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Diabetes, General

Diabetes is a problem with insulin levels. Glucose is a form of energy from foods that you eat. Insulin is needed to move glucose from the blood into cells for energy. If there isn’t enough insulin, glucose will build up in the blood. It can lead to short and long term health problems. Over time, regular high blood glucose can lead to problems with eyes, heart, kidneys, and nerves.

Medicine and healthy habits can help manage glucose levels. It is important to follow the care plan made with your medical care team. Natural treatments may help with blood glucose control. However, it should only be used with standard treatment.

Natural Therapies

Likely Effective

These herbs and supplements may help you control your blood glucose levels:

  • Astragalus is a flowering plant that is taken as a supplement. (Note: It should not be taken by people who have problems with their immune system.)A33
  • Berberine is a chemical found in plant called Goldenseal that is taken as a supplement. (Note: Berberine is not safe for children or women who are breastfeeding or pregnant.)A30, A37
  • Beta-glucan is a nutrient found in oats, barley, and some mushrooms.C8-C10
  • Carnitine is a nutrient in the body that turns fat into energy.C11, C12
  • Fenugreek is an herb that is taken as a supplement. (Note: Fenugreek is not safe for women who are pregnant.)A35
  • Garlic is an herb that is used in cooking and baking.C26-C28
  • Green Tea A7, A22
  • Magnesium is a mineral in the body, in foods, and taken as a supplement.A32, A34,C29, C30
  • Milk Thistle is an herb that is taken as a supplement.A9
  • Blonde psyllium is likely to help control blood glucose when used with standard treatment A29
  • Sweet potato A23

Yoga may help lower your fasting blood glucose.B1-B3

May Be Effective

These herbs and supplements may help you control your blood glucose levels:

  • Aloe vera is a succulent plant that is used in many forms to treat health problems.A12
  • Ayurvedic herbs A11
  • Beta carotene is a red-orange compound found in fruits and veggies.C2
  • Bee propolis is a substance made by bees to coat their hives.C1
  • Carob refers to the bitter seeds that come from the pods of a tropical tree.C13
  • Chinese herbs A19
  • Chromium is a mineral that humans need in trace amounts. (Note: Chromium should not be taken by people with certain mental health problems.)A31, C4-C18
  • Cinnamon is a spice that is thought to help treat health problems.A3, A5, A6, A8, A14, A17, A21, A24
  • Folate is an essential vitamin found in grains, lentils, and spinach that is thought to improve organ function and blood flow.C24, C25
  • French maritime pine bark is taken as a supplement. (Note: It should not be taken by people who have problems with their immune system.)A13
  • Ginger is a spice that is thought to help treat health problems.A27
  • Ivy gourd (coccinia indica) is taken as a supplement to treat health problems.A4
  • Lemon balm is an herb in the same family as mint.C22, C23
  • Nettle is a plant best known for the sting of its leaves.C32
  • Red ginseng is a root that is taken as a supplement to treat health problems. (Note: Red ginseng may not be safe when taken long-term or by those with certain health problems.)A10, A26, A28
  • Sage (salvia officinalis) is an herb taken as a supplement to treat health problems. (Note: Sage may not be safe when taken long-term or by people with certain health problems, such as seizure disorders.)A25
  • Salacia oblonga is a shrub that grows in Asia.A1, A2, A20
  • Tribulus terrestris is a vine with yellow flowers.C7
  • Whortleberry comes from a shrub and is used to treat health problems. (Note: It may not be safe when taken at high doses for a long period.)A18

Unlikely to Be Effective

These herbs and supplements are unlikely to help lower your blood glucose levels:

  • Bitter Melon is a tropical, fruit-like gourd. (Note: It should not be taken by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.)A15
  • Vitamin D is available in a few foods and as a supplement. Your body also makes it in response to sunlight.A16, A36

Not Enough Data to Assess

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Herbs and Supplements to Be Used With Caution

Talk to your doctor about any supplements or therapy you would like to use. Some may get in the way of treatment. They can also make illness worse or cause new problems. Examples include:

