The 10 Best Herbs for Blood Sugar

High blood sugar is a common occurrence in today’s world. The Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) estimates that 37 million Americans have diabetes, or 1 in 10 people. …

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Written by: Daniel Powers, MS
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High blood sugar is a common occurrence in today’s world.

The Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) estimates that 37 million Americans have diabetes, or 1 in 10 people.

Herbs and other natural remedies can be a helpful natural way to manage blood sugar.

This article looks at the scientific research behind the best herbs for blood sugar.

Herbs for blood sugar

What Is Hyperglycemia?

Hyperglycemia is a health condition that is characterized by high amounts of sugar in the blood.

Hyperglycemia occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough of the hormone insulin or the body cannot use insulin properly. Insulin helps to move sugar from the bloodstream into the cells. Once inside the cells, sugar is converted into energy for immediate use or stored for the future.

There are four primary types of diabetes:

  • Prediabetes (i.e. elevated blood sugar levels)
  • Type 1 diabetes (a genetic disorder involving the pancreas)
  • Type 2 diabetes (diet-related and develops over time)
  • Gestational Diabetes (diabetes while pregnant)

Diet and exercise alone may help to control diabetes for some individuals. For others, a combination of medication and healthy habits will keep them at their best.

It should be noted that using herbs for high blood sugar can help to reduce elevated blood sugar levels, especially for individuals with prediabetes.

Typical Treatments For Elevated Blood Sugar:

Standard treatment for high blood sugar includes using a class of pharmaceutical drugs known as biguanides.

As far as standard medical treatment, the list of standard blood sugar medicines include:

  • Metformin (biguanide class)
  • Insulin (long- and rapid-acting)
  • Glipizide (sulfonylurea class)
  • Glimepiride (sulfonylurea class)
  • Invokana (sodium glucose cotransporter 2 inhibitor class)
  • Jardiance (SGLT2 class)​​​​​​​
  • Januvia (dipeptidyl peptidase 4 inhibitor)​​​​​​​

Metformin (Fortamet, Glumetza, and others) is generally the first medication prescribed for type 2 diabetes. It works primarily by decreasing glucose production in the liver and improving your body’s insulin sensitivity so that your body uses insulin more effectively.

It should be noted that biguanides like metformin have been tied to a number of side effects, including nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, diarrhea, and generalized weakness. Metformin does not typically cause hypoglycemia (i.e. low blood sugar); however, low blood sugar may occur if metformin is used with other anti-diabetic drugs.

Finding a natural remedy for high blood sugar can help to decrease healthcare costs as well as provide a gentler alternative.

Below is a list of the best blood sugar-lowering herbs.

Best Herbs for Blood Sugar:

Herbal remedies can provide an alternative way to reduce elevated blood sugar levels. If used sensibly, these natural herbs may be able to balance blood sugar levels in the body.

Below are the best herbs for lowering blood sugar.

1. Cinnamon

Research shows that cinnamon is one of the best herbs for stabilizing blood sugar.

A triple-blind clinical trial involving 140 individuals with type II diabetes found that cinnamon supplementation helps to lower blood sugar levels. In this study, the participants were given 500mg of cinnamon (or placebo) twice daily for 3 months. The cinnamon group was found to have a reduction in body weight, blood sugar levels, as well as cholesterol numbers. It was noted that these health benefits were found to be more effective in patients with higher baseline BMI (BMI ≥ 27).

Another triple-blind clinical trial looked at the connection between cinnamon and blood sugar levels. This trial involved 160 individuals with diabetes who were given either 3g of cinnamon or a placebo daily. Over the course of 90 days, individuals in the cinnamon group had statistically significant reductions in various blood sugar markers, including a 0.2% decrease in glycated hemoglobin and 0.55 mmol/L in fasting blood sugar levels.

A meta-analysis reviewed the research on cinnamon and blood sugar and found that it helps to improve glycemic levels in individuals with prediabetes, diabetes, and pre-treatment HbA1c.

Another meta-analysis discovered that studies that used 1.5g of cinnamon daily (or more) had robust blood sugar-lowering effects.

A randomized, placebo-controlled trial found that cinnamon helped to reduce fasting glucose levels, as well as glucose tolerance, in individuals with hyperglycemia over the course of 3 months. In the study, the participants were given either a placebo or 500mg of cinnamon three times daily.

Finally, a clinical trial looked at the effects of Cinnulin PF®, a patented water-soluble extract of Cinnamomum cassia, in prediabetic individuals. The study participants were assigned to supplement their diet with either Cinnulin PF® (500mg) or a placebo for 3-months. At the end of the study, the Cinnulin PF® group was found to have had significant decreases in fasting blood glucose (-8.4%), systolic blood pressure (-3.8%), and an increase in lean body mass (+1.1%).

Summary:

Research indicates that cinnamon may help to stabilize blood sugar in the body.

2. Ginger

Ginger is another important herb for hyperglycemia.

