Diabetes is a condition where blood glucose (sugar) levels are consistently too high, eventually leading to damage of tissues and organs such as nerves, blood vessels, skin, heart, kidneys, and eyes. Approximately 1 in 4 African-American women over age 55 have diabetes, and the rate of diabetes in younger African-American women, and even children is growing at an alarming rate.
In addition to diet and exercise, there are many herbs and nutrients that can help to keep blood glucose in check. One particularly effective herb is called Gymnema sylvestre. This plant has been used in India for the treatment of diabetes for over 2,000 years. Commonly known as the “sugar destroyer,” it is mainly used to decrease elevated blood sugar levels and help control appetite and sugar cravings.
Gymnema’s action is via several mechanisms: It decreases fasting blood sugar levels, increases secretion of insulin, and inhibits glucose absorption in the gut. It also has the secondary effect of reducing appetite for several hours after ingestion. It is aptly named the sugar destroyer, because after contacting the tongue, Gymnema temporarily desensitizes taste buds to the taste of sweet (for 30 min to 1 hr!).
Note for diabetics and pre-diabetics: if you’re already taking insulin or an oral hypoglycemic drug, such as Metformin, you may need to decrease your dosage if adding Gymnema. Always tell your doctor what supplements you are taking, and monitor your blood glucose regularly.