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Do You Know About These Natural Products that Stimulate Insulin Production? E-mail
Written by Jeff Behar, MS, MBA   

Natural Hypoglycemic Agents

Some natural medicines have hypoglycemic effects by stimulating insulin production similar to conventional drugs. Other natural medicines have a hypoglycemic effect due to constituents that have a direct insulin-like action.  The following are a few examples of natural products that can aid in stimulating insulin production and lowering blood surgar levels:

Banaba (Lagerstroemia speciosa).

Extracts of banaba leaves are very popular in the Philippines and Southeast Asia and are now being used by LOTS of diabetes patients in North America. Banaba contains two important constituents and has two important effects in people with diabetes. Banaba extracts containing corosolic acid and ellagitannins seem to have an insulin-like effect and also activate insulin receptors. Preliminary clinical research shows that type 2 diabetes patients who take a specific banaba extract (Glucosol) for 2 weeks have lower blood glucose levels. Although Banaba looks promising for the treatment of diabetes the evidence is too preliminary...and there isn't much known about safety. More studies need to be done.

Bitter melon (Momordica charantia).

This natural medicine is also a popular Southeast Asian natural product used for diabetes. Bitter melon, like banaba, also seems to have an insulin-like effect. Bitter melon contains a polypeptide known as "p-insulin," "plant-insulin," or "polypeptide-P." It has similar pharmacokinetics to bovine insulin...onset between 30 and 60 minutes and peak effect at about 4 hours. Some diabetes patients seem to have improved glucose control and decreased HbA1c after using these bitter melon formulations. But so far, there are no high quality, reliable studies. There still needs to be more studies about its safety and effectiveness before it is used.
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum).

Fenugreek seeds are used as a spice...they taste and smell similar to maple syrup. Preliminary research shows that type 2 diabetes patients who mix 15 grams of ground, powdered fenugreek seeds with a meal have lower postprandial glucose levels compared to controls. This might be due to a bulk laxative effect...slowing carbohydrate absorption from the GI tract. At this time there isn't enough evidence to know how effective eating fenugreek is long-term...or if taking dietary supplement capsules containing fenugreek has any benefit. More information is still needed.

Gymnema (Gymnema sylvestre).

Gymnema is an Indian plant referred to as "gurmar" in Hindi, which means "sugar destroying." Gymnema has been tested as a hypoglycemic agent in combination with insulin in a number of preliminary studies. In these studies preliminary research shows that taking 200 mg/day of a specific gymnema extract called GS4 seems to cut the required insulin dose in half...and lower HbA1c in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The gymnema extract GS4 seems to work by increasing endogenous insulin production. Serum C-peptide increases in some people who take GS4 and insulin. C-peptide is a chain of amino acids that is cleaved from the proinsulin molecule released by the pancreas to form insulin. Therefore, C-peptide is used as a marker for the release of endogenous insulin. When GS4 400 mg is taken with conventional hypoglycemic drugs, such as glyburide or tolbutamide, some people can reduce the dose or even discontinue their conventional hypoglycemic drug. Although gymnema extract GS4 looks promising, more evidence regarding its use and its safety is still needed.

Important Words of Ccaution

Natural medicines might INCREASE the risk of hypoglycemia...because they increase insulin production, increase insulin release, or contain constituents that work like insulin. It is important that care be taken if these natural medicines are taken. They should only be taken under the care of your physician so the interactive effects of them with your existing medical program can be evaluated.


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