Herbs and Herbal Remedies for Type II Diabetes

by cazort

This page explores three herbs that show evidence of being able to treat or prevent type II diabetes: cinnamon, chamomile, and tulsi, also called holy basil.

Type II diabetes is a medical condition in which the body begins to have trouble regulating blood sugar. This condition is associated with a number of different health risks, and can ultimately cause death if untreated.

This page explores some herbal remedies that can be used to prevent or help manage Type II Diabetes. Herbal remedies can be much safer than prescription medications. Some oral diabetes pills have harmful side effects and can contribute to overmedication. Herbal remedies may achieve a similar effect but with lower risk.

Before You Start Reading

The most important factors in preventing and managing type II diabetes are lifestyle, diet, and proper medical care. These herbal remedies are a supplement, not a substitute, for proper lifestyle and diet adjustment under the guidance of a medical professional.

For some info on lifestyle and dietary approaches, I recommend the Mayo Clinic's page on lifestyle and home remedies for type 2 diabetes.

Herbs or Prescription Medications?

Which would you prefer for treating type 2 diabetes?

Cinnamon - A Spice to Lower Blood Sugar

There is evidence that cinnamon can help to moderate blood sugar.

Cinnamon is a popular spice, usually used as a flavoring, which has shown considerable evidence of lowering blood sugar. I don't think it's a coincidence that cinnamon is often added to sweets and foods high in refined starch, ranging from cinnamon bread or cinnamon swirl buns, to Pho, a Vietnamese beef noodle soup with rice noodles (a high glycemic-index food) and flavored with cinnamon, among other spices.

If you have or are at risk for type II diabetes, or if you want to moderate your blood sugar levels for other reasons, such as avoiding the instabilities in mood associated with a sugar crash, it cannot hurt to include cinnamon as a flavoring in your meals.

You can also add cinnamon sticks to herbal teas, or cinnamon powder. Make sure to use pure cinnamon and not cinnamon sugar, as the last thing you want is to add more sugar to your diet. Cinnamon as a spice is naturally slightly sweet, even though it contains no sugar!

Chamomile and Chamomile Tea

An herb that may protect against damage caused by type II diabetes

Chamomile tea, a popular bedtime drink, has shown some evidence of being able to lower blood sugar and thus prevent the progression of type II diabetes and prevent some of the damage associated with high blood sugar levels. Drinking this tea with or shortly after meals might help keep your blood sugar levels under control.

In addition to its diabetes-fighting properties, chamomile tea has a number of other positive effects on health, including antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects. However, chamomile is also known to act as an anticoagulant (blood thinner), and can interact with prescription blood thinners, so it is important to consult a medical professional before using any chamomile if you are on these medications or have any other reason for which anticoagulants could be harmful or are contraindicated.

Chamomile is a popular ingredient in herbal teas. It's easy to find pure chamomile as well as herbal blends containing chamomile in any supermarket. You can also find listings and reviews of chamomile tea on RateTea's page about chamomile tea, and the separate page on chamomile blends, which are for herbal teas containing primarily chamomile, but also containing other herbs or ingredients.

Tulsi Leaf Tea - Holy Basil Tea

An herb to lower blood sugar, reduce anxiety, and protect against stress

Tulsi, also known as holy basil, is a species of basil that can be seen as a distant cousin of the familiar sweet basil plant used in western cooking. Tulsi has powerful medicinal properties, and is widely used in Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India. In Ayurveda, tulsi is used to treat type II diabetes, as well as a number of other conditions. It is considered by modern herbalists to be an adaptogen, meaning an herb that has a normalizing effect on the body.

Tulsi has not been as thoroughly studied in the West as most Western herbs, but it shows promising preliminary evidence supporting many of its uses in Ayurvedic medicine, including its ability to treat type II diabetes.

Tulsi seems to be able to lower blood sugar, much like chamomile. Also of interest, tulsi shows strong evidence of being able to reduce stress and anxiety, and protect the body against damage caused by stress. As stress is one of the major factors that can aggravate type II diabetes, this herb is of special interest to diabetics. Like chamomile, however, tulsi also acts as an anticoagulant or blood thinner.

RateTea also has an extensive page about tulsi / holy basil, which has detailed information about the health and medicinal properties of this herb, citations to scientific studies on this herb' effectiveness, and ratings, reviews, and different sources of buying this herb.

Basil lovers may be pleased to learn that other types of basil, including Italian sweet basil, and Thai basil, contain many of the same chemical components as tulsi. It certainly cannot hurt to include these herbs in your diet as well.

Other ways herbs and spices can help

Herbs and spices add flavor without adding many carbohydrates!

The herbs and spices above have been studied specifically for their impact on blood sugar levels and their influence on the body's insulin response system, but there are other ways that using herbs and spices in your cooking can be useful for people looking to manage type 2 diabetes.

Herbs and spices are essentially calorie free in the quantities in which they are usually used in food, and what little calories they do have are mostly from small amounts of protein and fat (in the spices made from seeds). So herbs and spices can add flavor and micronutrients to your food without adding carbohydrates.

