Diabetes is a disorder with higher blood sugar levels than normal. Glucose is the main sugar that is found in the blood.
The blood sugar level is the concentration of glucose that exists in the blood of humans and animals. Glucose is the main source of energy that is obtained from the foods that we eat.
Our body secretes a hormone called Insulin that is made by the pancreas, which helps the glucose from the food to get into the cells, which in turn is used for energy. In some people, the body cannot make enough or any insulin or cannot utilize the insulin well due to which the glucose then starts staying in the blood and further does not reach the cells.
Over a while, having too much presence of glucose in the blood can lead to severe health problems or can indicate a severe medical condition.
Continuous elevation in the blood glucose levels can lead to glucose toxicity, which further leads to cell dysfunction. The continuous high level of glucose in the blood is referred to as Hyperglycemia. And a constant low level of glucose in the blood is referred to as hypoglycemia.
Diabetes is commonly known as diabetes mellitus and is characterized by persistent hyperglycemia. Diabetes can attack anyone from any age group or any person from any walk of life. The number of it affecting people is increasing dramatically.
Diabetes can be treated by making small changes in the diet and lifestyle. But if left untreated, then it can damage the nerves, eyes, kidneys, and other organs.
Various complications arise from this particular disease like heart stroke, dementia, hearing loss, retinopathy, vision loss, nephropathy, neuropathy, etc.
Diabetes is categorized into three different types:
- Gestational Diabetes
Type-1 Diabetes: This type can occur at any age, but most frequently, it is observed in children and adolescents. It was also known as juvenile or insulin-dependent diabetes. It is a type of autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks and finishes the beta cells in the pancreas, which make insulin.
The exact cause of the attack is not known and is still under investigation. Due to this, the body either produces very little or no insulin. In such a case, to maintain blood glucose levels, the person needs daily insulin injections.
Type -1 Diabetes is very difficult to diagnose and requires additional tests for its detection. Once a person is diagnosed with type-1 diabetes, it is advised that the person should regular blood sugar checks like at least four times a day and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Currently, there are no preventive measures for type-1 diabetes.
Symptoms for Type-1 Diabetes:
- Sudden weight loss.
- Abnormal thirst and dry mouth.
- Blurred vision.
- Frequent urination.
Type-2 Diabetes: The most common type of diabetes. It encompasses about 90% of all diabetes cases. Type-2 Diabetes is also known as diabetes mellitus and is normally described by insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when the body produces insulin but is unable to utilize it effectively. Due to which the blood sugar keeps on rising, leading to hyperglycemia.
Most commonly, it is diagnosed in older adults but is now seen in children, adolescents, and younger adults as well. Type-2 is diagnosed in young individuals due to their poor physical activity and diet, along with obesity. Type-2 diabetes can be managed by making some lifestyle changes, which include a healthy diet, healthy body weight, engaging in some sort of physical activity, etc.
For treating this type, the patients are frequently prescribed with some oral medications like metformin and insulin to control blood glucose levels.
Some risk factors that are associated with type-2 diabetes include:
- Increasing age.
- High blood pressure.
- Physical inactivity.
- Family history of diabetes.
- History of gestational diabetes.
Symptoms for Type-2 Diabetes:
- Slower healing of wounds.
- Blurred vision.
- Excessive thirst and dryness of the mouth.
- Frequent urination.
- Numbness in hands and feet.
Gestational Diabetes: This is characterized by an increase in blood sugar levels, specifically during pregnancy. The placenta produces a hormone that makes pregnant women’s cells less sensitive to the effects of insulin, which in turn causes a rise in blood sugar during pregnancy.
This condition is detected during routine blood sugar testing, which is performed between the 24th and 28th weeks of gestation. Usually, this type of diabetes disappears after pregnancy, but either the affected mother or the child is at increased risk of developing type-2 diabetes later in their life.
Complications can arise and affect the baby in following ways like premature birth, higher than normal birth weight, low blood sugar, jaundice, stillbirth, and, most importantly increased risk of developing type-2 diabetes later in life.
Although there are different oral medications and temporary treatments for diabetes, there are people who nowadays, in combination with the prescribed medications, are opting for some Ayurvedic or herbal preparations or supplements to control their blood sugar levels.
Currently, there is still not enough good evidence that supports the use of herbal supplements or medications for the treatment of type-2 diabetes.
Generally, the specialists do not recommend herbal supplements because there is very little research on their long-term efficacy and safety.
