MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

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

Citrullus colocynthis

Coccinia cordifolia

Eicosapentaenoic acid

Ganoderma lucidum

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Gynostemma pentaphyllum

Hintonia latiflora

Lichen genus Cladonia BAFS “Yagel-Detox”

Marine collagen peptides

Nettle (Urtica dioica)

Oral aloe vera

Pterocarpus marsupium (vijayasar)

Salacia reticulate

Scoparia dulcis porridge

Silymarin

Soybean-derived pinitol extract

Touchi soybean extract

Traditional Chinese medicine herbs:

Berberine

Fructus Mume

Gegen Qinlian Decoction (GQD)

Jianyutangkang (JYTK) with metformin

Jinlida with metformin

Sancaijiangtang

Shen-Qi-Formula (SQF) with insulin

Tang-Min-Ling-Wan (TM81)

Xiaoke (contains glyburide)

Zishentongluo (ZSTL)

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.

20 Responses to Alternative treatments for diabetes: I strongly advise caution

  • Allow me to get the ball rolling! There is an even easier way to cure diabetes than those so called alternative cures above. You simply change your diet to a plant-based diet. Even doing this for 2 weeks can cure your diabetes. Here is one video https://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-not-to-die-from-diabetes/ while there are many more at the Home page. Just type in “Diabetes”.

    • I very much if these claims stand up to any sort of close scrutiny. Important factors in managing type 2 diabetes include achieving a healthy weight, exercise and managing diet. This works for some but not all people. If sticking to a plant based diet involves weight gain it may help. But you would also need to think about nutrients not easily obtainable fro plants alone.

  • Ernst said: “Most diabetics need life-long medication”

    That’s not a very detailed answer and a wrong claim. A big part of the persons with diabetes type 2 can achieve a cure of diabetes.. They do not need life-long medication anymore..
    You will have to adjust your so-called healthy Western diet, a more active lifestyle and substantial weight reduction are essential..
    If you fall back into the wrong eating habits, then diabetes can come back.

    http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)33102-1/fulltext
    https://nos.nl/artikel/2221333-andere-leefstijl-helpt-bij-diabetes-2.html

    I am from NL, forgive me if my English is not 100 % correct 😉

  • And as with all the natural products, there is no standard for purity, dosage and interactions. At best useless and worst fatal.

  • “Ayurveda polyherbal medication” looks like the common silly Western Wellness Ayurveda CAM using the stupid Vata Pitta Kapha constitutional criterias for diagnose.

    Ayurveda Indigenious Medicine of India in the field of internal medicine can only be practiced by a Kayachikitsa M.D. (Ayurvedic doctor B.A.M.S. and additionally 6 semesters specialing in Ayurvedic internal medicine M.D.) as the studies and certificates are regulated in India by law since 1970 (The Indian Medicine Central Council Act 1970; Act. No. 48 of 1970) and the teaching is done in Sanskrit and Malealam languages e.g. in Kerala. The main books are only available in Malealam and not in English or any other language.

    You can count such Ayurvedic Kayachikitsa M.D.s in Western Societies with one hand…
    according to their information there are few and different medications in “diabetes” in Ayurvedic textbooks named as “sweet urine disorders” according to the symptoms and diagnose:

    Medication for some “sweet urine disorders” could be e.g. Amruthamehari churna and a few others but not only with one “Ayurvedic polyherbal preparation” without any other treatment e.g. together with a whole treatment procedure including a change of nutrition and advices for nutrition as it is the standard in Diabetes type II in western medicine too …

  • There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes, which French people call “thin diabetes” (diabète maigre), means that the pancreas cannot make enough insulin to keep the person alive. People with thin diabetes need lifelong insulin replacement therapy. In contrast, type 2 diabetes, which French people call “fat diabetes” (diabète gras), means that the body is resisting the effects of insulin, to reduce the storage of dietary fat. If you have fat diabetes, it means that you are a naturally thin person but are eating a diet that is too rich. Since type 2 diabetes is a defense against fat storage, weight loss of any cause will reverse it. An extremely low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet will solve the problem even more quickly. In contrast, many of the drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes can make the problem worse in the long run by promoting weight gain. I explain all this in my book Thin Diabetes, Fat Diabetes: Prevent Type 1, Cure Type 2. www. thindiabetes. com

    • OH DEAR!
      I think you just disqualified yourself from knowing enough to write a book about this subject.