These can help you to enjoy eating, even when you are cutting back on sugars or carbohydrate rich foods that you may enjoy. You may find that when you add more flavor to foods through spices and herbs, you become more satisfied eating healthier foods, and that this can help you to eat healthier overall while enjoying your food just as much.  Many herbs and spices come with an array of health benefits as well.

Medicines (Herbal or Prescription) vs. Lifestyle Changes

Neither approach addresses the root causes of diabetes the way diet and lifestyle changes do.

I often see people expressing the idea that they prefer herbal treatments to prescription medications because they are safer and more natural.  While I think there is some truth to this idea, and while I am myself very skeptical of the heavy use of synthetic drugs in our society, I also think that some of the discussion about herbal treatments vs. drugs is missing the point.

Medicinal herbs are still drugs, and, like synthetic drugs, they suffer from the same fundamental problem: they often don't address the root cause of medical conditions on a systemic level.

In the case of Type II Diabetes, the cause is a systemic problem in the body, in which the body becomes unable to deal with the amount of sugar in the blood, due to the systems that regulate blood sugar being stressed or strained.  Medications can slightly alleviate this strain, but cannot solve it on a fundamental level.

To this end, the only truly sustainable, holistic treatments for Type II Diabetes involve changes in diet and lifestyle, especially eating a diet lower in refined carbohydrates, getting more exercise, and lowering stress.

References and Further Resources

I used to include WebMD's page on this topic in this list, but I have since come to avoid this site because I am concerned about pro-pharmaceutical bias and conflict of interest with WebMD (see A Prescription for Fear, published by the NY Times Magazine). Mayo Clinic is my preferred source of medical information online; it is a non-profit and I think it is more independent from financial interests that could potentially create bias.

  • Type 2 Diabetes | Mayo Clinic - Outstanding collection of information about type II diabetes, treatment, prevention, etc. I recommend Mayo Clinic as a more reliable resource than WebMD, which I recommend avoiding due to bias and conflicts of interest.
  • Type 2 Diabetes on Wikipedia - An ever-changing but very extensive article about type II diabetes, with extensive links to various sources and other sites. Check the sources rather than using this as a direct source, as this site can be edited by anyone.
  • Type 2 Diabetes on MedLine Plus - NIH (government)-run website about Type 2 diabetes. Good source for reliable information; covers all major aspects of diabetes management.

More of My Pages

This page aims to answer the question of which of tea or soda is healthier, exploring which contains more caffeine, more calories, and also exploring other impacts on health.
Updated: 10/22/2014, cazort
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Mira on 05/15/2015

I read about it in a book on diabetes, actually, a few months ago. I, too, was surprised that I hadn't learned about it sooner.

cazort on 05/06/2015

Yeah! Chamomile has lots of health properties besides just regulating blood sugar. I think that's true of most herbs, they have a variety of chemicals that impact health (and can be used medicinally) in different ways.

I hadn't heard of rooibos being used to lower blood sugar, but I glanced over some articles and I found that there's actually a lot written about this! Thank you for sharing that, I didn't know that and now I can put it on my list of things to research and add to this article and other articles.

Mira on 05/06/2015

Rooibos also lowers blood sugar!

Mira on 05/06/2015

I came back to this article, and am glad I did, because I had forgotten about chamomile. I looked it up online as well and it appears that it does more than simply lowering blood sugar; it also helps fight complications that arise from diabetes, such as vision loss.

cazort on 10/24/2014

Yeah! I've seen a wide range of studies on Tulsi, including a controlled clinical study that found it effective for treating depression and anxiety, and studies that suggest it may prevent Alzheimer's. It seems very healthy across the board, except for a few caveats like its blood thinner effect which may benefit some people but other people might need to be cautious about.

Incidentally, chamomile also has a blood thinning effect, which makes me wonder if it's just a coincidence that both have that effect as well as the effect of regulating blood sugar, or if there's some common mechanism for that.

pateluday on 10/24/2014

Tulsi also helps fight cancer!

cazort on 10/22/2014

Thank you, both! I definitely think Tulsi is one of those herbs that could benefit a broad range of people. I've introduced a large number of people to tulsi, and it seems to have pretty close to universal appeal (although some people don't like the Vana variety as much, as it has a licorice aroma that some people object to). I've noticed that a far broader group of people tend to like tulsi than chamomile.

I also love how I feel after drinking tulsi. I find it very relaxing (probably more than chamomile), but I find it less likely to make me sleepy or tired (chamomile sometimes has this effect on me, mild, but noticeable, which I think makes sense because I often hear it recommended as a bedtime drink).

ologsinquito on 10/22/2014

Tulsi is so amazing, that I think everyone should drink tulsi tea. I have so much more energy since I've started drinking it.

Mira on 10/22/2014

Nice article. I didn't know chamomile could help lower blood sugar. I'll look into this.

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