A clinical trial involving individuals with type II diabetes found that consuming 1,600-4,000mg of ginger daily improved blood glucose levels. The researchers noted that this improvement in blood sugar levels was noticed during follow-up sessions, implying that ginger may have the ability to support blood sugar stabilization over an extended period of time.  

Another clinical trial involving individuals with type II diabetes found that supplementing with ginger extract had promising effects on the body’s ability to metabolize glucose and reduce long-term blood sugar levels. It appears that ginger’s active phytochemical content, namely shogaol, gingerol, and paradol, are responsible for this blood sugar lowering action.

Additionally, researchers found that supplementing with 3g of ginger daily had a positive effect on the overall blood sugar markers. Both fasting blood sugar and HbA1c (average blood sugar levels over 3 months) were reduced after patients took a ginger supplement. 

A clinical trial found that ginger extract reduced various blood sugar levels in individuals with diabetes. The researchers noted improvement in fasting blood sugar, HbA1c, and cholesterol health.

Finally, a clinical trial found that 1.2g of dried ginger every day for 3 months effectively decreased blood sugar and cholesterol levels. In addition to “bad” cholesterol levels (LDL) being lowered, ginger was also able to increase levels of “good” cholesterol levels (HDL).

Summary:

Clinical research indicates that ginger may help to support healthy blood sugar levels.

3. Turmeric

Research suggests that turmeric is an important natural remedy for diabetes.

In a 2010 study, researchers found that turmeric supplementation increases the level of insulin secretion after a meal. Insulin helps move glucose into cells. Your cells use glucose (i.e. sugar) for energy. Once glucose moves into your cells, your blood sugar level goes back to normal. Individuals with hyperglycemia often have trouble breaking down sugars due to inconsistent insulin levels.

A clinical trial involving 240 individuals with hyperglycemia (or pre-diabetes) found that curcumin extract significantly reduced fasting blood glucose levels and average blood glucose levels after 3 months. Additionally, no participants in the curcumin group were diagnosed with type II diabetes mellitus, whereas 16.4% of subjects in the placebo group progressed from prediabetes to a type II diabetes diagnosis.

Another study found that turmeric supplementation decreased symptoms involved with type II diabetes kidney degeneration. Patients received 3 capsules of 500mg turmeric per day for 2 months. 

In a comparison study involving diabetes patients, curcumin capsules had a comparable effect to the drug atorvastatin (i.e.e Lipitor®), which is used to balance blood lipid levels.

Summary:

Clinical research indicates that turmeric may help to balance blood sugar levels in the body.

4. Green Tea

Clinical studies indicate that green tea may be one of the best herbs for lowering blood sugar.

In a randomized clinical trial involving 100 patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, participants treated with a cup of green tea daily for 4 weeks saw improvements in insulin resistance and insulin levels when compared to participants who were treated with hibiscus tea.

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involving 77 patients with type 2 diabetes, participants who were given 500mg of green tea 3 times a day for a period of 16 weeks experienced improvements in insulin resistance, triglycerides, and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GP1). GP1 is a hormone that can help regulate blood sugar and releases insulin.

A study involving over 17,000 participants looked into the effect of green tea on diabetes risk over a period of five years. It was found that participants with a daily green tea consumption of 6 cups or more were less likely to develop diabetes than the participants who had a green tea consumption of one cup or less a day.

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial on 80 overweight participants with type 2 diabetes, researchers noted that taking 1,500mg of green tea daily helped to reduce HbA1C, a marker of blood sugar. It should be mentioned, however, that HbA1C was reduced in both the placebo and green tea treatment group.

Summary:

Clinical studies have found that green tea may benefit those with type 2 diabetes by working to improve both blood sugar and insulin levels.

5. Garlic

Research indicates that garlic may be one of the best herbs for diabetes.

A comparison study found that taking a garlic supplement alongside metformin had more effective results for type 2 diabetes patients than taking the drug by itself. The drug plus the garlic significantly reduced blood glucose levels as well as other blood sugar markers. 

Another trial involving type 2 diabetes patients found that a time-released garlic powder tablet, Allicor®, was able to reduce and stabilize blood glucose levels. The researchers mentioned that supplementation of Allicor® could potentially prevent diabetes-related heart issues. 

A trial involving pregnant women found that taking 400mg of garlic daily was able to reduce fasting blood glucose levels. Researchers discovered this action while they were monitoring garlic’s antioxidant activity.

Summary:

Clinical research suggests that garlic may help to stabilize and reduce elevated blood sugar levels.

6. Bladderwrack

Bladderwrack is a type of seaweed that is thought to be a helpful natural remedy for blood sugar stabilization.

Researchers believe that bladderwrack’s blood sugar-stabilizing support is due to its fiber content and various anti-inflammatory compounds.

A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study found that a polyphenol-rich extract from bladderwrack was able to significantly reduce peak glucose in response to carbohydrate consumption.

A human clinical trial looked at the impact of bladderwrack, rockweed (Ascophyllum nodosum), and chromium picolinate on glycemic status in individuals with high blood sugar levels. After 3 months, the researchers found that the group receiving treatment showed reduced HbA1c, decreased blood sugar levels, and reduced insulin resistance compared to placebo. Further, after 6 months, more patients tended towards having stabilised glycemic levels within the normal range in the treatment group compared to the control group. 

