Throughout history, herbs have played an important part in a people's medicine. Remains of medicinal herbs in stone-age burial sites have been found along with written records of herbs and their preparations from the ancient Egyptian, Greek and Chinese cultures date back to 3000 BC or earlier.
The most extensive medical record of the Egyptians, the Ebers Papyrus (ca. 1550 BC) found that many types of herbal preparations were popular. Salves, ointments, teas and alcoholic extracts were recommended for many ailments, from the wounds of war to a variety of menstrual difficulties. The Greek herbalist, Dioscorides, in his De Materia Medica (55 AD) gave instructions for many different kinds of herbal preparations including alcoholic and vinegar tinctures.
Centuries ago, in the central part of North America, Native Americans, especially the Cheyenne and Comanche, gathered herbs that grew wild on the Great Plains. They used various herbs but for toothaches, sore throats, tonsillitis, blood and lymphatic diseases, however
More recently, early American settlers learned about local herbs as they pushed westward and eclectic physicians relied heavily on these easily available and harvestable native plants.
Today, many of the preparations available from manufactures in the United States and Europe are directly descended from ancient sources, including the early 17th century.
Reversing Your Diabetes with the Power of Herbs and Spices
The following herbs have shown some promise in lowering blood sugar, boosting insulin sensitivity, reducing high blood pressure and cholesterol, and more. However, do not rely strictly on just herbs to control your blood sugar. Instead use them as part of an overall diet program. Also, talk to you doctor before adding any new pill to your regimen, especially if it has the potential to lower your blood sugar. You may need to check your blood sugar more often and possibly have your doctor adjust your medication dosage. If you don’t see results after a month or two, stop wasting your money.
Main uses: Easing nerve pain, lowering blood sugar Typical dosage: 600 to 800 milligrams a day.
ALA for short, this vitamin-like substance 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.
Basil is popular in Indian Ayurvedic medicine to treat diabetes. In a
study reported in the 2008 issue of "Evidence-based Complementary and
Alternative Medicine," lead author Dr. M. Bhat found that basil can
relieve postprandial hyperglycemia, an excessive rise in blood sugar
after eating. Basil inhibited a-amylase, an enzyme in saliva that breaks
down starches into sugars, and it inhibited glucosidases, enzymes in
the pancreas and intestines that break down complex carbohydrates into
Protecting the eyes and nerves Typical dosage: 80 to 120 milligrams two
times per day of standardized bilberry extract.
This relative of
the blueberry 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.
Main use: Lowering blood sugar Typical dosage: 50 to 100 milliliters (approximately 3 to 6 tablespoons) of the juice daily.
The aptly named bitter melon is 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.
Bitter melon provides
antioxidant benefits that may decrease the damaging effects of high
glucose levels in diabetes, according to the Department of Biological
Sciences, Botswana College of Agriculture, Gaborone. Lower levels of
oxidation may protect nerves and prevent development of peripheral
neuropathy. In the laboratory animal study, 30 days of supplementation
with bitter melon increased antioxidant levels and decreased levels of
harmful byproducts of oxidized lipids. Do not try herbal remedies
without consulting your doctor first.
Cayenne is an effective topical pain reliever. In his 2003 book,
"Medical Herbalism: the Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine,"
herbalist David Hoffmann recommends a topical cream of 0.025 or 0.075
percent capsaicin, an active ingredient in cayenne, to treat the pain of
Main use: Lowering blood sugar Typical dosage: 200 micrograms once daily.
trace mineral is 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.
Main use: Easing nerve pain Typical dosage: 270 to 540 milligrams once a day.
acid, or GLA, is a fatty acid found in evening primrose oil. 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.
Ginseng has potent antidiabetic properties. In a study published in the
2009 issue of "Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine,"
Drs. J.Z. Luo and L. Luo found that the ginsenosides in ginseng work in
two ways: they support beta cells in the pancreas, which produce and
release insulin, and they reduce insulin resistance. The authors
conclude that ginseng root directly affects the pancreas and increases
Main use: Lowering blood sugar Typical dosage: 200 to 250 milligrams twice daily.
plant’s Hindi name translates as “sugar destroyer,” and the plant is
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.
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 supplementing with 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.
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, have 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.
Garlic acts against the oxidative stress and free-radical damage
produced by high blood sugar. In the 2009 issue of "Nutrition Research
and Practice," a report by lead author Dr. Y.M. Lee found that the
antioxidants in garlic may prevent diabetic complications like heart and
kidney disease. The researchers also found that aged black garlic has
higher levels of antioxidants than regular garlic, with a greater
potential for preventing diabetic complications.
Main use: Lowering blood sugar Typical dosage: 1 to 3 grams a day in capsule or tablet form, or 3 to 5 milliliters 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. 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.
Prickly Pear Cactus
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 lower 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.