    • An extremely low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet will solve the problem even more quickly.

      Are you quite sure?

      • No response seems to be forthcoming.
        Let us hope no one follows this lady’s advice.
        And if someone does, despite it being against the general consensus of health care expertise, that she is adequately covered by insurance to reimburse the poor soles for the consequences.

        • I am quite sure. Here’s how much improvement people can get within the first 7 days of a low-fat vegan diet: https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-13-99

          In 1949, diabetes expert HP Himsworth wrote an important article in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, explaining that fatty diets are associated with high diabetes mortality and low-fat, high-carb diets are associated with low diabetes mortality. During wartime food rationing, diabetes mortality dropped sharply in the European countries, as starches replaced fats in the diet. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2081100/?page=3

          Back in the 1940s, Walter Kempner showed that you could cure type 2 diabetes by having your patients eat nothing but rice, fruit, and sugar. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00325481.1958.11692236?journalCode=ipgm20

          • @LAT

            Laurie, your comments display all the hallmarks of an enthusiastic amateur. A quick check on Medline shows there are, to date, 115,045 publications on “diabetes mellitus, type 2”. From those you select just three, of which two date back to the 1940s. Are you not familiar with the term ‘cherry picking’? Science doesn’t progress by selective citation of the papers that agree with your prior hypothesis. Is it not just possible that among the other 115,042 publications on the subject there just might be work that overrides, contradicts or supplants your pet theories?

            …diabetes expert HP Himsworth wrote an important article…

            This statement embodies the ‘argument from authority’ fallacy. Regardless of the date of this piece, by what criterion do you judge this article to be ‘very important’? It’s a lengthy comment on a paper in the PRSM, for goodness’ sake! Sure, it contains data, but there’s no way on its own that comment is particularly noteworthy. Why did HP Himsworth not choose to publish his data in the normal manner, via peer review?

            “I’m quite sure”. Yes, sadly that’s the common position of someone who, ignorant of 99.99% of a biomedical field, evangelically posts their beliefs in a ‘sure cure’ on blogs.

          • @Laurie E Thomas

            I showed your website and your theories to some specialists in medicine and endocrinology. Their response was unanimously one of startled disbelief that anyone can be so royally delusional.
            Like professor Odds kindly pointed out in so many words: You are wrong.

            You should be warned that the totally erroneous advice you address to people with diabetes, namely about changing to a diet high in sugars and other carbohydrates may lead to very serious consequences for many of them and even premature death.
            Let us hope that people are sensible enough not to follow your advice and if many do, that you are insured for liability.

          • Yes, any decent doctor would try diet first. Unfortunately, many doctors are giving their patients dietary advice that makes the diabetes worse, not better. Several years ago, the former editor-in-chief of JAMA invited me to coauthor this editorial to explain the problem: https://www.medpagetoday.com/columns/at-large/31400

            Interestingly, Bart has poor reading comprehension:

            “ADA group participants with a BMI >25 kg/m2 (all but three ADA group participants) were prescribed energy intake deficits of 500–1,000 kcal.”

            “Forty-three percent (21 of 49) of the vegan group and 26% (13 of 50) of the ADA group participants reduced diabetes medications.”

      • Are you quite sure?

        I think she is right. It will solve the problem: the patient will be dead, hence the patient will no longer have any problems. I’m just not completely convinced that it is a particularly pleasant method to solve problems. Surely, there must be better methods. It seems that my native Belgium has some expertise with methods that might be more enjoyable.

        • This randomized controlled trial shows that the diabetic patients’ health improves but the pharma companies suffer when the patients eat a low-fat vegan diet instead of counting calories: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/29/8/1777

          • any decent doctor would first try to control type 2 diabetes with diet before she prescribes medicines.

          • but the pharma companies suffer when the patients eat a low-fat vegan diet instead of counting calories

            Interestingly, the article referred to does not talk about suffering pharma companies, and it does not talk about counting calories either.

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