Finally, in a placebo-controlled trial involving bladderwrack and rockweed, the treatment group showed improvements in insulin sensitivity, after consuming carbohydrates, compared to the placebo group.

Summary:

Clinical trials show that bladderwrack may help to stabilize blood sugar. However, additional clinical studies showing the benefits of bladderwrack in isolation are needed.

7. Ginkgo

Studies indicate that ginkgo may be one of the best herbs for supporting individuals with diabetes.

In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial involving participants with type 2 diabetes, treatment with ginkgo extract was found to decrease blood sugar levels, glucose, and insulin when compared to a placebo. Researchers also noted that after supplementing for 90-days, the group treated with ginkgo extract had lower body mass index (BMI) scores and visceral fat.

In a study involving 60 patients with metabolic syndrome and 60 patients with type 2 diabetes, it was found that supplementing with ginkgo extract improved glucose and insulin levels, insulin resistance, and lipid profiles. Participants also experienced a decrease in BMI, waist circumference, visceral fat, inflammation, and total antioxidant capacity.

A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial involving participants with type 2 diabetes with or without early-stage diabetic nephropathy (a kidney complication that may occur with type 2 diabetes) investigated the effect of a combination treatment of ginkgo and a traditional Chinese herbal formula. Researchers found that this treatment, when compared to a placebo, significantly reduced Urine Albumin-to-Creatinine Ratio values, a test for impaired function and damage of the kidney.

In a clinical study involving 56 patients with type 2 diabetes, treatment with ginkgo was linked to better glycemic control when compared to both a placebo group and a green tea (Camellia sinensis) treatment group in the study. Additionally, the group treated with ginkgo also experienced greater decreases in stress and larger increases in psychological functioning when compared to the study’s other treatment groups.

Summary:

Research indicates that ginkgo may be beneficial in supporting healthy blood sugar levels, however, further human clinical trials would be helpful in confirming these findings.

8. Gotu Kola

A combination of both clinical and lab-based studies show that gotu kola may be useful for managing conditions that may result from diabetes, such as neuropathy and microangiopathy.

Neuropathy is a disorder of the nervous system that may result from diabetes and is associated with symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical study involving individuals diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and diabetic neuropathy found that the participants given a gotu kola extract experienced significant improvements in neuropathic symptoms when compared to the placebo group.

A randomized, clinical trial involving 50 participants diagnosed with diabetic microangiopathy found that the patients treated with gotu kola twice daily experienced greater improvements in circulation, blood flow, and blood vessel health when compared to the control group.

Furthermore, in an animal study involving diabetic rats, researchers found that the animal subjects treated with gotu kola extract experienced decreases in inflammation and increases in antioxidants when compared to the control group.

In another study involving diabetic rats, it was noted that those treated with gotu kola experienced less inflammation, oxidative stress, and brain damage when compared to the control group. These findings highlight gotu kola’s potential to inhibit the development of brain conditions that may result from diabetes.

Summary:

Gotu kola has been found to benefit individuals with diabetes by managing symptoms of various disorders caused by diabetes. Additional research would be useful in verifying these findings.

9. Goldenseal

Studies show that berberine, a major component in goldenseal, has significant blood sugar-lowering activity.

A clinical trial involving individuals with metabolic syndrome found that berberine helped to control both blood glucose and blood lipid levels. It was also found to help reduce insulin resistance.

Another clinical trial involving individuals with type 2 diabetes compared berberine vs. metformin The researchers found that the blood sugar lowering effect of berberine was similar to metformin.

Based on these clinical trials, it appears that berberine is an effective natural approach for blood sugar regulation.

Summary:

Based on these clinical trials, it appears that berberine is an effective natural herb for blood sugar regulation.

10. Holy Basil

Clinical research indicates that holy basil, also known as tulsi, is an important herb for blood sugar support.

A study involving individuals with type-II diabetes showed that taking holy basil alongside Glibenclamide (a blood sugar drug) was more effective than taking Glibenclamide alone.

Another clinical trial found that taking 3g of tulsi powder prior to a meal helped to significantly reduce post-meal glucose levels.

Summary:

Holy basil may help to reduce blood sugar levels. Additional clinical research is needed for confirmation.
tulsi holy basil is one of the best herbs for blood sugar

Conclusion:

The effects of these herbs are well-documented and they appear to be a safe alternative for those who suffer from hyperglycemia.

Both clinical research and traditional usage indicate that these herbal alternatives may be a natural way to lower blood sugar.

If you’ve been looking to add natural remedies into your diet that may help with lowering blood glucose, consider trying these herbs!

As always, make sure to consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet or adding a new supplement.

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About Daniel Powers, MS

Daniel has a master's degree in herbal science from the Maryland University of Integrative Health. He has a passion for herbal medicine and how it can be used to support everyday health & wellness.

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