  • Astragalus may make the immune system more active. Talk to your doctor before taking it if you have problems with your immune system.
  • Bee propolis should not be used by people with bee allergies.
  • Berberine is not safe for children or women who are breastfeeding or pregnant.
  • Beta-carotene may increase the risk of cancer, stroke, and other health problems in smokers and people with a history of asbestos exposure.
  • Bitter melon should not be taken by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Carob may interact with vitamin A supplements. It may interact with the medicines taken by people with blood pressure or heart problems.
  • Toxicities and side effects of Chinese herbs and Ayurvedic medicine vary depending on the herb and amount used.
  • Chromium should not be taken by people with certain mental health problems.
  • Fenugreek is not safe for women who are pregnant. It may cause contractions.
  • French maritime pine bark may make the immune system more active. Talk to your doctor before taking it if you have problems with your immune system.
  • Red ginseng may not be safe when taken long-term or by people with certain health problems, such as auto-immune diseases or bleeding problems.
  • Sage may not be safe when taken long-term or by people with certain health problems, such as seizure disorders.
  • Whortleberry may not be safe when taken at high doses for a long period.
  • Wolfberry may increase the risk of bleeding in people taking blood thinners.
 

References

Herbs and Supplements

A1. Jayawardena MH, de Alwis NM, et al. A double blind randomised placebo controlled cross over study of a herbal preparation containing Salacia reticulata in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. J Ethnopharmacol. 2005 Feb 28;97(2):215-218.

A2. Williams JA, Choe YS, et al. Extract of Salacia oblonga lowers acute glycemia in patients with type 2 diabetes. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;86(1):124-130.

A3. Baker WL, Gutierrez-Williams G, et al. Effect of cinnamon on glucose control and lipid parameters. Diabetes Care. 2008 Jan;31(1):41-43.

A4. Kuriyan R, Rajendran R, et al. Effect of supplementation of Coccinia cordifolia extract on newly detected diabetic patients. Diabetes Care. 2008 Feb;31(2):216-220.

A5. Crawford P. Effectiveness of cinnamon for lowering hemoglobin A1C in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled trial. J Am Board Fam Med. 2009 Sep-Oct;22(5):507-512.

A6. Akilen R, Tsiami A, et al. Glycated haemoglobin and blood pressure-lowering effect of cinnamon in multi-ethnic Type 2 diabetic patients in the UK: a randomized, placebo-controlled double-blind clinical trial. Diabet Med. 2010 Oct;27(10):1159-1167.

A7. Hsu CH, Liao YL, et al. Does supplementation with green tea extract improve insulin resistance in obese type 2 diabetes? A randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled clinical trial. Altern Med Rev. 2011 Jun;16(2):157-163.

A8. Davis PA, Yokoyama W. Cinnamon intake lowers fasting plasma blood glucose: meta-analysis. J Med Food. 2011 Sep;14(9):884-889.

A9. Suksomboon N, Poolsup N, et al. Meta-analysis of the effect of herbal supplement on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Oct 11;137(3):1328-1333.

A10. Kim S, Shin BC, et al. Red ginseng for type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Chin J Integr Med. 2011 Dec;17(12):937-944.

A11. Sridharan K, Mohan R, et al. Ayurvedic treatments for diabetes mellitus. Cochrane Database Syst. Rev. 2011 Dec 7;(12):CD008288.

A12. Huseini HF, Kianbakht S, et al. Anti-hyperglycemic and anti-hypercholesterolemic effects of Aloe vera leaf gel in hyperlipidemic type 2 diabetic patients: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Planta Med. 2012 Mar;78(4):311-316.

A13. Schoonees A, Visser J, et al. Pycnogenol® (extract of French maritime pine bark) for the treatment of chronic disorders. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Apr 18;(4):CD008294.

A14. Lu T, Sheng H, et al. Cinnamon extract improves fasting blood glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin level in Chinese patients with type 2 diabetes. Nutr Res. 2012 Jun;32(6):408-412.

A15. Ooi CP, Yassin Z, et al. Momordica charantia for type 2 diabetes mellitus. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Aug 15;(8):CD007845.

