How These Supplements Could Aid Diabetes

By Reviewed by Diabetes, Health, Men, Women Published on November 21, 2017 Updated on December 10, 2019
How These Supplements Can Aid Diabetes

Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States.[1]Centers for Disease and Prevention Control. (2017, May 3). Deaths and Mortality. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/deaths.htm It is a chronic illness associated with abnormally high levels of glucose in the blood.

Among the most common causes of this condition are the following:

  • High consumption of glucose-rich foods
  • Insufficient production of insulin in the body

Due to the high amounts of glucose in the body, the liver fails to convert them all into energy.[2]Reusch, J. E. (2003). Diabetes, microvascular complications, and cardiovascular complications: What is it about glucose? Journal of Clinical Investigation, 112(7), 986-988. doi: 10.1172/jci200319902

According to the statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 30 million adults in the United States suffer from diabetes.[3]Diabetes Quick Facts. (2019, August 6). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/quick-facts.html More than one-quarter of these people are unaware of the fact that they are going through the condition. Furthermore, 84 million adults in the U.S. suffer from prediabetes that may even increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.[4]Prediabetes: Your Chance to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes. (2019, May 30). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/prediabetes.html

Types of Diabetes

There are two types of diabetes – type 1 and type 2.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the beta-cells of the pancreas are destroyed, thus causing the lack of insulin in the body. This type of diabetes occurs at a very young age.[5]Paul, L. & Polly, J. B. (2002, January 1). What causes type 1 diabetes? Medicine Journal, 30(1), 1-5. doi: 10.1383/medc.30.1.1.28264

On the other hand, Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of this ailment, accounting for over 90% of all diabetes cases. This condition can develop at any age, even during childhood.[6]Goyal, R. & Jialal, I. (2019, October 6). Diabetes Mellitus Type 2. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513253/

A study in 2010 found that Type 2 diabetes can cause several complications. These complications include kidney failure, amputation, and loss of vision.[7]Vijan, S. (2015). Type 2 Diabetes. Annals of Internal Medicine, 162(5).  doi: 10.7326/aitc201503030

Due to the complications caused by diabetes, the life expectancy of the patient is drastically reduced from the time of diagnosis.[8]Vijan, S. (2015). Type 2 Diabetes. Annals of Internal Medicine, 162(5).  doi: 10.7326/aitc201503030

Facts That You Need To Know About Diabetes

  • About 1.25 million Americans are diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes.[9]Statistics About Diabetes. (n. d.). Retrieved from https://www.diabetes.org/resources/statistics/statistics-about-diabetes
  • Type-2 diabetes can cause multiple complications if not treated immediately.[10]Type 2 diabetes: Overview (2018, January 11). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279509/
  • Some complications include blindness, kidney failure, and amputation.[11]Type 2 diabetes: Overview (2018, January 11). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279509/
  • Dietary change is the primary treatment and prevention recommended by physicians.[12]Type 2 diabetes: Overview (2018, January 11). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279509/
  • People with diabetes are more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases.[13]Type 2 diabetes: Overview (2018, January 11). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279509/
  • Those who suffer from diabetes caused by obesity may try Bariatric Surgery to reduce the effects and symptoms of the condition.[14]Koliaki, C., Liatis, S., Roux, C. W., & Kokkinos, A. (2017, August 10). The role of bariatric surgery to treat diabetes: current challenges and perspectives. BMC Endocrine Disorders. doi: 10.1186/s12902-017-0202-6

herbal supplements and diabetes
Natural supplements that aid the body in controlling blood sugar may help fight diabetes.

Diabetes Treatment

The current recommended treatment for diabetes focuses on lifestyle interventions, such as reduction of sugar intake and exercise. Doctors may also recommend supplements for encouraging blood sugar maintenance in diabetic patients.[15]Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group. (2002). Reduction in the Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes With Lifestyle Intervention or Metformin. New England Journal of Medicine, 346(6): 393–403. doi:  10.1056/NEJMoa012512

Here are some facts that will give you a better understanding of diabetes and what measures should be taken to prevent this problem.

Benefits Of Using Supplements For Diabetes

“Do herbal supplements control diabetes?”

This is a question that splits the opinions of many.

In South East Asia, medical practitioners use herbal supplements to control blood sugar levels and prevent diabetes.

