WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 7: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center advises that there are several complementary alternative medicine applications that may be helpful for those with type 2 diabetes. They can be used safely under the supervision of a health care professional who is certified in the field of (CAM).

Natural methods of treatment may be helpful in stabilizing, reducing or eliminating medication requirements along with balancing out nutritional deficiencies related to diabetes. Complementary alternative medicine should not be used to replace conventional medical care.  Speak with your doctor first before embarking on a health plan that involves natural treatments.

One size does not fit all when it comes to using herbs, supplements or prescription medications.  You may have to experiment with a few herbs before you get the desired results.

Those considering making the transition from prescription medications to CAM methods please be aware of the following:

Know your health history

Herbs, vitamins and supplements contain chemical compounds and can cause side effects especially for persons living with diabetes. Depression is a common symptom associated with diabetes, yet St John’s Wort should not be used by diabetics because of contraindications with a number of prescription drugs, contraceptives and cholesterol lowering drugs. Discuss your herb and supplement needs with your doctor.

Don’t withhold information

When taking herbal remedies and vitamin supplements, don’t withhold vital information from medical professionals about the natural substances you are taking. If you have a medical emergency and have to be rushed to the hospital you may be putting yourself at risk. 

Examine the ingredients

  1. This information should include the name and quantity of each ingredient and the status of that ingredient, be it botanical or synthetic.

Shop wisely

Herbal preparations are sold in a number of retail outlets like health food stores, grocery stores, local pharmacies, mail order and the Internet. Be wary of people who make up herbal concoctions that claim to cure diabetes. You may want to research the item you intend to take prior to purchasing; this way your money is not just sitting on the shelf.

Dr Steven Joyal is Vice President of Scientific and Medical Affairs for Life Extension. Here are a few herbs that he has deemed safe for Type 2 diabetics to use:

Gymnema: This plant is used in East Indian medicine and is known as the “sugar destroyer”.  This herb has a 2,000 year history and is used to destroy excess sugars in the body.

Prickly Pear: The fruit of this plant is used in the treatment of diabetes and contains pectin & fiber which lowers blood glucose levels by decreasing the absorption of sugar in the stomach and intestines.  Prickly Pear has been extensively researched by the American Heart Association for its cholesterol reducing properties and its ability to reduce inflammation in the body.

Bitter Melon: Scientific research supports the use of bitter melon as a plant or botanical insulin. The gourd contains an enzyme that is responsible for regulating metabolism and transporting glucose from the blood into the cells.

Gogi Berries: This fruit lowers oxidative stress on the eyes caused by type 2 diabetes.  This condition is known as diabetic retinopathy. Gogi berries contain high levels of antioxidants which have been shown to improve vision.

Fenugreek: This culinary spice contains an amino acid that helps to stimulate the secretion of insulin, reduce insulin resistance and decrease blood sugar levels. One of the largest research studies carried out on Fenugreek showed significant improvement in blood sugar control and post-meal spikes for diabetics.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Italian researchers have found that increased consumption of omega-3 oils leads to a decrease in insulin resistance. The other benefit for diabetics associated with omega-3 fatty acids is a reduction in blood fats known as triglycerides.

Kuni Frith-Black ND is Executive DirectorBermuda Diabetes Association.