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Natural Ways to Lower Your Blood Sugar

While prescription diabetes drugs can quickly lower blood sugar levels, they usually lose their potencies with time as insulin production falls. Natural supplements, on the other hand, provide sustained hypoglycemic effects and some of them (Gymnema sylvestre, for example) even increase the population of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. This article discusses the most effective herbs, vitamins and minerals that can help lower your blood sugar.
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Studies show that at least 2 varieties of ginseng have antidiabetic properties. These are Panax ginseng (Asian ginseng) and Panax quinquefolius (American ginseng).

To lower blood sugar levels, ginseng slows down the absorption of carbohydrates from the intestines. This prevents spiking sugar levels following meals and allows the body ample time to better control the amount of glucose in the blood with the amount of insulin it produces.

Yet another way by which ginseng promotes better glycemic control is by stimulating insulin production in the pancreas. Increased insulin secretion can help convert more free glucose to stored glycogen.

Lastly, ginseng improves the uptake and utilization of glucose by the cells of the body.

The results of studies done on the antidiabetic properties of ginseng indicate that the herb can reduce blood glucose levels by as much as 20%. Besides reducing blood glucose levels, ginger can also reduce the level of glycosylated hemoglobin (a long-term measure of blood sugar control) over time.  

These studies also show that the optimal dose of ginseng for achieving the best glycemic control is between 1 and 3 grams. Furthermore, ginseng works best when it is taken 40 minutes before a meal.


Fenugreek seed extract is a traditional remedy for increasing milk production in lactating women and improving male libido. However, studies done on the health benefits of the herb show that it is a potent antidiabetic agent too.

Fenugreek is useful in the management of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

It can boost insulin production, increase insulin sensitivity, reduce the absorption of glucose and lower blood cholesterol levels.

Experts believe that fenugreek contains a unique amino acid that improves insulin action and that its ability to lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels is due to its high fiber content.

The effective daily dose of fenugreek is 15 – 90 g. It has been demonstrated to reduce postprandial and fasting blood glucose levels especially when taken with meals.

Holy Basil

The essential oils of holy basil leaf extract possess antimicrobial, antioxidant, antitumor, antiplatelet, hypolipidemic and hypoglycemic properties. This is herb is also the Ayurvedic remedy known as tulsi and it is traditionally used to treat asthma, diabetes and stress.

Basil can reduce blood sugar levels by as much as 18% and its cholesterol-lowering properties make it ideal for preventing cardiovascular complications in diabetic patients.

Basil reduces blood sugar levels by significantly increasing the storage of glucose. However, its effect on the conversion of glucose to glycogen for storage is unique. While this herb reduces the amount of glycogen stored in the liver and skeletal muscles, it increases the glycogen store of the kidneys 10-folds.

Since the body recruits the glycogen stores of the skeletal muscles and liver faster than the glycogen in the kidneys, basil significantly reduces the amount of glucose released back into the blood from glycogen.

Instead, it encourages the body to meet its pressing energy needs by burning fats.

Holy basil is available as dried leaves for tea. The recommended dosage is 1 teaspoon of the dried herb taken 3 times daily as tea.

Bitter Melon

Also known as balsam pear and Momordica charantia, bitter melon has a moderate but significant hypoglycemic effect.

This herb can lower blood sugar level by reducing the absorption of simple sugars from the gastrointestinal tract. It also improves insulin action on glucose by stimulating cells to take up and use glucose more efficiently.

Bitter melon is available at health stores as fresh juice, dried herbs and decoction. The recommended daily dose of the fresh juice is 3 – 6 tablespoons.


Gurmar or Gymnema sylvestre has been used to treat diabetes in Indian traditional medicine for almost two millennia. This herb affects sugar metabolism in multiple ways and holds the distinction of being one of the few herbs to reduce sugar craving.