  1. Supplements like Tongkat Ali and Korean Red Ginseng may have the ability to regulate blood sugar levels and boost insulin sensitivity.[16]Mohd, S. C., Hussein, S., Moosa, S., Majid, S. A., Mohammad, A., Ali, F.,… Ibrahim, R. (n. d.). INCORPORATION OF TONGKAT ALI AND GINSENG EXTRACTS FROM MASS PROPAGATED ROOTS DERIVED FROM BIOREACTOR TECHNOLOGY AS SUPPLEMENTS IN ENERGY CHOCOLATE CONFECTIONERY [PDF file]. Retrieved from https://inis.iaea.org/collection/NCLCollectionStore/_Public/44/096/44096868.pdf
  2. For diabetics who have less severe symptoms, some of these supplements may enhance the mood and keep the patient motivated.[17]Talbott, S., Talbott, J., George, A., & Pugh, M. (2 013). Effect of Tongkat Ali on stress hormones and psychological mood state in moderately stressed subjects. Journal Of The International Society Of Sports Nutrition, 10(1), 28. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-10-28
  3. Maca supplement comes with dietary fiber that may decrease blood sugar while increasing the level of antioxidants in the body.[18]Vecera, R., Orolin, J., Skottova, N., Oliyarnik, O., Ulrichova, J., & Simanek, V. (2007, June). The influence of maca (lepidium meyenii) on antioxidant status, lipid and glucose metabolism in rat. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17333395
  4. Herbal supplements give a person a shot on healing without breaking the bank. These are often cheaper and come in small packaging.[19]Wachtel-Galor, S. & Benzie, I. F. F. (n. d.) Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92773/
  5. Herbal supplements have fewer side effects compared to drugstore medicine.[20]Wachtel-Galor, S. & Benzie, I. F. F. (n. d.) Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92773/

Controlling Diabetes Using Natural Supplements

Medications and simple lifestyle changes are the usual approach in managing diabetes. But sometimes, these are not enough. This is where all-natural herbal supplements enter the picture.
herbal supplements and diabetes
There are herbal supplements that come with anti-diabetic properties. These properties may improve  blood lipid levels, and insulin sensitivity along with lowering blood sugar levels.

Below are some of the best supplements that may aid in maintaining normal blood sugar levels in diabetic patients.

Tongkat Ali

Tongkat Ali is an herb native to the regions of Southeast Asia. It is popular for its healing properties.

Some of the more common uses of this herb is for testosterone boosting capabilities, as well as for its energy boosting benefits and naturally increasing vigor. It may also have positive effects on controlling diabetes.[21]Rehman, S. U., Choe, K., & Yoo, H. H. (2016, January 28). Review on a Traditional Herbal Medicine, Eurycoma longifolia Jack (Tongkat Ali): Its Traditional Uses, Chemistry, Evidence-Based Pharmacology and Toxicology [PDF file]. Retrieved from https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/21/3/331/pdf

How Does Tongkat Ali Work For Diabetes?

A team of researchers back in 2013 conducted a systematic review of Tongkat Ali. In their review, they validated the claims that Tongkat Ali may reduce the blood sugar levels in the body. In addition to decreasing the blood sugar level, it may also increase both physical and mental performance. [22]Talbott, S. M., Talbott, J. A., George, A., & Pugh, M. (2013). Effect of Tongkat Ali on stress hormones and psychological mood state in moderately stressed subjects. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-10-28

In the same study, Tongkat Ali may have the ability to decrease the production of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone known as the “stress hormone.” Moreover, the herb itself may also aid in improving testosterone levels in men, as well as libido.[23]Talbott, S. M., Talbott, J. A., George, A., & Pugh, M. (2013). Effect of Tongkat Ali on stress hormones and psychological mood state in moderately stressed subjects. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-10-28

For these reasons, supplementation of  Tongkat Ali may be beneficial in aiding the treatment of diabetes.

How Can It Be Used?

Tongkat Ali is usually taken as a complementary supplement to traditional treatments. Once the herb starts to decrease blood sugar levels, the patient then decreases the use of other medications under the supervision of their doctor. Tongkat Ali is best taken daily as a dietary supplement.

The suggested optimal dosage of Tongkat Ali is between 1,200mg to 2,400mg of standardized 2% extract. This can be taken twice a day, with the first dose taken in the morning, and the next one in the afternoon.

Maca

Maca is a Peruvian root that is often associated with energy enhancement as well as many other benefits. Many believe that this herb may also aid in managing diabetes and other complications related to it.[24]Meissner, H. O., Mscisz, A., Mrozikiewicz, M., Baraniak, M., Mielcarek, S., Bogdan, K.,… Pisulewski, P. (2015, September). Peruvian Maca (Lepidium peruvianum): (I) Phytochemical and Genetic Differences in Three Maca Phenotypes. International Journal of Biomedical Science, 11(3), 131-145. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4614013/

How Does Maca Work For Diabetes?