In spite of all this, some people have experienced good results after consuming herbal supplements along with the prescribed oral medications.
Below mentioned are some herbs which are used in controlling the blood sugar levels:
- Jamun (Syzygium cumini)
It is also known as Malabar plum and Java plum. This tropical tree belongs to a flowering plant family. Most commonly, the seed of this fruit is used in various alternative healing systems. The Jamun seeds are known to have a hypoglycemic property, which lowers sugar in the blood. For better results, Jamun seed powder is added to a glass of water and is consumed on an empty stomach.
- Neem (Azadirachta indica)
It has found to show some promising effects on controlling the blood sugar levels. The bitter neem leaves are an effective remedy for treating diabetes as they are full of flavonoids, triterpenoids, glycosides and anti-viral compounds, which help in managing the blood sugar levels.
The neem leaves are blended into a blender to form a smooth powder. This powder is then consumed twice daily for optimum benefits.
- Gymnema (Gymnema Sylvestre)
This herb has wide-ranging therapeutic properties. It is known by its common name called gurmar, meaning ‘sugar destroyer.’
Commonly the leaves and extracts of this herb are used to control blood sugar levels. The leaves of this herb have gymnemic acids as active ingredients that can slow down the movement of glucose from the intestine into the bloodstream.
With this property, the gymnemic acid intermingles with the taste receptors present on the tongue and temporarily suppress the taste of sweetness.
Approximately when 200 to 250mg twice-daily dose of Gymnema extract is taken orally along with insulin or with diabetes medication, then there is a reduction in the blood sugar level in people with type-1 and type-2 diabetes.
The Gymnema extracts can be taken in the form of lozenges, mouthwash, or tea. The extracts of Gymnema Sylvestre reduce cravings for sugar.
- Fenugreek(Trigonella foenum-graecum)
The herb is used as a medicine and spice for thousands of years ago in the Middle East. According to studies, fenugreek is found to have a significant effect on controlling and lowering the blood sugar level. Fenugreek seeds contain some constituents like flavonoids, alkaloids, vitamins, coumarins, and saponins. Approximately 5 to 15 Gms with one meal per day helps to lower the blood glucose level.
- Ginseng (Panax ginseng)
It is the root of this plant used in traditional medicine. Ginseng root may help in lowering the blood sugar in people with diabetes. This herb is known for its disease-fighting and immune-boosting benefits. But, researchers have found that this herb slows down the absorption of carbohydrates and increases the cells’ ability to use glucose by increasing insulin secretion from the pancreas, which in turn lowers the glucose level in the blood.
- Aloe vera
Aloe vera has been used in herbal medicines for thousands of years as it has soothing, revitalizing and therapeutic properties. Leaves of aloe vera contain a clear gel and are widely used in ointments, creams, and shampoos. The bitter liquid called Aloe latex is acquired from the skin of the leaves of aloe vera and is then used in juice drinks, tablets, capsules and toothpaste and mouthwashes.
Initial studies suggest that drinking aloe juice can either help improve blood sugar levels or lower the levels in people with diabetes.
- Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum)
The herb is also called Holy basil. It is an important entity of all Ayurvedic medicines.
Along with curing common ailments like fighting bacterial and viral infections, strengthening immunity, this herb has diverse benefits. This herb improves the functioning of pancreatic beta-cells and insulin secretion and further increases the uptake of glucose by the muscle cells.
Tulsi leaves have hypoglycemic properties that lower the blood sugar level and also prevent complications of diabetes.
- Bitter gourd or Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia)
It is cultivated for its edible fruits. Different parts of this herb are effective in the treatment of diabetes and also as laxative, emetic, anthelmintic, etc. Numerous minor animal and human studies suggest that concentrated bitter melon extracts show a hypoglycemic effect.
There is some evidence which states that bitter melon successfully lowers the blood glucose levels when consumed in raw or juice form. This cannot be used or consumed as replacement therapy for insulin or other hypoglycemic drugs.
As there is very less research carried out for these herbs, it is difficult to prescribe or recommend the use of such herbs alone in the treatment of diabetes. These herbs should be consumed along with insulin or other hypoglycemic drugs only under the supervision of a physician or specialist.
To control the blood sugar levels, along with the normal medicines and treatment options, one should make lifestyle and diet changes. The blood glucose levels should be monitored closely and regularly to avoid health problems like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, eye problems, nerve damage and others related to diabetes.