Gurmar leaf extract has an anti-sweet effect because it reduces the taste of sugar on the tongue. This effect can last as long as 2 hours and it can reduce sugar cravings in the long-term.

Furthermore, gurmar can also lower blood sugar level by other means. It boosts insulin secretion in the pancreas and, therefore, increases the conversion of glucose to glycogen and the utilization of glucose by the cells of the body.

Because gurmar promotes the regeneration of beta cells to improve insulin secretion, it is especially effective for treating type 1 diabetes. This unique ability also makes gurmar safe for non-diabetics because the regeneration of pancreas beta cells (and the resulting hypoglycemic effect) only occurs when beta cells are dying (as is the case in type 1 and type 2 diabetes).

In addition, gurmar blocks adrenal hormones from releasing more glucose into the blood from the glycogen stored in the liver.

The recommended daily dose of gurmar leaf extract is 400 – 500 mg taken in two divided doses. This herb can also be combined with insulin in the management of type 1 diabetes.

Onion and Garlic

Onion and garlic are related plants. They also share the same antidiabetic properties.

The hypoglycemic properties of onion and garlic are due to the sulfur-containing compounds in these plants. One of these compounds, S-methyl cysteine sulfoxide, was extracted from onion and found to improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

The major hypoglycemic phytochemical in garlic is allicin, another sulfur compound.

Allicin prevents liver enzymes from destroying insulin, and therefore, increases the amount of free glucose removed from the blood and stored as glycogen in the liver.

Onion and garlic can also increase the release of insulin from beta cells; protect the pancreas from oxidative destruction caused by free radicals; and improve cardiovascular health by reducing serum triglyceride levels.


Although there are only a few, small studies investigating the hypoglycemic effect of cinnamon, the results from those studies have all been positive.

In one study, 60 participants with type 2 diabetes were divided into 6 groups. The first 3 groups were given 3 different doses (1, 3 and 6 g per day) of cinnamon extract while the other 3 groups received the corresponding doses of placebo.

After 40 days of supplementation, the results of the study showed that all 3 cinnamon groups had significantly lower fasting glucose levels and better lipid profiles (lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides).

Subsequent studies have replicated these results. In addition, cinnamon has also been proven to prevent blood sugar spikes after meals.

These studies also confirm that cinnamon can be safely combined with standard diabetes drugs.


Salacia oblonga is one of the important Indian herbs used in the treatment of diabetes. It is also well-studied and scientists have identified the active phytochemical responsible for the hypoglycemic properties of salacia.

Salacia lowers blood sugar level by inhibiting a class of enzymes known as alpha glucosidases.

These enzymes are responsible for breaking down carbohydrates into simple sugars in the intestine. Therefore, this action of salacia reduces the amount of sugars ready for absorption into the blood.

Besides lowering blood sugar, studies also show that salacia can reduce insulin levels. This reduction is especially important considering that the herb also reduces the amount of glucose in the blood. High insulin levels coupled with low blood sugar can cause insulin resistance over time.

Therefore, salacia can improve glycemic control as well as insulin sensitivity.


Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 deficiency is one of the common nutrition deficiencies among diabetics. The body loses more of this vitamin even as the disease advances.

Prolonged vitamin B6 deficiency can cause glucose intolerance and impaired insulin action.

Vitamin B6 is linked to insulin action through tryptophan. Because the vitamin is required for the metabolism of tryptophan, the body accumulates metabolic intermediates of tryptophan in the absence of vitamin B6.

These intermediates bind to insulin and prevent it from converting glucose to glycogen and driving glucose into cells. Therefore, vitamin B6 deficiency leads to poor blood glucose control.

Although vitamin B6 only has a modest effect on blood sugar levels, it can improve glucose tolerance especially in diabetics with vitamin B6 deficiency. Furthermore, vitamin B6 supplementation can prevent some complications of diabetes such as nerve damage.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency is also common among diabetics especially those with type 1 diabetes. A large epidemiological study involving over 2,000 participants provided a solid link between low vitamin D level and type 1 diabetes.

