.
Significantly greater improvements in glucose control occurred in those taking Holy basil plus glibenclamide (171.53gm/dl down to 103.50gm/dl by day 90) compared to those taking glibenclamide alone (174.35gm/dl down to 114.50gm/dl by day 90). Peaks on blood glucose levels after eating also improved significantly, as did HbAc1.
The number of hypoglycaemic episodes was similar in both groups. (10% receiving both drug plus herb versus 13.3% of those taking glibenclamide alone).
Other studies have shown that Holy basil can improve other features associated with metabolic syndrome such as a raised blood pressure and LDL-cholesterol.
A safety review involving 24 clinical trials involving 1111 people, in which Holy basil was used from 2 to 13 weeks, concluded that Holy basil (tulsi) is a safe herb that may help to normalise glucose, blood pressure and lipid profiles, and improve the response to psychological and immunological stress.
Salacia oblonga for type 2 diabetes
The root of Salacia oblonga is a traditional herbal medicine used to treat diabetes. Salacia root extracts are also popular in Japan, where they are taken with a meal in the form of a tea or as a food supplement to treat both diabetes and obesity.
Salacia extracts contain unique compounds, such as called salacinol and kotalanol, which block the action of intestinal enzymes (such as maltase, sucrase and isomaltase) that break down dietary carbohydrates to release simple sugars (monosaccharides) such as glucose. This is the same action as that of the alpha-glucosidases anti-diabetes medicine, acarbose) .
Salacia extracts have also been found to block the action of pancreatic lipase, an enzyme that breaks down dietary fats ready for absorption.
Taking Salacia extract with a meal can slow the digestion and absorption of both glucose and dietary fats into the circulation.
A study involving 66 people with type 2 diabetes compared the effects of eating a standard liquid control meal on its own, or the same meal with either 240 mg Salacia oblonga extract, or a higher dose of 480 mg Salacia oblonga extract, on three separate occasions.
Both doses reduced the rise in glucose after eating the meal (adjusted peak glucose response) by 19% for the lower dose and 27% for the higher dose compared with the control meal, and significantly reduced the peak blood glucose level as shown in the following bar chart. Side effects included mild intestinal symptoms such as flatulence.
Coccinia cordifolia for type 2 diabetes
Coccinia cordifolia (also known as Coccinia indica, Ivy Gourd and baby watermelon) is a creeper that grows wild in India. Its leaves have been used for centuries as an Ayurvedic treatment for diabetes.
Coccinia is believed to have an insulin-like action to correct several metabolic abnormalities affecting glucose and fat metabolism in type 2 diabetes.
A gold standard, double-blind, placebo controlled trial randomised 60 newly diagnosed people with type 2 diabetes to take either 1g Coccinia extracts or placebo, together with standard diet and lifestyle advice. After 90 days treatment, those taking Coccinia showed significant decreases in fasting glucose levels (-16%), glucose levels 2 hours after a meal (-18%) and HbA1C in those taking the herb, compared with the placebo group.
Tinospora for type 2 diabetes
Tinospora cordifolia, commonly known as Guduchi, is an Ayurvedic herb whose stems have many traditional uses.
Its anti-diabetes properties include the stimulation of insulin secretion from the pancreas, and an ability to inhibit the breakdown of glycogen stores in the liver, and reduce the formation of new glucose (gluconeogenesis) to help regulate glucose control.
Tinospora also increases the production and activation of insulin receptors in muscle and fat cells.
Bitterstick for type 2 diabetes
Bitterstick (Swertia chirata), also known as Indian gentian, is traditionally used to reduce inflammation and lower blood glucose levels.
Cell culture studies suggest its blood glucose lowering activity results from the stimulation of the release of insulin from pancreatic cells.
Picrorhiza kurroa for type 2 diabetes
Also known as Kutki, the root-like rhizomes (underground stems) of Picrorhiza kurroa are used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat diabetes, and to protect the liver where they appear to have a similar action to milk thistle seed extracts.