A16. George PS, Pearson ER, et al. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on glycaemic control and insulin resistance: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabet Med. 2012 Aug;29(8):e142-150.

A17. Leach MJ, Kumar S. Cinnamon for diabetes mellitus. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Sep 12;(9):CD007170.

A18. Kianbakht S, Abasi B, et al. Anti-hyperglycemic effect of Vaccinium arctostaphylos in type 2 diabetic patients: a randomized controlled trial. Forsch Komplementmed. 2013;20(1):17-22.

A19. Tong XL, Wu ST, et al. The safety and effectiveness of TM81, a Chinese herbal medicine, in the treatment of type 2 diabetes: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2013 May;15(5):448-454.

A20. Shivaprasad HN, Bhanumathy M, et al. Salacia reticulata improves serum lipid profiles and glycemic control in patients with prediabetes and mild to moderate hyperlipidemia: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial. J Med Food. 2013 Jun;16(6):564-568.

A21. Hasanzade F, Toliat M, et al. The effect of cinnamon on glucose of type II diabetes patients. J Tradit Complement Med. 2013 Jul;3(3):171-174.

A22. Liu K, Zhou R, et al. Effect of green tea on glucose control and insulin sensitivity: a meta-analysis of 17 randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Aug;98(2):340-348.

A23. Ooi CP, Loke SC. Sweet potato for type 2 diabetes mellitus. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Sep 3;(9):CD009128.

A24. Allen RW, Schwartzman E, et al. Cinnamon use in type 2 diabetes: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Fam Med. 2013 Sept-Oct;11(5):452-459.

A25. Kianbakht S, Dabaghian FH. Improved glycemic control and lipis profile in hyperlipidemic type 2 diabetic patients consuming Salvia officinalis L. leaf extract: a randomized placebo. Controlled clinical trial. Complement Ther Med. 2013 Oct;21(5):441-416.

A26. Bang H, Kwak JH, et al. Korean red ginseng improves glucose control in subjects with impaired fasting glucose, impaired glucose tolerance, or newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes. J Med Food 2014 Jan;17(1):128-134.

A27. Mozaffari-Khosravi H, Talaei B, et al. The effect of ginger powder supplementation on insulin resistance and glycemic indices in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Complement Ther Med. 2014 Feb;22(1):9-16.

A28. Oh MR, Park SH, et al. Postprandial glucose-lowering effects of fermented red ginseng in subjects with impaired fasting glucose or type 2 diabetes: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014 Jul 11;14:237.

A29. Gibb RD, McRorie JW Jr, et al. Psyllium fiber improves glycemic control proportional to loss of glycemic control: a meta-analysis of data in euglycemic subjects, patients at risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus, and patients being treated for type 2 diabetes mellitus. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015;102(6):1604-1614.

A30. Lan J, Zhao Y, et al. Meta-analysis of the effect and safety of berberine in the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus, hyperlipemia and hypertension. J Ethnopharmacol. 2015 Feb 23;161:69-81.

A31. Yin RV, Phung OJ. Effect of chromium supplementation on glycated hemoglobin and fasting plasma glucose in patients with diabetes mellitus. Nutr J. 2015 Feb 13;14:14.

A32. Simental-Mendía LE, Sahebkar A, et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials on the effects of magnesium supplementation on insulin sensitivity and glucose control. Pharmacol Res. 2016 Sep;111:272-282.

A33. Tian H, Lu J, et al. The effect of Astragalus as an adjuvant treatment in type 2 diabetes mellitus a (preliminary) meta-analysis. J Ethnopharmacol. 2016 Sep15;191:206-215.

A34. Fang X, Han H, et al. Dose-Response Relationship between Dietary Magnesium Intake and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review and Meta-Regression Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies. Nutrients. 2016 Nov 19;8(11).

A35. Gong, J, Fang K, et al. Effect of fenugreek on hyperglycaemia and hyperlipidemia in diabetes and prediabetes: a meta-analysis. J Ethnopharmacol. 2016 Dec 24;194:260-268.

