December 2021

Natural Medicines for Diabetes

Every year, 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes – it affects over 10% of the US population. As more patients are turning to natural medicines to help manage this condition, providers need to understand the evidence so they can discuss these options with their patients.

You’ll likely get questions about cassia cinnamon. Some clinical research shows that taking cassia cinnamon helps control blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. But it doesn’t seem to affect HbA1c. If patients want to give it a try, 1-2 grams by mouth daily has been used safely for up to 3 months. But tell patients to avoid taking higher doses – doses over 6 grams daily have been linked to liver damage. Also, make sure patients understand that there are many different types of cinnamon, including Ceylon cinnamon – only cassia cinnamon shows potential benefits for diabetes.

Flaxseed is another one to consider. Several small clinical studies show that taking flaxseed by mouth might slightly improve blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes. Whole or ground flaxseed seems to be the most helpful when used for at least 12 weeks. But tell patients to steer clear of raw or unripe flaxseed due to potential cyanogenic glycoside or cyanide content.

Increasing dietary fiber intake might also help. Oatsblond psyllium, and soy are all ingredients to consider incorporating into the diet. They appear to help with blood sugar control and are safe for most people when eaten in typical food amounts.

There’s interest in many other ingredients, including gymnema, which might help reduce sugar cravings by blocking the taste of both sweetness and bitterness. American ginsengberberine, and chromium are also of interest. Keep in mind that some natural medicines might be beneficial, but combining these products with conventional diabetes medicines might cause further reductions in blood sugar, so it’s important to monitor blood sugar levels closely. Also, remind patients not to use any of these ingredients in place of conventional diabetes medications. Check out our Comparative Effectiveness chart to learn more.

The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2024 NatMed. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. NatMed is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.