Supplements with Positive Effects on Blood Sugar

a bitter gourd on a cutting board

Sweet news! Many plants and their extracts can help treat or prevent Type 2 diabetes.

Botanicals with positive effects on blood sugar include cinnamon, fenugreek, maitake mushrooms, and turmeric. Three more to add to the list are bitter melon, garlic, and gymnema.

Bitter Is Better

Bitter melon reduces blood sugar and improves glucose tolerance, making it an effective supplement for people with Type 2 diabetes. Such individuals don’t produce enough insulin, so they have an impaired ability to convert sugar in their blood into energy in their muscles.

Exercise is part of the treatment for Type 2 diabetes because it activates the enzyme AMPK, which helps move glucose from the blood into muscles and other tissues. In laboratory research, scientists have identified compounds in bitter melon that, like exercise, activate AMPK. Diabetes drugs do the same thing, but they can have side effects.

“The advantage of bitter melon is that there are no known side effects,” says Jiming Ye, PhD, who was involved in the study that identified bitter melon’s glucose-mediating compounds. “Practitioners of Chinese medicine have used it for hundreds of years to good effect.”

Also known as ampalaya or bitter cucumber, bitter melon is available as tea, juice, powder, or capsules. It is not recommended for pregnant women. 

Garlic Fortifies

Garlic appears to lower glucose levels and improve insulin sensitivity, but its benefits for people with diabetes may go well beyond that.

A recent study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that garlic oil has strong potential for preventing cardiomyopathy, a form of heart disease that is a leading cause of death in people with diabetes. People with diabetes have a significantly heightened risk of death from heart disease. Diabetic cardiomyopathy inflames and weakens the heart’s muscle tissue.

Researchers fed garlic oil to rats with diabetes and saw beneficial changes associated with protection against heart damage. The changes appeared to be linked to garlic’s potent antioxidant properties.

Gymnema’s Good Too

Gymnema leaf is believed to improve insulin release and glucose uptake. When taken in supplement form, it can help lower blood sugar after meals. People on antidiabetic medications should discuss the use of this and any herb with their healthcare practitioner.

Click to See Our Sources

"Garlic intake lowers fasting blood glucose . . ." by H. Li-quiong et al., Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2015

"Herbal medicines for diabetes management and its secondary complications" by K. Shubham et al., Current Diabetes Reviews, 2021

"Hypoglycemic efficacy and safety of Momordica charantia (bitter melon) in patients with Type 2 diabetes mellitus" by S.K. Kim et al., Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 8/20

"Organosulfur compounds in aged garlic extract ameliorate glucose induced diabetic cardiomyopathy" by V. Rani and K. Sharma, Cardiovascular and Hematological Agents in Medicinal Chemistry, 2/23


The Taste for Life Staff

The Taste for Life staff come from a wide variety of backgrounds and specialties. We believe learning is a life-long process, and love to share the knowledge we gain.