A36. Lee CJ, Iyer G, et al. The effect of vitamin D supplementation on glucose metabolism in type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis of intervention studies. J Diabetes Complications. 2017 Jul;31(7):1115-1126.

A37. Liang Y, Xu X, et al. Effects of berberine on blood glucose in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic literature review and meta-analysis. Endocr J. 2018 Nov 3.

Yoga

B1. Vizcaino M, Stover E. The effect of yoga practice on glycemic control and other health parameters in type 2 diabetes mellitus patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Complement Ther Med. 2016 Oct;28:57-66.

B2. V V, Rathi A, et al. Effect of short-term yoga-based lifestyle interventions on plasma glucose levels in individuals with diabetes and pre-diabetes in the community. Diabetes Metab Syndr. 2017 Dec;11 Suppl 2:S597-599.

B3. Angadi P, Jagannathan A, et al. Adherence to yoga and its resultant effects on blood glucose in Type 2 diabetes: a community-base follow-up study. Int J Yoga. 2017 Jan-Apr;10(1):29-36.

Other Supplements

C1. Samadi N, Mozaffari-Khosravi H, et al. Effects of bee propolis supplementation on glycemic control, lipid profile and insulin resistance indices in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized, double-blind clinical trial. J Integr Med.2017;15(2):124-134.

C2. Asemi Z, Alizadeh SA, et al. Effects of beta-carotene fortified symbiotic food on metabolic control of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: A double-blind randomized cross-over controlled clinical trial. Clin Nutr. 2016;35(4):819-825.

C3. Singer GM, Geohas J. The effect of chromium picolinate and biotin supplementation on glycemic control in poorly controlled patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a placebo-controlled, double-blinded, randomized trial. Diabetes Technol Ther. 2006 Dec;8(6):636-643.

C4. Albarracin C, Fuqua B, et al. Combination of chromium and biotin improves coronary risk factors in hypercholesterolemic type 2 diabetes mellitus: a placebo-controlled, double-blind randomized clinical trial. J Cardiometab Syndr. 2007;2(2):91-97.

C5. Albarracin CA, Fuqua BC, et al. Chromium picolinate and biotin combination improves glucose metabolism in treated, uncontrolled overweight obese patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Metab Res Rev. 2008;24(1):41-51.

C6. Cai H, Liu F, et al. Practical Application of Antidiabetic Efficacy of Lycium barbarum Polysaccharide in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes. Med Chem. 2015;11(4):383-390.

C7. Samani NM, Jokar A, et al. Efficacy of the hydroalcoholic extract of tribulus terrestris on the serum glucose and lipid profile of women with diabetes mellitus: a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2016;21(4):NP91-97.

C8. Francelino Andrade E, Vieira Lobato R, et al. Effect of beta glucans in the control of blood glucose levels of diabetic patients: a systematic review. Nutr Hosp. 2014 Jan 1;31(1):170-177.

C9. Shen XL, Zhao T, et al. Effect of Oat β-Glucan Intake on Glycaemic Control and Insulin Sensitivity of Diabetic Patients: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients. 2016;8(1):E39.

C10. He LX, Zhao J, et al. The difference between oats and beta-glucan extract intake in the management of HbA1c, fasting glucose and insulin sensitivity: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Food Funct. 2016 Mar;7(3):1413-1428.

C11. Vidal-Casariego A, Burgo-Peláez R, et al. Metabolic effects of L-carnitine on type 2 diabetes mellitus: systematic review and meta-analysis. Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes. 2013;121(4):234-238.

C12. Xu Y, Jiang W, et al. L-carnitine treatment of insulin resistance: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Adv Clin Exp Med. 2017 Mar-Apr;26(2):333-338.

C13. Lambert C, Cubedo J, et al. Effects of a Carob-Pod-Derived Sweetener on Glucose Metabolism. Nutrients. 2018;10(3):E271.

C14. Abdollahi M, Farshchi A, et al. Effect of chromium on glucose and lipid profiles in patients with type 2 diabetes; a meta-analysis review of randomized trials. J Pharm Pharm Sci. 2013;16(1):99-114.

