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In diabetes, the pancreas either does not produce enough insulin or the body cannot effectively use the insulin produced. Instead of the cells using the glucose as fuel, it builds up in the bloodstream, leading to hyperglycemia. When the abnormally high levels of glucose remain in the bloodstream, blood vessels become damaged which can lead to a number of ailments including heart, kidney, and eye diseases, as well as nerve damage to the limbs and internal organs.


At the beginning of 2011, the American Diabetes Association claimed that 25.8 million children and adults (8.3% of the US population) have diabetes. According to the World Health Organization, as of September 2012, 347 million people worldwide have diabetes, and the projection of diabetes-related deaths will increase by two-thirds between 2003 and 2030. The most prevalent form of the disease is type 2 diabetes (T2D), affecting about 90% of persons with diabetes. Risk factors for developing T2D include diet, weight, race, age, lack of exercise, and heredity.


Regular exercise, eating a diet rich in vegetables and low-glycemic fruits while avoiding saturated fats and sugar, maintaining a healthy body weight, and avoiding tobacco use all help prevent or delay the onset of diabetes. A high-fiber diet helps to reduce blood sugar surges. Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis, Oscillatoriaceae) can aid in stabilizing blood sugar levels. Berries, brewer's yeast, sauerkraut, and vegetables also help normalize blood sugar.


Citrus (Citrus spp., Rutaceae) fruit has been reported to assist in diabetes management (See HC 081235-462). Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum, Lauraceae), one of the most studied herbs for diabetes, was shown to improve fasting blood glucose in Chinese patients with T2D (See HC 081236-462). Other herbs purported to have hypoglycemic effects include amla (Indian gooseberry; Phyllanthus emblica syn. Emblica officinalis, Euphorbiaceae), fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum, Fabaceae), green tea (Camellia sinensis, Theaceae), and bitter melon (Momordica charantia, Cucurbitaceae) (See HC 081214-462). One Ayurvedic herb not mentioned in the review, gymnema (Gymnema sylvestre, Asclepiadaceae), has been touted as a "sugar destroyer," as the herb helps eradicate the taste of sugar in the mouth.

Lori Glenn,  Managing Editor