Laboratory studies suggest Picrorhiza extracts promote the regeneration of insulin producing beta-cells in the pancreas, increase the sensitivity of insulin receptors in muscle cells, and inhibit an enzyme (alpha-amylase) that breaks down dietary carbohydrates to release sugars.
Syzygium cumini for type 2 diabetes
Syzygium cumini (also called Eugenia jambolana) is a tree whose fruit is known as the Java plum. All parts of the tree are used in Ayurvedic medicine, but it is the mainly the seeds that are used to treat diabetes and digestive problems.
Syzygium was used in India before insulin treatment became available, and was expected to reduce blood glucose levels by as much as 30%. Syzygium cumini has been shown to significantly improve platelet function in people with type 2 diabetes, which might reduce the risk of unwanted blood clots.
Melia azadirachta for type 2 diabetes
Melia azadirachta (also known as Azadirachta indica) or neempan is used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat diabetes.
A small study tested the effects of neempan extracts in 26 people, 10 with type-2 diabetes who were on no medication, 10 who were poorly-controlled on oral hypoglycemic drugs, plus 6 healthy controls. After 15 days, significant improvements in blood glucose levels were noted, and the researchers concluded that the extracts could be combined with oral hypoglycemic agents to treat type-2 diabetes in patients who are not controlled by these agents alone. NB Only use herbal medicines with your doctor’s permission and supervision.
Ayurvedic herbal combinations for type 2 diabetes
Combining herbs which improve glucose tolerance through different mechanisms can have a synergistic effect that results in better improvements in glucose levels at lower doses. This also reduces the risk of intestinal side effects.
A diabetes clinic recently tested an Ayurvedic medicinal combination containing extracts from Gymnema sylvestre, Turmeric, Tinospora cordifolia, Amla fruit (Emblica officinalis) and Salacia oblonga in 89 people with type 2 diabetes. All volunteers were given dietary advice and asked to continue their usual diabetes treatments. After randomisation, one group took the herbal combination in addition to their usual medication for 8 weeks, while the rest acted as controls.
In those taking the herbal combination, fasting blood glucose levels, and glucose levels after eating, were significantly reduced by taking the herbal combination.
Improvements were also seen in blood levels of glycosylated haemoglobin, triglycerides, total cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol. Other studies by the same researchers suggest the improvement in glucose control with the herbal combination is comparable to that of the diabetes drug, glibenclamide. Safety studies involving kidney and liver function tests showed no adverse toxic effects.
CuraLin for type 2 diabetes
CuraLin is a supplement based on Ayurvedic principles and scientific research. Formulated by Ayurvedic experts with years of experience, it combines ten traditional Ayurvedic herbs used to treat type 2 diabetes:
- Bitter melon (30%)
- Syzygium cumini / Eugenia jambolana) (10%)
- Gymnema sylvestre (8%)
- Turmeric (8%)
- Tinospora cordifolia (8%)
- Neempan (8%)
- Fenugreek (8%)
- Amla (8%)
- Swertia chirata (8%)
- Picrorhiza kurroa (4%)
CuraLin is produced to pharmaceutical (GMP) standards, and is overseen by a scientific advisory board.
Click here to listen to some inspiring user testimonials.
Click here to view the scientific advisory board members.
|CuraLin is taken as a dietary supplement at a dose of one or two capsules, three times a day (after breakfast, after lunch and before bed).
The maximum dose is up to 6 capsules per day.
CuraLin is not suitable for use under the age of 18, or during pregnancy or breast-feeding.
CuraLin is available as a single pack of 180 capsules
If you are taking any diabetes medication, talk to your doctor before taking any herbal medicines.
Monitor your blood glucose levels closely, and let your doctor know of any changes.
Do not take herbal medicines during pregnancy or when breast feeding.
Do not take herbal medicines if you have type 1 diabetes except under the supervision of a doctor.
Have you used any herbal medicines to improve your glucose control?
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Chromium can also help to improve glucose control.