Diabetes affects 9.3% of the American population, and pre-diabetes affects an even higher percentage. With lifestyle-related factors contributing to the progress of the disease, you need to take charge and keep the condition in check.1 It’s not easy to diagnose diabetes, but keep an eye out for these 7 common symptoms of diabetes. The condition doesn’t just affect your blood sugar; it is closely linked to abnormal levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, stroke, and eye problems.2
- Type 2 diabetes is caused by a lack of insulin, the hormone required to metabolize glucose, or by the body’s insulin resistance – inability to respond to insulin.
- Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system attacks the pancreatic beta cells that produce insulin.3[/pullquote]
If you want to manage diabetes without side effects, Ayurveda may be your best bet. Studies have found that the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), variously called Indian ginseng and winter cherry, is effective in preventing and managing diabetes and reducing the risk of diabetes-related conditions. Ancient Ayurvedic texts referred to ashwagandha as a rasayana or rejuvenator. Modern science has been able to find many more benefits of ashwagandha, including its effect on type 2 diabetes.
1. Increases Insulin Sensitivity
Studies have found that this herb can make the cells more sensitive or less resistant to insulin. In an animal study, ashwagandha lowered elevated levels of serum insulin, blood glucose, and glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c; a measure of blood glucose) in animal test subjects with type 2 diabetes. It also improved insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.4
[pullquote]Ashwagandha can reduce blood glucose by 12%. It is as effective as standard prescription drugs.[/pullquote]
More importantly, when similar tests were done on human subjects, results were equally heartening. One study noted that ashwagandha could reduce blood glucose levels by 12% – as effectively as a standard hypoglycemic (glucose-lowering) drug.5
2. Keeps Up Insulin Production
In both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreatic islets fail progressively, which means your body can’t create enough insulin.
A study found that animal test subjects with type 2 diabetes who were given ashwagandha had pancreatic islets that were close to normal after a course of treatment. In other words, ashwagandha can protect against pancreatic beta cell damage and keep up insulin production.6
While the study wasn’t performed on type 1 diabetes, it is possible that ashwagandha can help the pancreatic cells in the early stages of the condition. But because this is an autoimmune disorder and ashwagandha stimulates the immune system, seek your doctor’s advice on using ashwagandha for this type.
3. Battles Fatty Liver Linked With Diabetes
Almost all metabolic processes in the body produce reactive molecules called free radicals. These go on to oxidize the fat (lipid) layers in the walls of cells. This process is known as lipid peroxidation. When this happens in the liver, it leads to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
[pullquote]Diabetics are prone to developing a fatty liver. Ashwagandha can function in multiple ways to reduce the risk.[/pullquote]
Diabetics are more at risk because of their insulin resistance. Besides increasing insulin sensitivity, ashwagandha protects against fatty liver by scavenging free radicals and supplementing the natural antioxidants in the body.7
4. Balances Cholesterol Levels
Diabetics are more likely to have high levels of triglycerides and LDL or bad cholesterol, which make them prone to heart diseases. This is known as diabetic dyslipidemia.
In one study, people who had ashwagandha could lower cholesterol and triglycerides by 10% and 15%, respectively, than the control group who had daonil, a hypoglycemic drug. It also raised the levels of the good HDL cholesterol even though the test subjects had a higher calorie and fat intake.8
[pullquote]Ashwagandha can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels by 10% and 15%, respectively.[/pullquote]
Another study found that ashwagandha root, rather than the leaf, is more effective as it is richer in chemicals called flavonoids, which act as antioxidants and can reduce inflammation.9
5. Manages Stress In Type 2 Diabetes
As research uncovers more evidence, a nexus between stress and glucose control in the body is emerging. Cortisol, the stress hormone, can make your body more resistant to insulin and compound the problem of diabetes.
