Islets of Hope alternative and complementary treatment for persons with diabete

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Article disclaimer
Article by Lahle Wolfe, Founder, Islets of Hope.


Traditional Chinese Medicine

National Institutes of Health

Complementary and Alternative Healing University

Östman, E.M., H.G.M.L. Elmståhl, and I.M.E. Björck. 2001. Inconsistency between glycemic and insulinemic responses to regular and fermented milk products. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 74(July):96-100.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2004. Diabetes: A National Plan for Action.

Johnston, C.S., C.M. Kim, and A.J. Buller. 2004. Vinegar improves insulin sensitivity to a high-carbohydrate meal in subjects with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care 27(January):281-282.

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Chinese tonic helps to control type 2 diabetes - A traditional Chinese medicine said to help patients with diabetes has been given the backing of scientists.  08/01/2006

India, China to develop herbal cure for diabetes - Indian and Chinese doctors are jointly undertaking clinical trials to prove the efficacy of herbal plants that offer a cure for diabetes.  05/24/2006


Will New Mexico be the First State to Ban Aspartame? Published on Friday, December 30, 2005 by Healthy News Service

Acupuncture Today:

Ginseng Shows Promise In Treating Diabetes, October, 2003, Volume 04, Issue 10

Green, Black Tea May Help Prevent Diabetes, July, 2005, Volume 06, Issue 07

How Do You Treat Diabetes and Syndrome X?  
December, 2002, Volume 03, Issue 12

Sexuality and Aging with Chinese Traditional Medicine, June, 2003, Volume 04, Issue 06


Traditional Chinese Medicine and Diabetes

Side Effects of Some Chinese Herbs

2000 Herbs Dictionary


Naturopathy Digest
Diabetes Herbal Newsletter



What Is Alternative Medicine?


What is Complementary


What is Holistic Medicine?


What is Natural Medicine?

Forms of Herbs - Standardized v. Whole

Proposed Natural Treatments From Swedish Medical Center (SMC)

PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY:  Acetyl-L-Carnitine; Lipoic Acid; Evening Primrose Oil (GLA)

Other Proposed Natural Treatments

PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY:  Fish Oil; Magnet Therapy; Selenium; Vitamin E



RETINOPATHY:  Bilberry; OPCs (Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins)

CATARACTS:  Bilberry

IMMUNITY AND INFECTIONS  Multivitamin/Multimineral Supplements

Herbal Cautions
Courtesy of

Herbs are drugs. Using them is not without risk. If you choose to try herbs as a treatment for diabetes symptoms, please do the following:

1.  Get the correct herb.  If you aren't absolutely sure of the identity of the herb, don't use it.

2.  Let everyone know.  Herbs may effect your other medications.  Be sure to tell your health care team which herbs you wish to try.

3.  Test only one herb at a time and watch for side effects.  Be sure to take it in its recommended dose.  If any reactions occur, stop using the herb immediately, and contact your doctor.

4.  Read the label.  The word "standardized" means that the herb has been processed slightly to assure a guaranteed amount of the active ingredient.   Standardized herbs may be a bit more expensive, but at least you will know what you are getting.

5.  Monitor your blood sugar levels.  Have your doctor check your kidney function on a regular basis.

6. Continue eating healthy and exercising regularly.

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Alternative & Complementary Therapies for Diabetes
Natural Remedies & Herbs
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About Alternative & Complimentary Treatment for Diabetes
Complementary Treatment of Chinese and Western Therapy for Managing Diabetes
Herbs and Natural Remedies:  Alfalfa, Ginko Bilboa, Bitter Melon, Cayenne Pepper, Cinnamon, Fenugreek, Ginseng, Glucomannon (Konjac Root), Psyllium Seeds, Vanadium, Vinegar

  • Disclaimer:  Be aware that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and dietary supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products containing or claiming to contain bitter melon. Decisions to use herbs or supplements should be carefully considered. Individuals using prescription drugs should discuss taking herbs or supplements with their pharmacist or health care provider before starting.  IOH offers information strictly for educational purposes and no information on our site, or found through links from our site, should be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment.  We urge you to consult with your physician before making any changes in your diabetes or other health care plan.