Vitamin D deficiency can also reduce the serum levels of magnesium, calcium and parathyroid hormones. Since magnesium can affect blood sugar level, low vitamin D can also indirectly lead to poor glycemic control.

Low vitamin D level can also cause insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes.

Because vitamin D deficiency can reduce bone mass especially in children and women, vitamin D supplements may also be recommended to prevent metabolic bone diseases in diabetics.



Magnesium is one of the most important micronutrients in the body. It is essential to more than 300 biochemical reactions. It is important for maintaining bone health, cardiac function, blood pressure, as well as the optimal functioning of the immune system, nerves and muscles.

Studies have also confirmed that magnesium can help regulate blood sugar levels. In fact, low magnesium levels worsen glycemic control and insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes.

Magnesium is involved in the mechanism by which insulin drives glucose into cells. Therefore, low magnesium levels can reduce the glucose utilization and the amount taken up by cells. The benefit of magnesium to insulin action was demonstrated by a group of researchers who increased insulin sensitivity in skeletal muscles by increasing the intracellular magnesium in the cells of the muscle.

The importance of magnesium is highlighted by the fact that some of the popular prescription of diabetes medications, like metformin, improve insulin sensitivity and glycemic control by increasing intracellular magnesium levels.


Chromium is a trace essential nutrient required for fat and carbohydrate metabolism. It is also needed by cells to properly respond to insulin.

Chromium deficiency can cause unhealthy weight loss and impaired glucose tolerance. Low blood level of chromium is quite common among diabetics.

Studies show that chromium supplementation is beneficial for improving glycemic control in people suffering from type 1 and type 2 diabetes as well as steroid-induced diabetes. While chromium only produce modest improvements in women suffering from gestational diabetes, it can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes later in life.

Chromium supplementation is especially beneficial to diabetics who are also experiencing depression.

In one study, chromium improved satiety, reduced sugar and fat craving and improved the symptoms of depression in a group of diabetics suffering from atypical depression.

How Chromium Lower Blood Sugar
  • Improve the ability of insulin to control blood glucose level
  • Increase the number of insulin receptors on cells and improve the binding of insulin to these receptors
  • Increase glucose utilization by the cells of the body as well as insulin sensitivity

A recent review of 15 studies investigating the benefits of chromium for diabetics found overwhelming evidence that the mineral can improve long-term glycemic control.


Vanadium is a trace mineral and a non-essential nutrient in the body.

To lower blood sugar, vanadium mimics insulin. This insulin-mimetic action increases the population of insulin receptors in the cells of the body, and this directly translates to improved utilization of glucose and better glycemic control.

Besides improving insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake by cells, vanadium has also been shown to increase glucose metabolism and the conversion of glucose to glycogen for storage.

In addition, vanadium regulates the production of glucose from the glycogen stored in the liver.

Evidence from several studies confirm these hypoglycemic effects of vanadium. These studies also show that vanadium can reduce the level of glycosylated hemoglobin and even reduce the amount of insulin required by people with type 1 diabetes.

Care should be taken when treating diabetes with vanadium because the mineral is toxic at high doses.

Organic, chelated vanadium compounds are preferred to inorganic vanadium salts because of their lower toxicity and side effects.

Alpha Lipoic Acid

Alpha lipoic acid is a disulfide compound naturally synthesized in the body. Although it exists in 2 forms, the natural form, R-alpha lipoic acid, is the one with significant hypoglycemic property.

Alpha lipoic acid functions as cofactor in many enzymatic reactions in the body. It is also involved in glucose metabolism. Therefore, this supplement can increase glucose uptake by the cells of the body and reduce blood glucose level.

In addition, studies have shown that alpha lipoic acid can increase insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes.

The combination of increased insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake means that alpha lipoic acid can lower blood sugar by improving the utilization of glucose in the body.





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