Diabetes affects approximately 25 million children and adults in the United States, according to the American Diabetes Association. Of those, between 90-95 percent have type 2 diabetes, a condition where the body does not use insulin properly to control blood sugar levels.
Type 2 diabetes management can be difficult for many people, often requiring prescription medications to manage the condition.
Now, however, researchers say there are four herbs that might be just as effective against the condition as commercial drugs.
A study in the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry” examines the type 2 diabetes benefits of Greek oregano (Origanum vulgare), marjoram (Origanum majorana), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), and Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens).
According to the researchers, these herbs may provide an alternative, natural way to keep glucose regulated.
What are the benefits of herbs?
The reason the aforementioned herbs are potential type 2 diabetes treatments has to do with their ability to inhibit two enzymes, DPP-IV (also calld DPP-4) and PTP1B.DPP-IV is an enzyme that plays a role in insulin secretion, while PTP1B is an enzyme that facilitates insulin signaling.
Most drugs currently on the market are designed to be DPP-4 inhibitors, drugs that lower the amount of insulin secreted into the bloodstream.
The reason the herbs in the study stood out, though, is because they were also found to be beneficial as PTP1B inhibitors, something medical research has had difficulty manufacturing into a prescription drug for some time.
According to a report from Medical News Today, experts say a number of compounds within oregano, marjoram and rosemary contribute to their unique type 2 diabetes treatment potential, and the next step in the process will be to isolate the individual compounds for study.
This is not the first time herbs have been indicated as a potential alternative for diabetes treatment; at the beginning of 2014, a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM) suggested traditional Chinese herbal medicine showed promise for people struggling with diabetes.
“With diabetes evolving into a serious public health burden worldwide, it is crucial to take steps to stem the flood of cases,” said one of the study’s authors, Chun-Su Yuan, MD, PhD, of the University of Chicago, at the time.
“Patients often struggle to make the necessary lifestyle changes to control blood sugar levels, and current medications have limitations and can have adverse gastrointestinal side effects.
Traditional Chinese herbs may offer a new option for managing blood sugar levels, either alone or in combination with other treatments.”
The University of Chicago study looked at a combination of 10 traditional Chinese herbs compared to a placebo treatment.