Most diabetics need life-long medication. Understandably, this makes many fed-up, and some think that perhaps natural remedies might be a less harmful, less intrusive way to control their condition. They don’t have to look far to find an impressively large choice.
This article in the Canadian Journal of Diabetes was aimed at reviewing CAM, including natural health products (NHP) and others, such as yoga, acupuncture, tai chi and reflexology, that have been studied for the prevention and treatment of diabetes and its complications. It claims that, in adults with type 2 diabetes, the following NHP have been shown to lower glycated hemoglobin (A1C) by at least 0.5% in randomized controlled trials lasting at least 3 months:
Ayurveda polyherbal formulation
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Lichen genus Cladonia BAFS “Yagel-Detox”
Marine collagen peptides
Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Oral aloe vera
Pterocarpus marsupium (vijayasar)
Scoparia dulcis porridge
Soybean-derived pinitol extract
Touchi soybean extract
Traditional Chinese medicine herbs:
Gegen Qinlian Decoction (GQD)
Jianyutangkang (JYTK) with metformin
Jinlida with metformin
Shen-Qi-Formula (SQF) with insulin
Xiaoke (contains glyburide)
Trigonella foenum-graecum (fenugreek)
Even though the authors caution that these remedies should not be recommended for routine use, I fear that such lists do motivate diabetics to give them a try. If they do, the outcome could be that:
- Nothing at all happens other than the patient wasting some money on useless remedies. The clinical trials on which the above list is based are usually so flimsy that their findings are next to meaningless and quite possibly false-positive.
- The patient might, if the remedy does affect blood sugar levels, develop hypoglycaemia. If severe, this could be life-threatening.
- The patient might trust in a natural remedy and thus discontinue the prescribed anti-diabetic medication. In this case, she could develop hyperglycaemia. If severe, this could be life-threatening.
It seems obvious that none of the possible outcomes are in the patients’ interest. I fear that it is dangerous to tempt diabetics with the possibility that a natural remedy. Even if such treatments did work, they are not well-researched, unreliable and do not have sufficiently large effects (a 0.5% decrease of glycated haemoglobin is hardly impressive) to represent realistic options.