Having healthy blood sugar levels is so much more than avoiding Type 2 Diabetes. Having chronically elevated blood sugar levels can impact various areas of your health such as:
- Damaging the tiny blood vessels in your kidneys and eyes
- Hormonal imbalances: chronically elevated insulin levels can cause your ovaries to produce higher testosterone levels (1). This is commonly seen in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome.
- Chronic fatigue
- Increases your risk for heart attacks and strokes
- High blood pressure
- Slow healing wounds
- Sleep challenges such as sleep apnea (2)
As you can see, having chronically elevated blood sugar levels can impact nearly all areas of your body. Labs are great tools to help you identify whether your blood sugar levels are in check, but there are also a few symptoms and signs that can indicate blood sugar dysregulation. Some of these signs and symptoms include:
- Increased thirst (3)
- Recurrent infections: thrush and yeast infections
- Frequent urination, especially during the night
- Slow-healing wounds and cuts
- Darker skin patches (3)
Seeing as dietary and food choices are the main way in which your levels become elevated, it is one of the best places to start with. But in the meantime, as you are working on making dietary changes, there are several herbs that can help to support your blood sugar levels.
When it comes to using herbal medicine, I like to combine them for clients instead of taking seven things at once. Also, there is a synergy that happens when you combine herbs and when you combine herbs with specific nutrients for blood sugar you can really start to make headway on reducing your levels.
The focus of this post will be on herbs and how they help with optimizing blood sugar and insulin levels. If you are someone who is already taking a blood sugar-lowering prescription medication might need to adjust your dose.
Bilberry Leaf (Vaccinium myrtillus): Both the leaves and the berries of this plant have therapeutic properties, the leaf provides blood sugar-lowering effects while the berries can be used to treat and protect again diabetic retinopathy. The leaves contain high levels of anthocyanosides and there are molecules that are responsible for reducing blood sugar.
Gymnema (Gymnema sylvestre): also known as the “sugar destroyer” and is a hypoglycemic herb, that suppresses appetite, and is also an insulin secretagogue. As an insulin secretagogue, it allows your pancreas’ beta cells to get a rest from producing insulin. Gymena has a simniklar mechanism of action as sulfonylurea medictions like Glucotrol, Amaryl, glipizide or glyburide. It also blocks sugar from being absorbed in your intestines.
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum ): has insulin-sensitizing properties, which is similar to metformin and pioglitazone medications. Not only can cinnamon help with lowering blood sugar, but it has also been shown to help with lowering triglycerides as well. SPrinklyign cinnamon on your food can help, but to actually get the results from this herb you need to ensure you are taking therapeutic doses.
Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia): bitter melon is a vegetable that belongs to the same family of vegetables as cucumbers, watermelons, pumpkins, and squash. Bitter melon is a great example of food as medicine as this can be eaten and is regularly consumed in many countries in Asia, Africa, and throughout the Caribbean. Bitter Melon is the opposite of gymnema and works as an insulin sensitizer. It contains polypeptide-P, which is a seed protein that has a similar structure to animal insulin and will decrease blood sugar levels as well as decrease the amount of insulin released from your pancreas.
Berberine (Berberine vulgaris): an herb that I like to use with someone who is experiencing both high blood sugar levels and high cholesterol (4). A similar mechanism of action to metformin, but it has been reported to have few GI side effects.
Curious about how to put these herbs into action, schedule your complimentary consultation to learn more.
- Polly Watson MD FACOG NCMP IFMCP. (2019, November 19). Your blood sugar may be driving your hormone imbalance. HormoneWellness MD. Retrieved February 22, 2023, from https://hormonewellnessmd.com/womens-health/blood-sugar#:~:text=High%20insulin%20levels%20can%20tell,%2C%20fibroids%2C%20and%20heavy%20menses.
- Hyperglycaemia (High Blood Sugar). NHS inform. (2023, January 17). Retrieved February 22, 2023, from https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/blood-and-lymph/hyperglycaemia-high-blood-sugar#:~:text=Regularly%20having%20high%20blood%20sugar,doctor%20or%20diabetes%20care%20team.https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/blood-and-lymph/hyperglycaemia-high-blood-sugar#:~:text=Regularly%20having%20hihttps://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/blood-and-lymph/hyperglycaemia-high-blood-sugar#:~:text=Regularly%20having%20high%20blood%20sugar,doctor%20or%20diabetes%20care%20team.gh%20blood%20sugar,doctor%20or%20diabetes%20care%20team.
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, November 19). Type 2 diabetes. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved February 22, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-2-diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20351193#:~:text=Diabetes%20is%20associated%20with%20an,damage%20(neuropathy)%20in%20limbs.
- Yin J, Xing H, Ye J. Efficacy of berberine in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metabolism. 2008 May;57(5):712-7. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2008.01.013. PMID: 18442638; PMCID: PMC2410097.