Ashwagandha is renowned as a great antidote to stress and a vehicle for delivering vitality to the body. Studies have demonstrated its effectiveness in combating stress in patients with type 2 diabetes. Another reason to consider taking ashwagandha.10
[pullquote]Ashwagandha can reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels by 28%. Cortisol makes your body insulin resistant.[/pullquote]
Taking ashwagandha extract for just 10 days could lower cortisol levels and reduce the weight of the adrenal gland and spleen – measurable markers of stress.11 In another study, having ashwagandha for 2 months resulted in a 28% reduction in cortisol levels.12
6. Improves Metabolism
While ashwagandha can positively impact blood glucose levels if you are diabetic or are at risk of developing it, it can also help with metabolism. As one study revealed, diabetic mice given a course of ashwagandha showed improvement in the functions of the immune system, endocrine system, and, by extension, glucose metabolism. This property of the Indian ginseng is invaluable when it comes to treating metabolic syndrome and other chronic metabolic problems.13
Use Ashwagandha In A Blend Of Herbs
Ashwagandha and its benefits seem to be more potent when it is administered along with a mix of other herbs. Specifically, the use of Indian ginseng in combination with shilajit (Asphaltum), bhringaraj (Eclipta alba), heart-leaved moonseed (Tinospora cordifolia), holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), and kutki (Picorrhiza kurroa) was seen to decrease high blood glucose.14
The usual dose of ashwagandha taken singly is 3–6 g a day, but you should find the appropriate dose after consulting an Ayurvedic practitioner.
|↑1, ↑2||Statistics About Diabetes. American Diabetes Association.|
|↑3||Causes of Diabetes. NIDDK.|
|↑4||Anwer, Tarique, Manju Sharma, Krishna Kolappa Pillai, and Muzaffar Iqbal. “Effect of Withania somnifera on Insulin Sensitivity in Non‐Insulin‐Dependent Diabetes Mellitus Rats.” Basic & clinical pharmacology & toxicology 102, no. 6 (2008): 498-503.|
|↑5, ↑8||Andallu, B., and B. Radhika. “Hypoglycemic, diuretic and hypocholesterolemic effect of winter cherry (Withania somnifera, Dunal) root.” Indian Journal of Experimental Biology 38, no. 6 (2000): 607-609.|
|↑6, ↑7||Anwer, T. A. R. I. Q. U. E., Manju Sharma, Krishna Kolappa Pillai, and Gyas Khan. “Protective effect of Withania somnifera against oxidative stress and pancreatic beta-cell damage in type 2 diabetic rats.” Acta Pol Pharm 69, no. 6 (2012): 1095-1101.|
|↑9||Udayakumar, Rajangam, Sampath Kasthurirengan, Thankaraj Salammal Mariashibu, Manoharan Rajesh, Vasudevan Ramesh Anbazhagan, Sei Chang Kim, Andy Ganapathi, and Chang Won Choi. “Hypoglycaemic and hypolipidemic effects of Withania somnifera root and leaf extracts on alloxan-induced diabetic rats.” International journal of molecular sciences 10, no. 5 (2009): 2367-2382..|
|↑10||Nayak, Shobha, Saurabha Nayak, Binod Kumar Panda, and Sambit Das. “A clinical study on management of stress in type-2 diabetes mellitus (madhumeha) with ashwagandha (withania somnifera).” Ayushdhara 2, no. 6 (2016).|
|↑11, ↑13||Thakur, Ajit K., Amitabha Dey, Shyam S. Chatterjee, and Vikas Kumar. “Reverse Ayurvedic pharmacology of Ashwagandha as an adaptogenic anti-diabetic plant: a pilot study.” Current Traditional Medicine 1, no. 1 (2015): 51-61.|
|↑12||Chandrasekhar, K., JyotiKapoor, and Sridhar Anishetty. “A prospective, randomised double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of Ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults.” Indian journal of psychological medicine 34, no. 3 (2012): 255.|
|↑14||Mishra, Lakshmi-Chandra, Betsy B. Singh, and Simon Dagenais. “Scientific basis for the therapeutic use of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha): a review.” Alternative medicine review 5, no. 4 (2000): 334-346.|