Diabetes, put simply, is a disease where the body either doesn’t produce or can’t properly use insulin. In many ways, this is too simple, but for the purpose of herbal remedies it fits the bill.
For a diabetic, there are three categories of herbs. There are those that don’t change sugar levels, those that raise them and those that lower them. The latter two must be watched very carefully, the life of the diabetic depends on it. Does that mean that you should avoid all herbal supplements?
No, not exactly; it means you have to be extremely careful. I urge all people who wish to use a supplement to discuss it with doctor and pharmacist. This is especially important if you have a condition that could change…or end…your life.
Herbs That Can Raise Sugar:
Licorice is the first to come to mind, but not the only one. Most people think of licorice as a type of candy, and this is so. One reason is because it is naturally sweet. If you want to use licorice for some of its health benefits, you will have to take into account this natural sugar, or it could cause massive consequences.
Herbs That May Have No Affect…That We Know Of:
Stevia is an on again off again herb in diabetics. I’ve tried to contact the FDA about their stand on it, as it is murky to put it mildly. Some stevia supplements have been approved, but the last information I could find has it banned in any other category for diabetics. All research I can find indicates it’s not a problem, but I’d suggest keeping an eye out for more information.
Herbs That Lower Sugar:
You might think that this is a good thing, and it is…done properly. To little blood sugar is just as deadly as to much, and the levels have to be checked and maintained several times a day. Throw in a few supplements and you could be in trouble.
Aloe vera can lower blood sugar. It also has two side effects that tell me it’s bad for everyone when ingested and particularly bad for diabetics. Aloe contains cardiac glycosides that can affect how your heart functions. That’s for everyone. For diabetics, it can act as a laxative. Mix that with the tendency to lower sugar and you have a potential problem.
Cinnamon can also lower blood sugar. Three major double blind placebo controlled studies have been done and they all indicate this is true. That’s good and bad. It’s good, because being able to lower sugar as needed is important. Uncontrolled, it could lower sugar to much.
This does not mean a diabetic can’t use herbs, just that care should be taken. In fact, to be honest, all of us should use care when choosing supplements. Your doctor and pharmacist could be more than a friend, they could save your life.
Mary Bodel has been a master herbalist since 2004 although my training began long before I reached that level. I believe that health encompasses more than taking care of our bodies. It involves everything from what we eat to what we read. It involves our spirit as well as our body.