C15. Suksomboon N, Poolsup N, et al. Systematic review and meta-analysis of the efficacy and safety of chromium supplementation in diabetes. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2014;39(3):292-306.

C16. Bailey CH. Improved meta-analytic methods show no effect of chromium supplements on fasting glucose. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2014 Jan;157(1):1-8.

C17. Yin RV, Phung OJ. Effect of chromium supplementation on glycated hemoglobin and fasting plasma glucose in patients with diabetes mellitus. Nutr J. 2015 Feb 13;14:14.

C18. San Mauro-Martin I, Ruiz-León AM, et al. [Chromium supplementation in patients with type 2 diabetes and high risk of type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials]. Nutr Hosp. 2016;33(1):27.

C19. Suksomboon N, Poolsup N, et al. Effects of coenzyme Q10 supplementation on metabolic profile in diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2015;40(4):413-418.

C20. Moradi M, Haghighatdoost F, et al. Effect of Coenzyme Q10 Supplementation on Diabetes Biomarkers: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Clinical Trials. Arch Iran Med. 2016;19(8):588-596.

C21. Stojanović M, Radenković M. A meta-analysis of randomized and placebo-controlled clinical trials suggests that coenzyme Q10 at low dose improves glucose and HbA1c levels. Nutr Res. 2017 Feb;38:1-12.

C22. Asadi A, Shidfar F, et al. Safety and efficacy of Melissa officinalis (lemon balm) on ApoA-I, Apo B, lipid ratio and ICAM-1 in type 2 diabetes: A randomized, double-blinded clinical trial. Complement Ther Med. 2018;40:83-88.

C23. Asadi A, Shidfar F, et al. Efficacy of Melissa officinalis L. (lemon balm) extract on glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in individuals with type 2 diabetes: A randomized, double-blind, clinical trial. Phytother Res. 2019;33(3):651-659.

C24. Sudchada P, Saokaew S, et al. Effect of folic acid supplementation on plasma total homocysteine levels and glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2012;98(1):151-158.

C25. Zhao JV, Schooling CM, et al. The effects of folate supplementation on glucose metabolism and risk of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Ann Epidemiol. 2018 Apr;28(4):249-257.e1.

C26. Ashraf R, Khan RA, et al. Garlic (Allium sativum) supplementation with standard antidiabetic agent provides better diabetic control in type 2 diabetes patients. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2011;24(4):565-570.

C27. Hou LQ, Liu YH, et al. Garlic intake lowers fasting blood glucose: meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2015;24(4):575-582.

C28. Shabani E, Sayemiri K, et al. The effect of garlic on lipid profile and glucose parameters in diabetic patients: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Prim Care Diabetes. 2019 Feb;13(1):28-42.

C29. Veronese N, Watutantrige-Fernando S, et al. Effect of magnesium supplementation on glucose metabolism in people with or at risk of diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of double-blind randomized controlled trials. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2016 Dec;70(12):1354-1359.

C30. Verma H, Garg R. Effect of magnesium supplementation on type 2 diabetes associated cardiovascular risk factors: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2017;30(5):621-633.

C31. Klein GA, Stefanuto A, et al. Mate tea (Illex paraguariensis) improves glycemic and lipid profiles of type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes individuals: a pilot study. J Am Coll Nutr. 2011;30(5):320-332.

C32. Namazi N, Esfanjani AT, et al. The effect of hydro alcoholic Nettle (Urtica dioica) extracts on insulin sensitivity and some inflammatory indicators in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized double-blind control trial. Pak J Biol Sci. 2011 Aug 1;14(15):775-779.

C33. Kianbakht S, Khalighi-Sigaroodi F, et al. Improved glycemic control in patients with advanced type 2 diabetes mellitus taking Urtica dioica leaf extract: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Clin Lab. 2013;59(9-10):1071-1076.

Last reviewed May 2019 by EBSCO NAT Review Board  Last Updated: 9/10/2019