Changing your eating habits to ensure you're
getting enough critical nutrients to fight your diabetes can be
difficult. The easiest way to make sure you are getting critical
nutrients into every meal, even when you are grazing at the office
cocktail party or the neighborhood potluck dinner is by choosing foods
that are loaded with spices.
Every time you flavor your meals with herbs or spices you are literally
"upgrading" your food without adding a single calorie. You are taking
something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary by adding
color, flavor, vitamins, and often medicinal properties.
Spices and herbs maximize nutrient density. Herbs and spices contain antioxidants, minerals
. At the cocktail party, choose the Thai chicken satay stick over the tried and true fried chicken strip.
Spices and herbs create a more thermogenic diet. Because spices are nutrient dense, they are thermogenic, which means they naturally increase your metabolism. As your metabolism revs higher you will burn more of the food you have already eaten as fuel, and store less as body fat. At the dinner party, finish off the meal with coffee or tea sprinkled with cinnamon, which contains dozens of nutrients.
Some spices and herbs increase your overall feeling of fullness and satiety, so you'll eat less. One study conducted at Maanstricht University in the Netherlands showed that when one consumes an appetizer with half a teaspoon of red pepper flakes before each meal, it decreased their calorie intake by 10-16%. If you're planning a holiday menu, think of starting with a tomato soup sprinkled with red pepper.
You can eliminate salt. When you flavor your foods with spices instead of salt you'll immediately see health and physical benefits. Excessive salt intake keeps water inside your body. Once you kick the habit you will no long have excessive bloating and water retention.
You'll also lose the salt and salty snack craving. That's because using salt begets using more salt: after a while it's impossible to use just a pinch, because you've trained your brain to require a salty taste for everything you eat. Over time, using spices will also lessen your cravings for simple, nutrient poor carbohydrate snacks because you will not be yearning for a savory, salty taste. Stay clear of the chips and dips and you're doing your brain and your body big favor.
Spices and herbs have real medicinal properties. Study after study shows the benefits of distinct herbs and spices. One study at MalmÃ University Hospital in Sweden showed that up to two hours after eating, people who ate cinnamon-spiced rice pudding measured significantly lower blood-glucose levels than those who had eaten the unspiced version.
Other studies suggest that cinnamon may improve blood-glucose levels by increasing a person's insulin sensitivity. One 2003 trial of 60 people with type 2 diabetes reported that consuming as little as two teaspoons of cinnamon daily for six weeks reduced blood-glucose levels significantly. It also improved blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, perhaps because insulin plays a key role in regulating fats in the body. So if you start adding spices to your diet now, you might be able to see real health benefits in the early months of the New Year.
Every little bit counts, so spice it up! Change your eating habits now, especially if your next meal is a pile of franks 'n blanks or cheeseburger sliders. Choose flavor over blandness every time, and try to incorporate these specific herbs and spices into your diet if you have the following health concerns:
* rosemary and basil for their anti-inflammatory power
* cumin and sage for their dementia-fighting power
* cayenne and cinnamon for their obesity-fighting power
* coriander and cinnamon for their sugar regulating powers
* lemon grass, nutmeg, bay leaves and saffron for their calming effects on your mood
* turmeric for its cancer fighting power
* oregano for its fungus-beating power
* garlic, mustard seed and chicory for their heart-pumping power
* basil and thyme for their skin-saving power
* turmeric, basil, cinnamon, thyme, saffron, and ginger for their immune-boosting power
* coriander, rosemary, cayenne, allspice and black pepper for their depression-busting power
Health Benefits of Herbs & Spices
Health Boost: Can lower blood sugar,
triglycerides, LDL, and total cholesterol in people with type 2
diabetes. Aim for one-fourth to one-half teaspoon of cinnamon twice a
Get Cooking: Dip berries or bananas in low-fat sour cream, then in a mix of 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/4 cup brown sugar.
Health Boost: Destroys cancer cells and may
disrupt the metabolism of tumor cells, says Karen Collins, RD, nutrition
advisor to the American Institute for Cancer Research. "Studies suggest
that one or two cloves weekly provide cancer-protective benefits."
Get Cooking: "Let garlic sit for 10 to 15 minutes after
chopping and before cooking so the active form of the protective
phytochemicals develops," says Collins. Saute fresh garlic over low heat
and mix with pasta, red pepper flakes, and Parmesan cheese.
Health Boost: Can decrease motion sickness and
nausea; may also relieve pain and swelling associated with arthritis.
Doses used in clinical trials range from 500 to 2,000 mg of powdered
ginger. (A quarter-size piece of fresh root contains about 1,000 mg.)
More than 6,000 mg can cause stomach
irritation. Ginger can also hinder blood clotting, so if you're about
to have surgery or are taking blood thinners or aspirin, be sure to talk
to your doctor first.
