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Complementary Medicine Diabetes Tips


So far, there hasn’t been any medical discovery that eliminates the need to control diabetes through medical nutrition, exercise and sometimes, medication. But there are some remedies that seem to have a positive effect on the way the body uses insulin and regulates blood sugar. The herbal and mineral medicines we describe below are the most commonly used complementary treatments for diabetes. If you’re interested in trying them, talk with your doctor about whether complementing your current diabetes treatment plan is a good idea.

Bitter melon: Also known as balsam pear or karela, this fruit (some call it a vegetable) is grown in Asia, Africa and South America. It’s been a common folk medicine for diabetes. Bitter melon seems to have a direct action similar to insulin. You can actually simply drink its juice, but as you might guess from the name, the juice is very bitter. One of the more common ways to take bitter melon is as an extract in dosages of 100 to 200 milligrams three times per day.

Fenugreek: This is most common as a diabetes remedy in India. You may be familiar with fenugreek as a spice that’s often used in Indian food. A portion of the seed is used in the diabetes remedy. It’s high in fiber, which may explain some of the reason why fenugreek seed can have a beneficial effect. It’s most common to take the fenugreek as a powdered seed soaked in water. Dosages range from 10 to 100 grams daily, divided.

Chromium: The body needs chromium to use insulin properly. A study of 180 people with type 2 diabetes who took chromium picolinate experienced significant improvement in blood sugar levels. The improvement was especially significant among those who took 500 micrograms twice a day.

Magnesium, vanadium: Correcting deficiencies of these minerals may help improve blood sugar levels, so talk with your doctor about whether taking supplements is a good idea for you.

Ginseng berry extract: A recent study that tested ginseng berry extract in mice showed that the mice receiving the extract achieved improved blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol levels. They mice also experienced improvement in the way their bodies used insulin, and they lost weight. Traditional Chinese medicine has used ginseng root to treat a variety of illnesses for 2000 years. The ginseng berry has a different chemical makeup and is only now being investigated as a treatment.

Acupuncture: It’s believed that acupuncture can help diabetes in a number of ways, including: treating the pain of neuropathy, improving the function of the pancreas and helping to control obesity (a risk factor for type 2).

If you decide to try any of these complementary treatments, it’s extremely important not to stop your current medication regimen. It’s also important to talk with your doctor about any possible effects the therapies could have on the medication you already take. Be cautious. It’s helpful to keep in mind that your goal for complementary therapy is to improve your blood sugar control, not to replace your existing diabetes regimen.

Alternative Medicine Review, February 2002; National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
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