    About Alternative & Complementary Treatment for Diabetes

    The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health, defines complementary and alternative medicine as a "group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine." Complementary medicine is used with conventional therapy, whereas alternative medicine is used instead of conventional medicine.

    Some people with diabetes use complementary or alternative therapies to treat diabetes. Although some of these therapies may be effective, others can be ineffective or even harmful. Patients who use complementary and alternative medicine need to let their health care providers know what they are doing.

    Some complementary and alternative medicine therapies are discussed below. For more information, talk with your health care provider.


    Complementary Treatment of Chinese and Western Therapy for Managing Diabetes

    According to Joe Hing Kwok Chu, Complementary and Alternative Healing University, medical schools in China now teach Western medical practices but also Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) alternative/complementary approaches.  He claims great success in China when combining Western and Chinese complimentary therapy in the prevention of complications from diabetes.

    Chu believes, "A majority of diabetes mellitus sufferers, when using Western medicine alone, eventually develop eye problems and/or kidney problems and/or die of cardiovascular complications. According to some reports from a  major modern hospital  in China, based on their data on diabetes patients, correct applications of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) together with modern drugs can prevent those complicationsThe TCM (of internal herbal medicine) diagnostics are based on zheng, which is a system of clinical diagnostics that emphasizes the overall functions of the human body. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) by itself cannot provide the needed insulin  for insulin dependent sufferers, but it can complement the pharmaceutically manufactured insulin to help maintain the whole system of the body if used properly."

    Complementary therapy for diabetes of traditional Chinese include herb medicine, qigong, acupuncture, and tui na. Since some therapies can impact the amount and action of insulin and other medications, it is important that you do not attempt any alternative or complimentary therapy without the recommendation and supervision of your own physician.

    To learn more about alternative therapies for diabetes treatment, contact the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Clearinghouse at 1–888–644–6226 or check their website at You can find NCCAM's information on diabetes by looking under diabetes at


    Herbs & Natural Remedies

    Alphafa - Alfalfa has been used to treat conditions such as diabetes and malfunction of the thyroid gland, and to help with blood clotting. In traditional Chinese medicine, alfalfa leaves have been used to treat digestive disorders and to help retain water. The leaves contain a variety of chemical compounds, which include flavones, isoflavones, sterols, and derivatives of coumarin. Because of their high isoflavone levels, alfalfa is sometimes used to treat the symptoms of menopause.

    Bitter Melon - Bitter melon appears to have blood glucose-lowering effects, but there is only limited research specifically using bitter melon in humans. Bitter melon juice, fruit and dried powder have been used to moderate hypoglycemic effects in small, poorly designed studies. It is not clear what dose may be safe and effective. Bitter melon should not be use by patients with diabetes unless they are closely supervised by a qualified health care provider.  See Risks

    Cayenne Pepper - When used topically in an ointment form known as Capsaicin, cayenne pepper can help decrease diabetic nerve pain that may occur in legs, hands and feet.  One treatment may last for up to five days.

    Cinnamon - The active ingredient in cinnamon is a water-soluble polyphenol compound called MHCP. In test tube experiments, MHCP mimics insulin, activates its receptor, and works synergistically with insulin in cells.

    Just half a teaspoon of cinnamon a day significantly reduces blood sugar levels in diabetics, a new study has found. The effect, which can be produced even by soaking a cinnamon stick your tea, could also benefit millions of non-diabetics who have blood sugar problem but are unaware of it.  The discovery was initially made by accident, by Richard Anderson at the US Department of Agriculture's Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland.

    To see if it would work in people, Alam Khan, who was a postdoctoral fellow in Anderson's lab, organized a study in Pakistan. Volunteers with Type 2 diabetes were given one, three or six grams of cinnamon powder a day, in capsules after meals.  All responded within weeks, with blood sugar levels that were on average 20 per cent lower than a control group. Some even achieved normal blood sugar levels. Tellingly, blood sugar started creeping up again after the diabetics stopped taking cinnamon.