Get Cooking: For motion sickness, try having one or two
pieces of crystallized, or candied, ginger. Make sure ginger is listed
as an ingredient; some candied products or ginger ales contain a small
amount or a synthetic form. You can also add 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
to vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes, as well as fresh fruit
Health Boost: A USDA study found that, gram for gram, oregano has the highest antioxidant activity of 27 fresh culinary herbs.
Get Cooking: To spice up tomato soup, add 3/4 teaspoon
oregano to 1 can; add 1/2 teaspoon to 2 cups pasta or pizza sauce.
Substitute 1 teaspoon dried oregano for 2 teaspoons fresh.
Health Boost: Contains capsaicin, whose
anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects may lower the risk of cancer
(also found in cayenne and red chili peppers). There's no specific
recommended dose, but moderation is probably the best way to go.
Get Cooking: Combine 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika, 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme and 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper to liven up popcorn.
Health Boost: Stops gene mutations that could lead to cancer and may help prevent damage to the blood vessels that raise heart attack risk.
Get Cooking: For a delicious chicken rub, combine 2 teaspoons rosemary leaves with 2 teaspoons seasoning salt and 1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves.
Health Boost: Contains curcumin, which can
inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Try to have 500 to 800 milligrams a
day, says Bharat Aggarwal, PhD, a professor of cancer medicine at the
University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
Get Cooking: For an Indian flavor, add 1/4 teaspoon turmeric to water when cooking 1 cup rice.
The success of herbal products as healing agents depends on how active the ingredients are when ingested. Liquid extracts or tinctures offer many advantages; one being the benefits it has as an herbal delivery system. Herbal tinctures are the most rapidly and efficiently absorbed of any preparation and their effects are quickly felt.
Herbal tinctures are herbs in liquid form that have been processed in a way to preserve the herb's active constituents or ingredients, usually and most effectively using pure alcohol diluted with distilled water.
Capsules disintegrate and are digested in the stomach, tinctures begin to be absorbed immediately upon entering the mouth. If the body is not digesting and assimilating well, the herbal benefits in pills or capsules are diminished as the digestive system must free the healing herbal ingredient from the capsul or tablet's fiber and cellulose. In instances of acute symptoms, liquid tinctures are most typically preferred over dried encapsulated remedies.
Although a tincture's taste can sometimes be 'overwhelming', many prefer this form of herbal medicines. The taste of an herb actually comes through and can be distinguished one from another. Most of us are so used to the most common tastes being sweet or salty that we may react negatively to tastes being pungent, bitter or sour.
A possible disadvantage may be that some people are sensitive or allergic to alcohol or choose to avoid it. If this is the case, the alcohol may be dissipated by putting the dose of tincture into an ounce of warm water for 20 - 30 minutes. Also, interestingly enough, the amount of alcohol in any given dose of alcohol based, herbal tincture is the same as in one ripe banana.
Herbal tinctures have several key advantages over pills and capsules.
1. Longevity & Stability: An herb, once tinctured will retain it's medicinal properties far longer than in most other preparations. Alcohol serves as an excellent preservative maintaining the integrity of the herb. Tinctures will last for many years compared to the shelf life of herbal capsules (1-12 months) or tablets (2-24 months). When properly stored in dark glass bottles, in a cool dark place, avoiding heat, sunlight and exposure to air, tinctures will keep are at least 5 years!
2. Convenient Storage: Unlike bulky raw materials, plastic bottles or jars containing 250, 500 or even 1000 capsules, or pints or liters of liquid, a 30 milliliter/once ounce, 60 milliliter/2 ounces or even a 120 milliliter/4 ounce bottle of tincture stores compactly. These bottles fit easily into a car first aid kit and a 1 ounce bottle with a dropper or spray top is perfect in a purse, pocket or briefcase when traveling.
3. Control of Freshness, Potency & Formulation: Freshness of the herb is of prime importance to the quality of the final tincture. The herbal tinctures we have available are made with the freshest organically grown, wild-crafted herbs. The correct interaction of menstruum (mixture of pure ethyl alcohol and distilled water) along with the dry or fresh herb, assures the herb's potency results. There is no mystery or complicated process inbolved in making liquid extracts, just high quality herbs and a high quality menstrum.
Be assured, there are no additional ingredients in most tinctures. Check labels of capsules and tablets and find fillers, binders and other materials. Also, combinations of several herbs in one tincture often effectively deliver a greater healing power over an individual herb.
4. Ease of Administering: Tinctures are ready to administer with no further preparation. Drops may be dispensed directly to the back of the tongue or sprayed to the back of the throat. If desired, the extract may be added to warm or cold water, tea or juice.
Warning: Check with your doctor or healthcare practitioner before using herbs, as they may interact with your current medications.
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