Natural Treatment for Diabetes

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: November 2023 | Last updated: November 2023

Many people are interested in using natural treatments to help manage type 2 diabetes (T2D). Natural treatments include vitamins, herbal supplements, and dietary supplements. These should never replace standard treatment with medications, diet, and exercise. Natural treatments work better when combined with standard treatment.1

Some natural products may improve blood sugar control and health outcomes. However, supplements are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the same way other drugs are. This means that no outside agency confirms the ingredients or suggested dose.1-4

For example, a fish oil supplement may have more or less fish oil than listed on the label. A supplement may also contain ingredients that are not labeled correctly or at all. This can be dangerous. It can lead to taking too much or taking unwanted ingredients.2,3

The FDA created good manufacturing practices (GMPs) to help this situation. GMPs are guidelines for companies to follow when making supplements. The FDA rarely inspects facilities making supplements in the United States. Companies outside the United States do not have these inspections. But many more supplements are sold than are tested.2,3

Talk to your doctor before taking any natural treatments. Some may have serious side effects. They may also interfere with other drugs you are taking.1,2

Alpha-lipoic acid

Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant made by the body. It is found in certain meats and dark vegetables. Alpha-lipoic acid is also available as a supplement. It may reduce blood sugar and reduce pain from diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage).1,2,5


Beta-glucan is a dietary fiber from algae, bacteria, fungi, yeast, and plants. It is typically used to lower cholesterol. Beta-glucan may help control blood sugar levels. We need more research to confirm this.6

Calcium and vitamin D

Calcium is a mineral found in dairy products, leafy vegetables, and eggs. Vitamin D is found in fish, eggs, fortified milk, and fish oil. The body also produces vitamin D during sunlight exposure. Low levels of calcium and vitamin D have been linked to a higher risk of developing T2D. However, taking vitamin D does not seem to help people with T2D. We need more research on the role of calcium and vitamin D in T2D.5,7


Chromium is a trace mineral. We need a small amount of chromium in our daily diet. Whole grains and some vegetables naturally contain chromium. Supplements are available and safe in low doses for a short time.1-3

Chromium works with insulin to help remove glucose from the blood. When chromium levels are too low, your body cannot use sugar well. Adding chromium supplements to standard treatment seems to improve blood sugar control in people with T2D.1,3,5


Glucomannan is a dietary fiber from the root of the konjac plant. It is also available as a dietary supplement. Glucomannan may slow how food moves through the stomach. This can help reduce blood sugar. Some studies have shown these benefits for people with T2D. But we need more research to understand its safety and benefits.6,8

Guar gum

Guar gum is a dietary fiber from guar beans. It is added to certain foods as a thickening agent. Ice cream, sauces, salad dressings, and other foods contain guar gum. It is also available as a dietary supplement. Guar gum supplements may improve blood sugar control. But there is not enough evidence to suggest it as a treatment.9


Magnesium is a mineral found in high amounts in cereals, nuts, and spinach. It plays a key role in helping the body process glucose. People who have lower magnesium levels may have a higher risk of developing T2D. Many studies have explored whether magnesium supplements help people with T2D. But there is no evidence of any benefits.1


Polyphenols are a group of antioxidants found in many different foods. Some examples of polyphenols include:10,11

  • Catechin (in tea, red wine, and cocoa)
  • Luteolin (in peppers, basil, and broccoli)
  • Resveratrol (in peanuts, grapes, and cocoa)
  • Quercetin (in fruits, beans, and tea)
  • Curcumin (in turmeric)
  • Gallic acid (in fruits, tea, and dark chocolate)

These polyphenols may reduce blood pressure and blood sugar. But we need more research to understand how effective they are.1,2,12,13


Psyllium is a dietary fiber from certain plants. It is more often used to lower cholesterol or treat digestive problems. Combining psyllium with other treatments may improve blood sugar levels. We need more research to understand how to use psyllium.4,14

Herbal supplements

Herbal supplements are products derived from plants. Many of them have been used for centuries to treat various conditions. They often contain chemicals that may reduce blood sugar. These herbal supplements may be helpful to manage T2D. Some herbal supplements studied for use in T2D include:2,15-19

  • Berberine
  • Bitter melon
  • Cinnamon
  • Fenugreek
  • Flaxseed
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Ginseng
  • Green tea
  • Gurmar
  • Holy basil
  • Milk thistle
  • Saffron
  • Sweet potato

Cinnamon and fenugreek may help manage blood sugar. But studies often provide conflicting evidence. There is not yet enough proof to support using them to manage T2D. But cinnamon can be a good replacement for when flavoring food.1,5

Many herbal supplements have side effects or interfere with your other medications. Talk to your doctor before taking any herbal supplements.2

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