Diabetes and herbal medicine
Is herbal medicine effective for diabetes? What are its advantages and disadvantages? Let's take it together
In the world of modern medicine, where diabetes has become one of the most common diseases, the search for effective treatments is constantly taking center stage. There are a variety of drugs aimed at combating diabetes, from insulin analogues to biguanides and α-glucosidase inhibitors. However, the long-term use of these drugs and their side effects raise questions about efficacy and safety.
In this context, more and more people with diabetes are turning their attention to complementary or alternative therapies, including the use of herbal medicines. It is now claimed that a number of common herbs can help lower blood glucose levels, providing the opportunity to achieve better glycemic control or even reduce dependence on insulin injections.
However, the choice of specific herbs should be deliberate, taking into account the stage of development of diabetes, the presence of comorbidities, the availability and safety profile of herbal preparations.
In recent years, several clinical studies have been carried out that have shown that some medicinal plants have anti-diabetic potential.

Medicinal plants are not only a well-known, but also a modern way to help in the fight against diabetes mellitus. Long before the discovery of insulin and synthetic drugs, herbal medicine was at the heart of the treatment of this disease. Now, along with modern methods, medicinal plants are being added to the arsenal of natural preparations to combat this problem.
It is important to emphasize that the use of herbal remedies does not replace insulin or synthetic drugs, but can effectively support their action at all stages of treatment. Studies show that patients using herbal medicine may need lower doses of insulin and hypoglycemic drugs, making this method an important addition to standard remedies.
Herbal medicine not only helps reduce the risk of complications, but can also provide long-term normalization of metabolic disorders, providing a new perspective on the treatment of diabetes mellitus.

Phytotherapy for diabetes mellitus is based on the following basic principles:
— Partially replicates or enhances the effects of many oral antidiabetic drugs with a possible reduction in their side effects and dose.
— Promotes insulin synthesis, optimizing its action at the tissue level.
— Stimulates the processes of beta cell regeneration.
— Improves the functioning of all parts of the immune system.
— Normalizes secondary disorders of metabolism and hormones.
— Provides prevention of complications from the cardiovascular, urinary systems, musculoskeletal system, etc.

There are medicinal plants that promote the absorption of carbohydrates by forming fructose from them, which is absorbed differently than glucose. This applies to medicinal raw materials containing inulin, such as elecampane roots, dandelions, Jerusalem artichoke, and chicory. Some medicinal plants can improve the supply of oxygen to tissues (linden, swamp dried grass, arnica), remove excess salts and glucose from the body with urine, exhibit bactericidal and astringent effects (leaves and buds of birch, pol-pala, bearberry, field horsetail).

It has been established that most medicinal plants have an alkalizing effect and glucose in a slightly alkaline environment passes into other carbohydrates — mannose and fructose, for the utilization of which insulin is not required, as a result of which the need for the introduction of the latter is reduced.

Plants containing cellulose and pectins can also be useful for diabetes, slowing down the absorption of glucose during and after meals and maintaining proper blood glucose levels for some time after meals.

Why is the choice of herbs important in treatment

In many cases, phytotherapy prevents the development of lesions of the cardiovascular system, diabetic neuro-, retinopathy, kidney damage, liver damage or delays the appearance of these pathologies. That is why herbal medicine should be an essential component in the treatment of diabetes. It is theorized that a number of medicinal plants prevent the development of diabetes complications not only due to the hypoglycemic effect.

So, for example, with diabetic nephropathy, or with the development of pyelonephritis in patients with diabetes during the period of remission, treatment with herbs that have anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, regenerating effects is recommended. Whereas, in the complex treatment of diabetic neuropathy, capsaicin, a substance isolated from bitter red chili peppers, is used topically. For the treatment of diabetic angiopathy, the drug pycnogenol (a preparation from the bark of the maritime pine - Pinus maritima) and ginkgo biloba preparations are successfully used. Pycnogenol contains bioflavonoids of the proanthocyanidin group (they are especially active antioxidants), improves the elasticity of blood vessels and erythropoiesis, is effective for the prevention of cataracts, which often complicates the course of diabetes mellitus.

Several medicinal plants have shown their effectiveness in different stages of diabetes, for example, curcumin is proposed to be used as one of the interventions in prediabetic therapy to prevent the progression of type 2 diabetes due to its proven benefits and safety profile, while cinnamon may be a better option for diabetic patients who have concomitant hypertension, and on the other hand, aloe vera leaf gel extract with doses of 300 mg/kg has demonstrated an increase in insulin levels from regenerated beta cells of the pancreas. Therefore, it is important to know the patient's history and the therapeutic benefits of the medicinal plant to properly treat the patient.

Summarizing the above, it can be argued that the use of herbal medicine in the treatment of diabetes mellitus represents significant potential. Evidence-based strategies and careful selection of herbal remedies in complex treatment can effectively improve the results of therapy at all stages of the disease. The use of these agents can help reduce the burden of hypoglycemic drugs, prevent organ damage due to diabetes, and influence the common pathogenic mechanisms of diabetes and comorbidities.
However, despite the prospects of herbal medicine, it should be determined that the level of research and practical use in diabetology remains insufficient. For the full implementation of herbal medicine in the practice of treating diabetes mellitus, further scientific research and careful clinical testing are required to confirm the effectiveness and safety of these methods. Given the potential of herbal medicine, modernity is obliged to continue research in this area and promote the expansion of the use of herbal remedies in the treatment of diabetes mellitus.
!!! Herbal medicine is an important component of the treatment of diabetes, but you should always remember that the use of herbal components has its side effects. Therefore, before use, you should always consult a doctor who will select the best combination of remedies, and not only be guided by information found on the Internet.

1. Voloshin O.I., Glubochenko O.V. MODERN ASPECTS OF PHYTOTHERAPY OF DIABETES MELLITUS: http://www.mif-ua.com/archive/article/13298

2. An update on natural compounds in the remedy of diabetes mellitus: A systematic review: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/...

3. The Multifunctional Role of Herbal Products in the Management of Diabetes and Obesity: A Comprehensive Review: https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/27/5/1713