The Best Herbs and Supplements for Diabetes

These 10 herbs and supplements are the best for diabetes and have shown promise in lowering blood sugar, boosting insulin sensitivity and reducing high blood pressure and cholesterol.

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Best Supplements for Diabetes: Gymnema Sylvestre

Main use: Lowering blood sugar

Typical dosage: 200 to 250 milligrams twice daily.

This plant's Hindi name translates as "sugar destroyer," and is one of the best supplements for diabetes, said to reduce the ability to detect sweetness. It's regarded as one of the most powerful herbs for blood-sugar control. It may work by boosting the activity of enzymes that help cells use glucose or by stimulating the production of insulin. Though it hasn't been studied ­extensively, it's not known to cause serious side effects.

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Best Supplements for Diabetes: Bitter Melon

Main use: Lowering blood sugar

Typical dosage: 50 to 100 millilitres (approximately 3 to 6 tablespoons) of the juice daily.

The aptly named bitter melon is one of the best supplements for diabetes, thought to help cells use glucose more effectively and block sugar absorption in the intestine. When Philippine researchers had men and women take bitter melon in capsule form for three months, they had slight, but consistently, lower blood sugar than those taking a placebo. Gastrointestinal problems are possible side effects.

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Top Supplements for Diabetes: Magnesium

Main use: Lowering blood sugar

Typical dosage: 250 to 350 milligrams once a day.

Magnesium deficiency is not uncommon in people with diabetes, and it can worsen high blood sugar and insulin resistance. Some studies suggest that a top supplement is magnesium may improve insulin function and lower blood sugar levels, but other studies have shown no benefit. Have your doctor check you for deficiency before supplementing with magnesium.

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Excellent Supplements for Diabetes: Prickly Cactus Pear

Main use: Lowering blood sugar

Typical dosage: If you eat it as a food, aim for 1/2 cup of cooked cactus fruit a day. Otherwise, follow label directions.

The ripe fruit of this cactus has been shown in some small studies to be an excellent supplement for diabetes, lowering blood sugar ­levels. You may be able to find the fruit in your grocery store, but if not, look for it as a juice or powder at health food stores. Researchers speculate that the fruit may possibly lower blood sugar because it contains components that work similarly to insulin. The fruit is also high in fiber.

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Awesome Supplement for Diabetes: Gamma-Linolenic Acid

Main use: Easing nerve pain

Typical dosage: 270 to 540 milligrams once a day.

Gamma-linolenic acid, or GLA, is a fatty acid found in evening primrose oil, and is known as an effective supplement for diabetes. Some research suggests that people with diabetes have lower than optimal levels of GLA, and studies have found that the supplement can reduce and ­prevent nerve pain associated with diabetes.

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Effective Diabetes Supplements: Chromium

Main use: Lowering blood sugar

Typical dosage: 200 micrograms once daily.

This trace mineral is an effective supplement for diabetes, thought to enhance the action of insulin as well as being involved in carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism. Some research shows that it helps normalize blood sugar - but only in people who are deficient in chromium.

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Effective Diabetes Supplement: Billberry

Main use: Protecting the eyes and nerves

Typical dosage: 80 to 120 milligrams two times per day of standardized bilberry extract.

This relative of the blueberry is an effective supplement for diabetes and contains powerful antioxidants in its fruit and leaves. These anti­oxidants, called anthocyanidins, seem to help prevent damage to tiny blood vessels that can result in nerve pain and retinopathy (damage to the eye's retina). Animal studies have also suggested that bilberry may lower blood sugar.

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Amazing Supplement for Diabetes: Alpha-Lipoic Acid

Main uses: Easing nerve pain, lowering blood sugar

Typical dosage: 600 to 800 milligrams a day.

Called ALA for short, this vitamin-like substance and amazing diabetes supplement neutralizes many types of free radicals. A build-up of free radicals, caused in part by high blood sugar, can lead to nerve damage and other problems. ALA may also help muscle cells take up blood sugar. In a German study, a team of scientists had 40 adults take either an ALA supplement or a placebo. At the end of the four-week study, the ALA group had improved their insulin sensitivity 27 percent. The placebo group showed no improvement. Other studies have shown a decrease in nerve pain, numbness, and burning.

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Leading Supplements for Diabetes: Fenugreek

Main use: Lowering blood sugar

Typical dosage: 5 to 30 grams with each meal or 15 to 90 grams with one meal per day.

These seeds, used in Indian cooking, are a leading supplement for diabetes, having been found to lower blood sugar, increase insulin sensitivity, and reduce high cholesterol, according to several animal and human studies. The effect may be partly due to the seeds' high fiber content. The seeds also contain an amino acid that appears to boost the release of insulin. In one of the largest studies on fenugreek, 60 people who took 25 grams daily showed significant improvements in blood sugar control and post-meal spikes.

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Leading Supplements for Diabetes: Ginseng

Main use: Lowering blood sugar

Typical dosage: 1 to 3 grams a day in capsule or tablet form, or 3 to 5 millilitres of tincture three times a day.

Known for its immune-boosting and disease-fighting benefits, this Chinese herb has several positive diabetes studies behind it, making it a leading supplement for the disease. Re­searchers have found that ginseng slows carbohydrate absorption; increases cells' ability to use glucose; and increases insulin secretion from the pancreas. A team from the University of Toronto has repeatedly demonstrated that ginseng capsules lower blood glucose 15 to 20 percent compared to placebo pills.