If you are looking for safe, natural alternatives to diabetes drugs, herbs and spices offer several effective options. A number of recent studies reveal that ginger is one such spice that helps to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels.
In newly published research, patients with type 2 diabetes who took three grams of powdered ginger root a day for eight weeks experienced significant improvements in a number of measures1. This trial was a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study involving 88 participants. Half of them were given three 1 g capsules of ginger powder once a day and the other half three capsules of placebo.
The results showed that, on average, both fasting blood sugar levels and HbA1c (an indication of longer term blood sugar) fell in the ginger group by more than 10 per cent, whereas they increased by 21 per cent in the placebo group. Statistically significant improvements in insulin sensitivity were also seen in the ginger group, leading the researchers to conclude that patients with type 2 diabetes could benefit from a daily dose of ginger.
Another new study looked not only at blood sugar status but also at blood fats and a number of inflammatory markers in patients with type 2 diabetes taking ginger2. This was also a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, but it used a smaller dose of ginger root over a longer period. The 70 participants took either 1.6 g of ginger a day or placebo, during the 12 weeks of the study.
Blood analysis showed that ginger was again responsible for significant improvements in fasting blood sugar, HbA1c and insulin sensitivity. In addition, it also lowered levels of triglycerides, total cholesterol and inflammatory substances implicated in heart disease. In this study, the researchers concluded that not only can ginger improve insulin sensitivity, it can also reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications in type 2 diabetes.
These results support earlier findings that patients given 2 g of ginger daily had significantly higher insulin sensitivity and lower levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides3. It seems, then, that taking a supplement of 2 to 3 g of ginger a day could have beneficial effects for type 2 diabetes patients. If you are taking anticoagulant (blood-thinning) medication, check with your doctor before using ginger, which itself also has an anticoagulant effect.
As I explained in an earlier blog post here, there is a clear connection between type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to controlling blood sugar, ginger may also help to prevent cognitive decline in middle-aged and older people. Healthy women who were given 400 or 800 mg doses of ginger daily for two months performed better than controls in cognitive and memory tests4.
Other herbal roots that keep blood sugar under control
In addition to ginger, these other herbal roots also have value in treating type 2 diabetes:
- Turmeric, the yellow curry spice, is a botanical relative of ginger. A recent study in people taking the anti-diabetic drug metformin found that adding 2 g of dried turmeric root a day for four weeks significantly reduced blood sugar levels (both fasting and HbA1c) beyond those achieved by metformin alone5. It also improved antioxidant status, reduced inflammation and altered blood fat and cholesterol profiles beneficially.
- Korean red ginseng (Panax ginseng) root has a long history of use for controlling blood sugar levels. In one study, it was found to reduce the rise in blood sugar after a meal by 27 per cent, compared with placebo6.
- Siberian ginseng root (Eleutherococcus senticosus) may have even more powerful anti-diabetic effects than red ginseng. In a study that compared both against placebo, Siberian ginseng scored better in lowering fasting blood glucose and after-meal blood glucose levels7.
- Even the humble garden radish could help you to manage your blood sugar better. In an animal trial, giving radish root juice to diabetic rats led to a 28 per cent drop in blood glucose levels, during a glucose tolerance test8.
Although these herbs can be just as effective as conventional anti-diabetic medications, the food that you eat is still the biggest factor in controlling your blood sugar levels. But with no sign of a slowdown in the ever-increasing rates of diabetes and obesity, what are the ‘official’ dietary guidelines for people with diabetes and are they part of the solution or part of the problem? That will be the subject of my next blog post.
Wishing you the best of health,
PhD DHD Nutritionist
for Real Diabetes Truth
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Bear in mind we are not addressing anyone’s personal situation and you should rely on this for informational purposes only. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.
- Mozaffari-Khosravi H, Talaei B, Jalali BA, Najarzadeh A, Mozayan MR. 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; 22(1):9-16.
- Arablou T, Aryaeian N, Valizadeh M, Sharifi F, Hosseini A, Djalali M. The effect of ginger consumption on glycemic status, lipid profile and some inflammatory markers in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2014; 65(4):515-520.
- Mahluji S, Attari VE, Mobasseri M, Payahoo L, Ostadrahimi A, Golzari SE. Effects of ginger (Zingiber officinale) on plasma glucose level, HbA1c and insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetic patients. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2013;64(6):682-686.
- Saenghong N, Wattanathorn J, Muchimapura S, Tongun T, Piyavhatkul N, Banchonglikitkul C, Kajsongkram T. Zingiber officinale improves cognitive function of middle-aged healthy women. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012; 2012:383062.
- Maithili Karpaga Selvi N, Sridhar MG, Swaminathan RP, Sripradha R. Efficacy of Turmeric as adjuvant therapy in type 2 diabetic patients. Indian J Clin Biochem. 2014 May (online ahead of print).
- De Souza LR, Jenkins AL, Sievenpiper JL, Jovanovski E, Rahelić D, Vuksan V. Korean red ginseng (Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer) root fractions: differential effects on postprandial glycaemia in healthy individuals. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011; 137(1):245-250.
- Freye E, Gleske J. Siberian ginseng results in beneficial effects on glucose metabolism in diabetes type 2 patients: a double blind placebo-controlled study in comparison to Panax ginseng. Int J Clin Nutr. 2013; 1(1):11-17.
- Shukla S, Chatterji S, Mehta S, Rai PK, Singh RK, Yadav DK, Watal G. Antidiabetic effect of Raphanus sativus root juice. Pharm Biol.
Category: Natural Diabetes Alternatives