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Like many of you, I’m searching for answers. The answers to questions like, will this ____ help my diabetes? Will ____ bring down my blood sugars? Good questions for sure but often without definitive answers. Knowing this, do we try something new?

My answer: sure, if the potential for harm is low.

Complementary and alternative treatments for managing diabetes

I’m speaking specifically about complementary or alternative options, more specifically, herbals. I am constantly hearing people defend herbals by saying they are not drugs; that they work with the body and enhance the way the body works. In my thinking, herbals are still drugs. They are given or taken to fix something that is wrong. They can have side effects; they have upper limits that must be observed. There can be potential for harm.

There also can be potential for good. Very good. Let’s think about the wording. Complementary means, in this case, the herbal, can work with other things such as diet to achieve lower blood sugar. The alternative option, I’m a little suspicious of. Alternative means to replace. Will I replace an herbal drug for a medication I’m taking? No.

Western medicine or herbal medicine?

I have mostly been a traditionalist when it came to fixing something in my body that was wrong. I go to the doctor, ask a ton of questions, follow his advice, take the medicine prescribed. But I have also wondered about complementary medicines too. I have sought out answers and came up with very few. My wallet, however, has one very big answer; buy it, but know going in I may be putting out dollars for minimal results, if any.

I have tried some herbals like cinnamon, CoQ10, bitter melon and berberine to name a few. They didn’t all work for me. I saw some lowering of my blood sugars with cinnamon and also with bitter melon. When I have read the research on many herbals available that can lower blood sugar, I’m just not finding the evidence to support there being a positive influence. The studies that are on the positive side often have small sample sizes, in other words, small numbers of people took part in the study. In attempts to verify the results with larger sample sizes, the follow-up studies cannot get the same results. But here’s the thing. Some of these herbals have been used for generations in other countries. They don’t have research behind them. They have the wisdom of the elders. My research brain finds it easy to dismiss, however, dismissive arrogance hasn’t always gotten us to where we need to be. Science is important but before we close the door dismissing what generations have found, maybe we should listen, at the very least with one ear. I use my pharmacist as a resource. Now I can see you rolling your eyes. Before you dismiss pharmacists from having the interest or knowledge regarding herbals, remember some pay to have access to large databases that speak specifically to herbals. They can tell you if there is any potential harm in taking it.

Questions to ask before starting herbal medicines for diabetes

I ask some questions before starting any herbal:

  1. Can I get this through food? Our bodies absorb food best.
  2. Is there any known harm associated with it?
  3. Do I have to take a mega dose to achieve a result?
  4. When will I see a change in my blood sugars?
  5. How long can I safely continue to take it for? Is there harm if I take it longer?
  6. What will happen if I take it with my prescription drugs?

When searching for new options to lower your blood sugar, there’s only one thing to remember. Caution.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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