Ayurveda, Unani, and Siddha medicine systems recommend over 30 herbs while Traditional Chinese Medicine mentions over a dozen herbs that they claim will help treat diabetes. Each of these systems of medicines has multiherbal formulations available under different brand names in the herbal supplement market. Most drug regulators across the globe do not accord these formulations a status of medicine. These formulations are therefore sold as nutraceuticals.
I have reviewed the scientific support for the antidiabetic properties of most of the herbs mentioned in these ancient medicine systems. This review has identified the following herbs that have the maximum scientific evidence in support of antidiabetic properties. I am listing these herbs for your benefit:
Ayurvedic herbs: Gymnema sylvestre (common name- gurmar, Australian cowplant), Trigonella foenum-graecum (common name: fenugreek), Eugenia jambolana (common name: Java plum, jamun), and Curcuma longa (common name: turmeric, haldi)
Traditional Chinese Medicine herbs: Atractylodes macrocephala (common name: bai zhu), Codonopsis pilosula(common name: dang shen or poor man’s ginseng), Dioscorea opposita (common name: Chinese yam), Flos lonicerae (common name: honeysuckle flower), and Pueraria lobata (common name: kudzu vine)
Do these herbs really help treat diabetes is a moot question? Scientific support to the medicinal properties of these herbs is still tenuous. Herbal combinations are used in most parts of the world as adjuncts to modern medicine. There is a vast amount of scientific literature on this subject and I am listing a select few of these for your ready reference:
Chang, C. L., Lin, Y., Bartolome, A. P., Chen, Y. C., Chiu, S. C., & Yang, W. C. (2013). Herbal therapies for type 2 diabetes mellitus: chemistry, biology, and potential application of selected plants and compounds. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2013.
Dey, L., Attele, A. S., & Yuan, C. S. (2002). Alternative therapies for type 2 diabetes. Alternative medicine review, 7(1), 45-58.
Elder, C., Aickin, M., Bauer, V., Cairns, J., & Vuckovic, N. (2006). Randomized trial of a whole-system ayurvedic protocol for type 2 diabetes. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 12(5), 24.