Maca consists of compounds that may help in controlling type-2 diabetes.

This herbal supplement may help the cells to become more sensitive to the effects of insulin. As a result, this mechanism may aid in controlling blood glucose levels.[25]Wan, W., Li, H., Xiang, J., Yi, F., Xu, L., Jiang, B., & Xiao, P. (2018, April 6). Aqueous Extract of Black Maca Prevents Metabolism Disorder via Regulating the Glycolysis/Gluconeogenesis-TCA Cycle and PPARα Signaling Activation in Golden Hamsters Fed a High-Fat, High-Fructose Diet. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 9, 33. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2018.00333

Maca is also rich in antioxidants. These may help diabetic patients in combating the inflammation caused by high blood sugar levels.[26]Meissner, H. O., Mscisz, A., Mrozikiewicz, M., Baraniak, M., Mielcarek, S., Bogdan, K.,… Pisulewski, P. (2015, September). Peruvian Maca (Lepidium peruvianum): (I) Phytochemical and Genetic Differences in Three Maca Phenotypes. International Journal of Biomedical Science, 11(3), 131-145. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4614013/

How Can It Be Used?

Maca is best taken in combination of a healthy diet and prescription medicine. The supplement may also work better along with regular exercise.

Maca is safe for diabetics and may also help lower the current doses of medications for diabetes under the supervision of their doctor.

The standard dose for gelatinized maca is 1,500mg to 3,000mg, taken daily. It is highly recommended to take the supplement along with food.

Korean Red Ginseng

Throughout history, Korean Red Ginseng gained popularity as one of the best medicinal herbs and an all round general health tonic. It was also  used in Chinese Traditional Medicine for centuries.[27]Wee, J. J., Park, K. M., & Chung, A. S. (2011). Chapter 8 Biological Activities of Ginseng and Its Application to Human Health. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92776/

This herb may play a role in maintaining the body’s homeostasis, a state in which the body is in complete balance.[28]Wee, J. J., Park, K. M., & Chung, A. S. (2011). Chapter 8 Biological Activities of Ginseng and Its Application to Human Health. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92776/

According to research, Korean Red Ginseng may  improve the brain’s functions, and boost the immune system. The herb may also have pain-relieving effects on the body, reduce fatigue, and aid in treating diabetes[29]Choi, K. (2008). Botanical characteristics, pharmacological effects and medicinal components of Korean Panax ginseng C A Meyer. Acta Pharmacologica Sinica, 29(9), 1109-1118. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-7254.2008.00869.x

Along with its many health benefits, Korean Red Ginseng may also aid in treating diabetes.

How Does Korean Red Ginseng Work For Diabetes?

According to a study, Korean Red Ginseng may act as an aid for diabetes patients by normalizing the blood sugar levels in the body. The researchers claim that it may take twelve weeks before the body experiences the full effects of the herb.[30]Vuksan, V., Sung, M., Sievenpiper, J. L., Stavro, P. M., Jenkins, A. L., Di Buono, M.,… Naeem, A. (2008). Korean red ginseng (Panax ginseng) improves glucose and insulin regulation in well-controlled, type 2 diabetes: Results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of efficacy and safety. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, 18(1), 46-56. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2006.04.003

After the twelve-week period, the body’s glycemic condition switched to normal levels. Both the amounts of glucose and insulin are in balance within the body.[31]Vuksan, V., Sung, M., Sievenpiper, J. L., Stavro, P. M., Jenkins, A. L., Di Buono, M.,… Naeem, A. (2008). Korean red ginseng (Panax ginseng) improves glucose and insulin regulation in well-controlled, type 2 diabetes: Results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of efficacy and safety. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, 18(1), 46-56. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2006.04.003

There are eleven components in Korean Red Ginseng, and two of them are known to control the complications of diabetes. These components may also control blood glucose levels of patients who have type-2 diabetes.[32]Wee, J. J., Park, K. M., & Chung, A. S. (2011). Chapter 8 Biological Activities of Ginseng and Its Application to Human Health. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92776/

How Can It Be Used?

