Herbal Help for Diabetic Blood Sugar Control
If you have diabetes, check with your doctor or other healthcare provider before adding supplements to your program
Herbs that contain the extract berberine, such as goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) and Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium), are used around the world to treat infectious diarrhea and in formulas for treating respiratory, urinary tract, vaginal, and skin infections. Until recently, researchers have focused on the antimicrobial effects of berberine, but one of its other effects is the latest topic of research: a new study, published in Metabolism, found that berberine improved blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes.
Looking at berberine in the lab and in life
The study had two parts:
Test tubes show promising results
The in vitro research showed that treatment with berberine increased the number of insulin receptors on cells derived from a wide variety of human tissues, including pancreatic, immune, and connective tissue cells. They also found that cells were more responsive to insulin after being treated with berberine. These findings have important implications for people with type 2 diabetes, a chronic disease characterized by high blood levels of both insulin and glucose due to insulin resistance in the cells.
Berberine works as well as drug medicines
The human part of the study had several key findings:
"Our results confirmed that berberine increases insulin receptors in humans and that this is associated with its glucose-lowering effect," said study co-author Jian-Dong Jiang at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing. " We believe that berberine, which has a different mechanism than other glucose-lowering drugs, is an ideal medicine for type 2 diabetes."
Other natural therapies for diabetes
The best medicine for people with type 2 diabetes is a healthy diet and regular exercise. The results from this study suggest that a gram of berberine per day might help get blood sugar under control. Bear in mind that any supplement may interact with glucose-lowering drugs and could cause low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). If you have diabetes, check with your doctor or other healthcare provider before adding supplements to your program, including these that have also been shown to support diabetes management:
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice on Cortes Island in British Columbia, Canada, and has done extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.