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Issue No 105
Winter 2005 
page 29

Herbs for Diabetes
Attaining optimum health for someone with diabetes is key. An herbalist focuses on the mental, physical, and spiritual well-being of each patient, making diet and lifestyle recommendations and choosing specific herbs for treatment.

Another great herb for diabetes? Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana). Native to Paraguay, the plant is sweet but doesn't produce spikes in blood sugar levels. Natural, caloriefree, and safe, stevia is a healthy substitute for the popular, artificial sweeteners, and can be purchased in powder form. Some brands, like Stevita, add fiber to their product. Check out Jeanne Ricci's article, "The Stevia Story," in our Spring 2004 issue.

 
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seizure. Long-term complications of Type 2 diabetes mimic those of Type 1, but also include a high incidence of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.

Three methods of treatment are available for diabetic patients: diet alone; diet and an oral hypoglycemic agent (which lowers blood sugar levels); or diet and insulin. By itself, diet can adequately control approximately 50 percent of new diabetes cases, while 20 to 30 percent need an oral hypoglycemic medication. Another 20 to 30 percent require insulin. The age and weight of the patient at diagnosis are closely related to the type of treatment likely to be required. The earlier diabetes is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat effectively.

The Herbalist's Approach
While medical herbalists are trained with the same diagnostic skills as orthodox doctors, they take a more holistic approach to illness. Rather than focusing on just a disease’s symptoms, herbalists try to identify and treat the cause of the illness, in an effort to eradicate the problem itself. Herbalists use their remedies to restore balance to the body, enabling it to rely on its own healing powers.

The first consultation generally takes an hour, during which the herbalist learns about the patient’s medical history and begins to build a picture of this person as a whole being. Healing is a matter of teamwork, with patient, practitioner, and the prescribed treatment all working together to restore the body to health.

Attaining optimum health for someone with diabetes is key. An herbalist focuses on the mental, physical, and spiritual well-being of each patient, making diet and lifestyle recommendations and choosing specific herbs for treatment. Note: At the forefront of any herbalist’s practice should be the credo, “Herbal medicine is safe medicine.” With the patient’s consent, a general practitioner should be kept abreast of every aspect of herbal treatment, to avoid the possibility of negative herb/drug interactions.

Healthy Herbs
Numerous herbs are highly effective in the treatment of diabetes and the blood sugar problems that lead to this condition. This doesn’t mean you can, or should, discontinue the use of insulin or other drugs. Due to the very individualistic nature of diabetic symptoms, patients interested in herbal treatment should locate a qualified NIMH and/or CPP registered medical herbalist, rather than attempt to self-medicate.

Gymnema (Gymnema sylvestre)
This Ayurvedic remedy is one of the most common herbs used in the treatment of both Types 1 and 2 diabetes. Gymnema appears to stimulate the pancreas, prompting it to produce more insulin. Gymnemic acid, a constituent of the herb, acts directly on the tongue receptors (taste buds), blocking their ability to sense sweetness. This action can curb the intake of sweets that may be aggravating the condition, but occurs only when the herb is chewed or placed upon the tongue before eating—not when gymnema is taken in pill or capsule form.

 
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