Diabetes mellitus (DM), commonly referred to as diabetes, refers to a group of metabolic diseases that affect how your body uses blood sugar (glucose).
According to International Diabetes Federation statistics from 2014, an estimated 387 million people worldwide have diabetes. About 90 percent of them have Type 2 diabetes.
There are three main types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes.
- In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin. The exact cause is unknown, however risk increases with certain factors like family history, genetics, exposure to certain viruses like the Epstein-Barr virus, and vitamin D deficiency.
- Type 2 diabetes begins when cells fail to respond to insulin properly. Factors that put you at a higher risk include obesity, excess abdominal fat, inactive lifestyle, family history, age, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglyceride levels, and a history of polycystic ovaries.
- Gestational diabetes affects women during pregnancy.
Some of the symptoms of high blood sugar include frequent urination, increased thirst or hunger, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, slow healing process and frequent infections. If left untreated, it can cause many complications.
Maintaining normal blood sugar levels is necessary for your overall health. You can do it with a healthy diet, regular exercise, not using tobacco, maintaining a healthy body weight and taking the prescribed medications. You can also try some herbs and spices to ease symptoms and control your blood sugar.
Here are the top 10 herbs and spices for diabetes.
Cinnamon contains bioactive components that can help lower blood sugar levels.
A 2013 study published in the Annals of Family Medicine and Diabetes Care shows that cinnamon is beneficial for people with Type 2 diabetes.
Based on this study, it may have a beneficial effect on fasting plasma glucose, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels in patients with Type 2 diabetes.
- You can take 1 to 2 grams of cinnamon daily in the form of tea. You can also sprinkle it on your oatmeal, smoothies or use it in cooking and baking.
- Another option is to take cinnamon supplements. However, always consult a doctor for the proper dosage suitable for your condition.
Note: If you take a blood-thinning medication, avoid taking cinnamon.
Fenugreek is an herb that diabetic people should include in their diets. Due to its hypoglycemic activity, it can improve glucose tolerance and lower blood sugar levels. In addition, its fiber content slows down the absorption of carbohydrates and sugars.
In a 2009 study published in the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research, researchers concluded there is a positive effect of fenugreek seeds on blood glucose and lipid profiles in Type 2 diabetic patients.
- Soak 1 to 2 tablespoons of fenugreek seeds in water overnight. The next morning, drink the water and eat the seeds on an empty stomach. Follow this remedy daily.
- You can also eat baked goods made with fenugreek flour.
- Another option is to take a supplement after consulting a doctor.
Anti-diabetic, hypolipidemic and anti-oxidative properties in ginger are beneficial in controlling blood sugar levels. Ginger also can improve insulin sensitivity, reduce oxidation and improve cholesterol levels. It even helps with weight loss.
A 2014 study published in the Complementary Therapies in Medicine journal found that daily consumption of three 1-gram capsules of ginger powder for 8 weeks proved useful for patients with Type 2 diabetes.
- Drink 2 to 3 cups of ginger tea daily.
- Also, include fresh or dry ginger in your cooking.
- Another option is to take ginger supplements after consulting your doctor.
Turmeric is a good spice to control high blood sugar. It has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-atherosclerotic, heart-protecting and weight-reducing actions that help diabetic people manage blood sugar levels and reduce complications from the disease.
A 2013 study published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal highlighted the important role of curcumin, a key component in turmeric, in the prevention and treatment of diabetes and associated disorders.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders clearly indicates the beneficial role of turmeric in controlling kidney-related complications caused by diabetes.
- Include raw or powdered turmeric in your cooking.
- Take a supplement, but only after consulting a doctor.
Garlic also helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels in diabetic people, thanks to its anti-diabetic and hypolipidemic properties. It contains sulfur compounds that protect against oxidative damage and even high cholesterol.
According to a 2011 study published in the Pakistan Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, garlic supplementation with standard anti-diabetic agent provides better blood sugar control in Type 2 diabetics.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders suggests that garlic can help treat diabetes and related cardiovascular diseases.
- Eat 2 or 3 raw garlic cloves daily on an empty stomach.
- Also, include garlic in your cooking or take a supplement after consulting a doctor.
6. Curry Leaves
Aromatic curry leaves may also be useful in managing high blood sugar. Several minerals in this herb help maintain normal glucose level in the blood. In addition, it influences carbohydrate metabolism. It also reduces the risk of oxidative stress.
A 2013 study published in the International Journal of Food and Nutritional Sciences highlights the hypoglycemic properties of curry leaf powder in controlling the fasting and postprandial blood glucose levels among diabetics.
A 2007 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology indicates that curry leaf extract can help bring down the severity of diabetes.
- Chew a few tender curry leaves daily in the morning on an empty stomach.
- You can also add curry leaf powder to your soups or salads.
7. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera gel helps lower fasting blood glucose levels. It contains phytosterols that have antihyperglycemic properties. In addition, the high fiber content helps the body use glucose effectively and remove excess sugar from the blood.
A 2012 study by the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at Beni-Sueif University in Egypt shows a promising anti-diabetic effect of aloe vera extract for treating Type 2 diabetes.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders says that use of aloe vera extract in pre-diabetic patients can reverse impaired blood glucose within four weeks.
- Drink a glass of aloe vera juice prepared with up to 2 tablespoons of aloe gel twice a day to help regularize insulin flow and lower blood glucose levels naturally. You can also apply pure aloe vera gel externally to boils and other skin infections to reduce inflammation and irritation.
- Another option is to take an aloe vera supplement, but only after consulting your doctor.
This herb contains antioxidant as well as anti-inflammatory properties that help lower blood glucose levels. It helps prevent some of the complications associated with diabetes, such as renal impairment, heart disease, eye disease and vascular problems.
A 2006 study published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology suggests that daily intake of 1 to 3 grams of cloves is beneficial for people with Type 2 diabetes to manage their glucose and total cholesterol levels.
Simply add a little of this herb to your foods or chew a few cloves daily.
9. Korean Ginseng
The holistic healing of the herb Korean or Panax ginseng is good for controlling after-meal blood sugar levels. It increases insulin sensitivity as well as reduces the complications. It even helps in metabolizing carbohydrates, a common problem among people who have Type 2 diabetes.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Ginseng Research suggests that Panax ginseng holds promise as a therapeutic agent for diabetes prevention and treatment.
- Drink 1 to 2 cups of Korean ginseng tea daily.
- Alternatively, take 1 to 3 capsules of 500 mg Korean ginseng daily for a couple of months, but only after consulting your doctor.
Note: People who have hormone-related problems must avoid using this herb.
Oregano is another herb that can help prevent and treat high blood sugar. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry says that herbs like oregano and rosemary inhibit the enzyme dipeptidyl peptidase IV that promotes the secretion of insulin.
The polyphenols and flavonoids in oregano also help fight inflammation.
- Add a few drops of oregano oil to a glass of water or your favorite juice and drink it once daily.
- Alternatively, drink a cup of oregano tea daily.
- In addition, sprinkle a little dried oregano on your soups, salads or morning smoothies.