    The cinnamon has additional benefits. In the volunteers, it lowered blood levels of fats and "bad" cholesterol, which are also partly controlled by insulin. And in test tube experiments it neutralised free radicals, damaging chemicals which are elevated in diabetics. (Courtesy New

    Fenugreek - Fenugreek's fiber-rich seeds may slow the absorption of blood glucose in the instestine.  This slower absorption can mean a steadier rise of blood glucose levels – a plus for persons with diabetes.  Fenugreek may also help lower cholesterol levels naturally.  It can cause stomach upset so take with caution.

    Ginko Bilboa - Some studies suggest that ginko bilboa may improve circulation, especially in the eye.  Poor ciruclation in unmanaged diabetes is often a problem that can lead to many complications of diabetes including neuropathy and retinopathy.

    Ginseng - Several types of plants are referred to as ginseng but most studies of ginseng and diabetes have used American ginseng. Those studies have shown some glucose-lowering effects in fasting and post-prandial (after meal) blood glucose levels as well as in A1C levels (average blood glucose levels over a 3-month period). However, larger and more long-term studies are needed before general recommendations for use of ginseng can be made. Researchers also have determined that the amount of glucose-lowering compound in ginseng plants varies widely.

    Glucomannan (Konjac Root) Courtesy of Acupuncture Today - Glucomannan is a water-soluble dietary fiber derived from the konjac root, a Japanese plant. The plant is cleaned, and the fiber is purified before being used as a supplement.

    The main uses of glucomannan are to promote larger stools and improve digestion. Studies conducted on individuals suffering from constipation have shown that glucomannan supplementation helps produce a bowel movement within 12 to 24 hours. Glucomannan also delays the emptying of stomach contents, which allows for a more gradual absorption of dietary sugar, and can reduce blood sugar levels. As a result, some scientists believe that glucomannan can be used to help treat diabetes and related conditions.

    Because glucomannan is a soluble fiber, it can bind to certain acids produced in the stomach and remove them from the body. In this way, it can help lower blood cholesterol and blood lipid levels. Controlled studies have shown that glucomannan can reduce levels of total blood cholesterol, LDL (or "bad") cholesterol, and triglycerides, and may even raise levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol. Glucomannan may also help promote weight loss.

    Psyllium Seeds (not husks) - Seem to act in similar manner as fenugreek.  Both slow down gastric emptying and reduce the rate at which glucose gets absorbed from the intestine. This type of fiber is found in Metamucil and several other fiber-containing laxative supplements and may be beneficial in keeping blood glucose levels more stedy.  If used in excess, it can cause diarrhea and bowel irritation.   Psyllium seeds can also help improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome because fiber tends to help the body correct both diarrhea and constipation.

    Vanadium - Vanadium is a compound found in tiny amounts in plants and animals. Early studies showed that vanadium normalized blood glucose levels in animals with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. A recent study found that when people with diabetes were given vanadium, they developed a modest increase in insulin sensitivity and were able to decrease their insulin requirements. Currently researchers want to understand how vanadium works in the body, discover potential side effects, and establish safe dosages.

    Vinegar - Five separate studies done in the 1980's suggested that vinegar was an effective natural ingredient in helping to manage blood glucose levels associated with diabetes.  However, the person credited with the "vinegar" craze today is Carol Johnston, a nutritional professer at Arizona State University.  She found that drinking vinegar with meals helped study subjects with pre-diabetes and insulin resistance the most, and those with full onset diabetes to a lesser degree by reducing blood glucose spikes.  She believes this may be to a compent in vinegar (acetic acid) that acts similar to fiber passing simple carbohydrates through the digestive tract without stopping.  She found adding vinegar daily allowed more of her patients to drop their low-carb, high-protein diets formerly used effectively in managing their diabetes.




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    Page Updated 08/02/2006