Herbs and supplements for type 2 diabetes
Treatments of type 2 diabetes include lifestyle strategies and sometimes medication, but some complementary therapies, such as herbs and supplements, may help.
In this article, learn about the herbs and supplements that may benefit people with type 2 diabetes.
1. Bitter melon
Momordica charantia, or bitter melon, is a medicinal fruit. People cook it and enjoy it in many dishes. And practitioners of traditional Chinese and Indian medicines have used bitter melon for centuries. More recently, researchers have been looking into its properties.
There is some evidence that bitter melon may help manage diabetes. In a 2020 studyTrusted Source, 90 participants received either bitter melon extract or a placebo. Those who took the extract had lower fasting blood glucose levels after 12 weeks.
In addition, an earlier review observed that people have used many parts of the plant to help treat diabetes.
Taking bitter melon in the following forms may lead to reduced blood sugar levels in some people:
blended vegetable pulp
Bitter melon can be an acquired taste, and taking supplements may make it more palatable.
2. Aloe vera
Aloe vera is a common plant with various uses. Many people are aware of its benefits for the skin, but it may have others, including slowing the progress of type 2 diabetes.
One review, published in 2013, looked at the use of aloe vera to treat symptoms of diabetes in rats. The findings suggested that aloe vera might help protect and repair the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. The researchers believed that this might be due to aloe’s antioxidant effects.
A 2016 study showed that aloe vera may help lower levels of both fasting blood glucose and hemoglobin A1C. The A1C test is one test that helps doctors diagnose and monitor diabetes.
The authors of a 2020 review Trusted Source found other evidence to support the earlier findings and also concluded that aloe vera may help:
increase insulin levels
boost the health and number of related cells in the pancreas called islets
protect against diabetic kidney disease, depression, and anxiety by reducing oxidative stress
boost eye health, as seen in one rodent study
These results appear promising. But ensuring that aloe vera is safe and effective for people with diabetes will require further research.
People who use aloe vera may add juiced pulp to a drink such as a smoothie or take it as a supplement in capsules. People should not ingest aloe vera skin care products.
Cinnamon is a fragrant spice that comes from the bark of a tree. It is a popular ingredient in sweets and baked goods, as well as some savory dishes.
This spice may add sweetness to a dish, limiting the need for sugar. It is popular among people with type 2 diabetes for this reason alone, but it may also have other benefits.
A 2010 review Trusted Source found evidence from studies in humans that cinnamon may improve levels of:
insulin and insulin sensitivity
lipids, or fats, in the blood
lean body mass
In another review, published in 2013, researchers concluded that taking a cinnamon supplement might lead to:
lower fasting blood glucose levels
less total cholesterol and “bad” low-density lipoprotein cholesterol
higher levels of “good” high-density lipoprotein cholesterol
a reduction in triglycerides, or fat, in the blood
increased insulin sensitivity
It did not appear to have a significant impact on hemoglobin A1C. But while hemoglobin A1C is one marker that doctors look at when monitoring diabetes, the levels of lipids, cholesterol, and insulin sensitivity are also important.
In both investigations, the researchers noted that the results may depend on:
the type of cinnamon, as different types contain different amounts of the active ingredient
the dosage of the supplement
any other current medications
In addition, a 2019 review trusted Source of 16 studies found evidence that cinnamon could help reduce fasting blood glucose and insulin resistance in people with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
People might use cinnamon:
in baked goods
as a supplement
Fenugreek is a seed that may help lower blood sugar levels. It contains fibers and chemicals that help slow down the digestion of carbohydrates and sugar.
There is also some evidence that the seed may help delay or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. Findings of a 3-year investigation trusted Source published in 2015 noted that people with prediabetes were less likely to receive a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes while taking powdered fenugreek seed.
The study involved 66 people with diabetes who took 5 grams of the seed preparation twice a day before meals and 74 healthy participants who did not take it.
The researchers concluded that taking the seed preparation led to a reduction in blood sugar resulting from increased insulin levels. They also found that the preparation led to reduced cholesterol levels.
A person can
Use fenugreek as an herb in cooking.
Add it to warm water and drink it.
Grind the seeds into a powder and consume it.
Opt for a fenugreek supplement in capsule form.
5. Gymnema Sylvestre
Gymnema sylvestre is an herb that comes from India. Its name means “sugar destroyer.”
A 2013 review found that people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes who took gymnema showed signs of improvement.
In people with type 1 diabetes who took the leaf extract for 18 months, fasting blood sugar levels fell significantly, compared with a group who received only insulin.
Other tests found that people with type 2 diabetes responded well to both the leaf and its extract over various periods. Some people had lower blood sugar levels and higher insulin levels.
Ginger is another herb that people have used for thousands of years in traditional medicines. People often use ginger to help treat digestive and inflammatory issues.
In 2015, a review found that it may also help treat diabetes. The researchers concluded that ginger lowered blood sugar levels but not blood insulin levels. As a result, they suggest that ginger may reduce insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes.
However, the way that ginger accomplished this was unclear, and the team called for more research to confirm the findings.
People can take ginger:
by adding it powdered or fresh and thinly sliced to raw or cooked dishes
brewed into tea
as a supplement in capsule form
by drinking it in ginger ale
Herbs and supplements may help with diabetes, but there are some considerations to bear in mind.
Always work with a healthcare professional before taking any new herb or supplement. They may suggest starting with a lower dosage and gradually increasing it until there are noticeable, satisfactory effects.
Some herbs can interact with other medications that do the same job, such as blood thinners and high blood pressure medications. It is essential to be aware of any interactions before trying a new supplement.
It is also crucial to obtain herbs and supplements from high-quality sources.