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. Two more to add to the list are bitter melon and garlic.
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. 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’s Good Too
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.