Herbs and Aromatherapy for Diabetes
By: Dawn Gates
Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects millions of people in this county. There are currently 18.2 million people in the United State or 6.3% of the population, who have diabetes. African Americans are at a greater risk for developing diabetes represents approximately 2.7 million or 11.4% of this number. Diabetes is the fifth deadliest disease in the United States
Diabetes is a disease where the pancreas is unable to produce insulin and properly breakdown sugar (glucose) in the blood. Symptoms include: hunger, thirst, excessive urination, fatigue, dehydration and weight loss/gain. Complications from untreated or poorly controlled diabetes include: heart disease, stroke, and neuropathy, poor circulation leading to loss of limbs, hearing impairment, vision problems and death. Allopathic treatment of diabetes includes daily oral glucose control medicine, daily insulin injections, nutritional limitations, weight control and regular exercise. Fortunately, there are some herbs that are helpful at treating this disease.
Two of my favorite herbs for herbal clients that come to see me with an initial diagnosis of diabetes are gymnema sylvestre and bitter melon. Gymnema sylvestre assists the pancreas in producing its own insulin, and the current theory is that this herb helps rebuild the insulin secreting cells in the pancreas. This herb is especially recommended if the person has had diabetes for a year or less. Gymnema sylvestre along with dietary changes has been proven in some studies to reverse diabetes, if the diabetes is caught early enough. Another herb that I often use to decrease blood sugars and help diabetics maintain control of their diabetes is bitter melon. Bitter melon is excellent at lowering blood sugar and helps clean the liver which helps the pancreas work more efficiently. With both of these herbs blood sugars should be monitored frequently because they help lower blood sugar levels.
In treating diabetes it is important to treat some of the problems or diseases that diabetes can cause. One of those sets of problems that can lead to life-threatening disease is circulation. One of my favorite herbs to improve capillary level circulation is blueberry leaves. Blueberry leaves have chemical compounds in them that make the capillaries stronger, more flexible and able to inhibit free-radicals. A single dose of blueberry leaves (1 gram of dried leaves decocted in a tea, or 40 drops of tincture) can strengthen the capillary system for up to 3 weeks. Another herb that I give to diabetics with circulation problems is ginkgo biloba. Ginkgo biloba increases circulation on the micro-capillary level and can help prevent and treat diabetic neuropathies in the feet, hands, and eyes. It also works on improving the circulation to the brain and can help clear some of the fogginess or fatigue that some diabetics experience.
Diabetics are also at an increased risk for developing cardiac disease. I use several herbs to help prevent cardiac disease and one that I use often that we talked about earlier was blueberry leaves. Blueberry leaves are high in anti-oxidants which can help prevent cholesterol from depositing on artery walls, also its abilities to increase circulation increases oxygen to the heart muscle, this allows the heart to pump more efficiently. Another herb that helps prevent cardiac disease in diabetics is hawthorn berry. Hawthorn berry helps the heard pump more efficiently, has mild anti-inflammatory properties and is especially useful for diabetics with high blood pressure and/or heart failure. Another herb that helps prevent cardiac disease is garlic. Garlic has many valuable properties but amongst them is its ability to lower cholesterol, increase cardiac tone, reduce inflammation of the blood vessel walls and increase circulation in the legs. Garlic should be used fresh, and the usual dose is 2-3 cloves of garlic daily. I usually recommend that people who start eating whole fresh garlic eat it with meals and eat a sprig or two of parsley after it because parsley gets rid of the odor. Cinnimon is the latest herb to help diabetics. Cinnimon not only reduces blood glucose levels as little as 6 grams (28 grams in an oz.) can reduce LDL (the bad cholesterol by 24%). The 6 grams can be used throughout the day either sprinkled on food or taken in capsules or tincture.
Aromatherapy can be integrated into the treatment of diabetes along side herbs and or Allopathic medicine. For people with foot ulcers/wounds or with poor circulation in the feet I reccommed a combination of Cederwood. tea-tree, lavender, basil, and orange essential oils. this blend improves circulation, and heals everything from small cuts to larger ulcers. Diabetics also have a tendancy to have dry skin due to the added stress upon the liver. For this I reccommend a skin oil blend that not only adds moisture to the skin but helps the liver and kidneys work more efficiently. First start with an oil base of equal combinations of olive oil, sweet almond oil, and johoba oil. Then add (for a 4 oz. container) 20 drops of Melissa , 10 drops of rose geranium, 5 drops of patcholi, 2 drops of juniper berry, and 2 drops of lemon essential oils. Thsi combination smells fresh and clean and once it is absorbed into the skin will help restore the skins moisture and elasticity.
Essential oils can also be used to treat some of the other complications of diabeties. Rosemary oil when inhaled can help prevent diabetic retinopaty and stimulate circulation throughout the body. Rose otto although expensive is an excellent esential oil to lower blood pressure in diabetics, especially those with elevated serum creatnines which indicates either early kidney disease (a common problem in diabetics with high blood pressure). Just inhaling rose otto puts a different perspective on life and is excellent for treating diabetics.
Herbs amd aromatherapy have been used for centuries to treat diabetes and the complications created from it. Herbs when used under supervision of a qualified herbalist or doctor along with blood sugar monitoring can decrease some of the long term diseases that often result as a complication of diabetes.