The recommended dosage of Korean Red Ginseng for preventative purposes is 200mg of standardized extract, daily.[33]iefer, D. & Pantuso, T. (2003, October 15). Panax Ginseng. American Family Physician, 68(8). Retrieved from: https://www.aafp.org/afp/2003/1015/p1539.html

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is a popular herb in Ayurvedic Medicine. Ashwagandha is an herb that is a part of Traditional Ayurvedic Medicine in the last 3,000 years. It is popular for its adaptogenic properties.[34]Singh, N., Bhalla, M., De Jager, P., & Gilca, M. (2011, July 3). An Overview on Ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, 8(5), 208-213. doi: 10.4314/ajtcam.v8i5S.9

This herb is also known by the following names: Withania Somnifera, Indian Ginseng, and Winter Cherry. Ashwagandha may have the ability to fight arthritis, asthma, hypertension, cancer, and diabetes.[35]Singh, N., Bhalla, M., De Jager, P., & Gilca, M. (2011, July 3). An Overview on Ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, 8(5), 208-213. doi: 10.4314/ajtcam.v8i5S.9

How Does Ashwagandha Work For Diabetes?

herbal supplements and diabetes
Ashwagandha is a common natural supplement that may help in treating diabetes.[36]Thakur, A. K., Dey, A., Chatterjee, S. S., & Kumar, V. (2015). Reverse Ayurvedic Pharmacology of Ashwagandha as an Adaptogenic Anti-Diabetic Plant: A Pilot Study. Current Traditional Medicine, 1(1), 51-61. doi: 10.2174/2215083801999150527115205 The herb has a steroidal lactone called Withaferin-A. Withaferin-A is responsible for the anti-diabetic properties of the herb.[37]Udayakumar, R., Kasthurirengan, S., Mariashibu, T. S., Rajesh, M., Anbazhagan, V. R., Kim, S. C.,… Choi, C. W. (2009, May 20). Hypoglycaemic and hypolipidaemic effects of Withania somnifera root and leaf extracts on alloxan-induced diabetic rats. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2695282/

Additionally, Ashwagandha does not have any hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) effects, but a study observed that it may treat hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) throughout the whole body, albeit the side effects on the sexual glands.[38]Belal, N. M., El-Metwally, E. M., & Salem, I. S. (2012). Effect of Dietary Intake Ashwagandha Roots Powder on the Levels of Sex Hormones in the Diabetic and Non-Diabetic Male Rats. World Journal of Dairy and Food Sciences, 7(2): 160-166, 2012. doi: 10.5829/idosi.wjdfs.2012.7.2.1109

According to a 2011 review by the Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research, this herb may alter the urine and blood glucose levels, liver enzymes, and glycated hemoglobin in diabetic rats.[39]99 Verma, S. K., & Kumar, A. S. (2011). Therapeutic Uses of Withania Somnifera (Ashwagandha) with a Note on Withanolides and Its Pharmacological Actions. Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research, 4(1); 2011. Retrieved from https://innovareacademics.in/journal/ajpcr/Vol4Suppl1/408.pdf

Another 2013 study revealed that Withania Somnifera may decrease the blood glucose levels as compared to an oral hypoglycemic.[40]Agnihotri, A. P., Sontakke, Thawani, V. R., Saoji, A.,& Goswami, V. S. (2013). Effects of Withania somnifera in patients of schizophrenia: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot trial study. Indian Journal of Pharmacology, 45(4), 417–418. Doi. 10.4103/0253-7613.115012

How Can It Be Used?

Several studies show that Ashwagandha can be dosed within the range of 50mg-6,000 mg, with the most common dose ranging from 500mg-1000mg. Depending on the extract strength, the common dose consists of about 5%-25% of withanolide content.

If you are new to using this herbal remedy, you may want to start with an Ashwagandha supplement containing 5% of Withanolides, within the 500mg-1000mg range.

Though Ashwagandha is considered as a supplement for many people, you should avoid it if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Final Word

Before you start taking supplements for diabetes, you should always consult with your physician first. These supplements may be all-natural, but they may still interfere with certain conditions. For this reason, it is always best to get your doctor’s approval before taking them.

Moreover, certain supplements and medications tend to impose allergic reactions on some people. These allergic reactions are often due to the chemicals and compounds present in the products.

Diabetes is a chronic health condition, but it is possible to control it. Lifestyle changes, such as engaging in more physical activities and a healthier diet may be the key to keeping diabetes at bay. Remember that supplements are only there to assist this health condition, and can not fully alter the role of a healthy lifestyle and proper treatment.

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Fran Sanchez, BSc MSc

About Fran Sanchez, BSc MSc

Fran Sanchez, the founder of Herbolab, graduated from Uppsala University (Sweden) with a master in molecular biology and Karolinska University (Sweden) with a degree in medical sciences and business. He then moved to Singapore to run e-commerce operations in a pharmaceutical company, until eventually, he could fulfill his dream of creating a brand dedicated to help men reach their peak performance. Drawing on his experience as a lifelong multi-sport athlete and cutting edge medical and scientific research, Fran launched herbolab tongkat ali as flagship supplement in April of 2014. Fran now spend most of his time weight lifting and creating content dedicated to improve people’s lives.

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