Saturday, May 22, 2010
Herbs That Are Reputed To Help With Diabetes
Diabetes affects more than 16 million people today making it a leading cause of death and disability in the United States. The modern management of diabetes inspite of many advances still remains unsatisfactory. Drug intolerance, hypersensitivity and resistance to insulin etc. makes it all the more important to search for safe, effective and cheaper remedies.
Some such remedies are available from the Indian system of Medicine “Ayurveda”. In recent years, the use of herbs traditionally employed in Ayurveda has yielded positive scientific results. Worldwide, there is an increasing interest in the use of herbs/plants as most of the modern drugs are costly and tagged with serious side effects. Two such highly effective natural hypoglycemic agents are highlighted in this week’s issue.
Coccinia indica (Bimba in Sanskrit) known as Ivy Gourd has a long history in ancient Indian medicinal system for its use in diabetes, bronchitis and skin diseases. It is a climbing perennial herb, growing wild throughout India.
Dried extract of Coccinia indica is clinically proven in 30 diabetic patients, where it has been postulated to act like insulin, correcting the elevated enzymes glucose-6-phosphatase and LDH in the glycolytic pathway and restore the LPL activity in the lypolytic pathway with the control of hyperglycemia in diabetics. In yet another double blind controlled trial with a preparation from the leaves of the plant on uncontrolled, maturity onset diabetics, out of the 16 patients who received the experimental preparations 10 showed marked improvement in their glucose tolerance while none out of the 16 patients in the dummy group showed such a marked improvement.
Preclinical studies using extract of leaves of coccinia indica reported that blood sugar was depressed by 23% and 27% in the normal fed and streptozotocin-diabetic rats respectively compared with controls which were given distilled water. Thus extensive studies prove the hypoglycemic activity of the leaf extract of Coccinia indica.
Mamijava (Enicostemma littorale) is a glabrous perennial herb. Traditionally it is used as a stomachic and bitter tonic, used as a substitute for Swertia chirata (the famous Indian bitter) and hence commonly referred as Chota chirayata.
Recent preclinical data has documented the use of extract of E. littorale proving significant increase in the serum insulin levels in alloxan-induced diabetic rats at 8 h. further investigations led to the results suggesting the glucose lowering effect of extract of E. littorale to be associated with potentiation of glucose-induced insulin release through K(+)-ATP channel dependent pathway but did not require Ca(2+) influx.
Yet another preclinical experimental data suggest that the extract of E. littorale is a potent herbal antidiabetic.
This woody climbing plant has been in wide use throughout India for many years to alleviate the complications of blood sugar imbalance (Pati 2001). It seems to “nudge” the pancreas in to secreting chemicals needed by the body to metabolize sugar, fat, and protein into energy and muscle (Sodhi 2001).
Specifically, animal studies have shown it to help double the number of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, and it is thought to enhance the sensitivity of insulin to sugar to enable the body to metabolize sugar more successfully. These characteristics played out in a human study conducted in India and published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology (Baskaran 1990).
A potent flavonoid in this tree has been shown to help regenerate beta cells in the pancreas as well. In a study conducted in India, Pterocarpus helped balance blood sugar and contributed to an increase in beta cell count in laboratory animals (Ahmad 1991).
Scientists have demonstrated similar effects of Pterocarpus in people. For example, researchers in India once studied the effects of this herb in 97 individuals with blood sugar problems and were amazed to find that it helped control blood sugar levels in 69% of them (Seshiah 1998).
Momordica charantia (bitter melon)
The fruit of bitter melon contains several compounds that contribute to its success: saponins, proteins, and a polypeptide called “p-insulin.” Some scientists suggest that this botanical may help inhibit the absorption of sugar into cells without driving insulin levels to unstable levels (Raman 1996). Furthermore, its juice was shown in one study to enhance glucose tolerance in 73% of the participants evaluated (Welihinda 1986).