World Health Organization has listed 21,000 plants from all over the world, which possess medicinal properties. 2500 species of these medicinal plants are found in India alone. Many of these medicinal plants have been used for thousands of years in Ayurveda
and Indian folk medicine. It is not surprising that India is called as the ‘botanical garden’ of the world!1
Ayurvedic plant remediesare revered as potent adjuvant therapies in many diseases ranging from cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and Obesity to Alzheimer’s for their rejuvenating, anti-oxidant qualities and lack of side-effects. Type II Diabetes also known as Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (NIDDM) or ‘Prameha’ in Sanskrit, is a metabolic disorder. The incidence of diabetes is increasing globally at an alarming rate.2 Many Ayurvedic herbs and classical blends are beneficial in managing the high blood sugar levels, underlying insulin resistance and side effects that tag along with Type II Diabetes. Below given are 5 potent Ayurvedic herbs that have been found to be highly effective as adjuvant therapies in Type II Diabetes.
- Gurmar or Madhuvinashini (Gymnema sylvestre)- ‘Gurmar’ in Hindi (National Language of India) or ‘Madhuvinashini’ in Sanskrit literally means ‘one that vanquishes sugar’. It is so called because it temporarily abolishes sweet taste by anesthetizing our taste buds. Its leaves and almost all parts are used for medicinal purposes. Gurmar not only helps in regulating blood sugar levels in type II diabetes; it also helps in regeneration and repair of the beta cells in our pancreas (gland which secretes insulin).4
- Bitter Gourd/bitter melon (Momordica charantia)– Bitter gourd or ‘karela’ as it is called in Hindi is an extremely bitter tasting fruit which lives up to its name. However, despite of its bitter disposition, it is still one of the tastiest vegetables in Indian cuisine. Bitter gourd helps in reducing the blood sugar levels in type II diabetes. It has powerful antioxidants which make it an ideal supplement and essential dietary component for diabetic as well as pre-diabetic individuals.5
- Jamun (Syzygium cumini/ Eugenia jambolana)- Jamun (Hindi) is an evergreen green tree native to India, that ripens at the beginning of rainy season. Jamun fruits are sweet, slightly sour and extremely astringent in taste. They are very popular in India for their deep purple-black color and unique taste. The fruits, seeds, bark and even leaves of jamun tree are used for their anti-diabetic and antioxidant qualities.6 Jamun helps in regulating the blood sugar levels and is also found to boost the secretion of insulin.7
- Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum graecum)-The seeds and leaves of Fenugreek, commonly known as ‘Methi’ in Hindi and ‘Methika’ in Sanskrit are an integral part of Indian cooking. Fenugreek also has powerful anti-diabetic properties. It helps in keeping blood sugar levels in check and improves insulin resistance in Type II diabetes. A popular way of taking fenugreek seeds is to soak 1 tablespoon of fenugreek seeds in water at night and eat them early next morning on empty stomach.
- Turmeric (Curcuma longa)-Turmeric or ‘Haridra’ (Sanskrit) or ‘Haldi’ as it is commonly known in India, is the most preeminent Indian spice, an integral part of Indian cuisine and an auspicious component of Hindu Religious ceremonies. Turmeric has been extensively used in Ayurveda for the treatment of Prameha. Research studies have found that turmeric lowers blood sugar levels and works at many levels in improving insulin sensitivity and inhibiting certain enzymes that have been linked with type II diabetes.9 Turmeric reduces inflammation of body tissues caused due to damaging free radicals. Such chronic low grade inflammation is now being considered as the root cause of many metabolic diseases including Diabetes, cancer, obesity and cardiovascular diseases. Best way to take turmeric is to include it your daily diet.10 Also, whole turmeric is more effective than using its individual active constituents like curcumin.
The Nature of Type II Diabetes does vary from person to person, hence Ayurveda advises that any supplement; diet or lifestyle changes should be customized to meet your specific health requirements. Understanding you Ayurvedic Body Type or Prakriti, your age, digestion, nature and chronicity of your diseases are the key factors for deciding which Ayurvedic dietary supplement or herb suits you the best. This not only brings the disease under control; it leads to true manifestation of health and well-being!
- Manisha Modak, Priyanjali Dixit, Jayant Londhe, Saroj Ghaskadbi, and Thomas Paul A. Devasagayam, Indian Herbs and Herbal Drugs Used for the Treatment of Diabetes, J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2007 May; 40(3): 163–173.
- Burke et al, Rapid Rise in the Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes From 1987 to 1996 Results from the San Antonio Heart Study, Arch Intern Med. 1999; 159:1450-1456.
- Yoga Journal, Jan-Feb 2002, No. 165,Published by Active Interest Media, Inc, P38
- K. Baskaran, B.Kizar Ahamath, K.Radha Shanmugasundaram, E.R.B. Shanmugasundaram, Antidiabetic effect of a leaf extract from Gymnema sylvestre in non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus patients, Journal of Ethnopharmacology. October 1990; Volume 30, Issue 3:295–305
- Krawinkel et al, Bitter Gourd (Momordica charantia): A Dietary Approach to Hyperglycemia, Nutrition Reviews Volume 64. July 2006 Issue 7;331–337
- Traditional medicines for modern times: anti-diabetic plants (Google eBook), Amala Soumyanath, CRC Press, 2006, P 119
- Acherekar S., Kaklij G.S., Kelkar S.M. Hypoglycemic activity of Eugenia jambolana and ficus bengalensis: mechanism of action. In vivo. 1991;5:143–147
- Gupta A, Gupta R, Lal B, Effect of Trigonella foenum-graecum (fenugreek) seeds on glycaemic control and insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes mellitus: a double blind placebo controlled study. The Journal of the Association of Physicians of India,2001, 49:1057-61
- Lekshmi PC, Arimboor R, Raghu KG, Menon AN., Turmerin, the antioxidant protein from turmeric (Curcuma longa) exhibits antihyperglycaemic effects. Nat Prod Res. Oct 2011 (e-published)
- Shehzad A, Ha T, Subhan F, Lee YS., New mechanisms and the anti-inflammatory role of curcumin in obesity and obesity-related metabolic diseases. Eur J Nutr. Apr 2011;50(3):151-61.