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GINSENG - Not Just An Energy Booster, It May Lower Blood Sugar In Diabetics!

It has been known as a popular herbal supplement used to strengthen the immune system and boost mental capacity, but a new study suggests taking American ginseng may actually help reduce blood sugar levels...
 
LOS ANGELES – According to a study by Toronto researchers, American Ginseng root - a popular herbal supplement used to strengthen the immune system and boost mental capacity - may help reduce blood sugar levels in people with adult-onset diabetes.

The finding could have important implications for the prevention and treatment of diabetes, a disease that in all its forms affects about eight percent of all North Americans, says the research team at Toronto’s St. Michael's Hospital.

"Although preliminary, these findings are encouraging and indicate that American ginseng's potential role in diabetes should be taken seriously and investigated further," said lead researcher Dr. Vladimir Vuksan.

"Controlling after-meal blood sugar levels is recognized as a very important strategy in managing diabetes," Vuksan said. "It may also be important in the prevention of diabetes in those who have not yet developed the disease."

Adult-Onset Diabetes, also known as Type II, is the most common form of the disease. It occurs primarily in overweight adults over the age of 40 and is usually treated with pills. Type I, or Juvenile Diabetes, most often develops in children or young adults and requires insulin injections.

In the study, nine participants with Type II diabetes took capsules of Ontario-grown American ginseng either during a high-glucose (sugar) test meal or 40 minutes prior. Ten non-diabetics also followed the same procedure.

Both groups were tested with a placebo, dummy capsules filled with cornstarch, associate researcher John Sievenpiper revealed. The tests were conducted four times over a four-week period.

Researchers found that when the diabetics consumed the ginseng, blood sugar levels dropped by about 20 percent, whether they took the capsule before or during the test meal.

But among non-diabetics, similar reductions were seen only when ginseng was taken before -- not together with -- the test meal, suggesting that the timing of the dose is important.

The placebo capsules had no effect on either group, said the researchers, whose findings appear in an issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, a publication of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

As to why ginseng worked at either time for diabetics, but only before meals for non-diabetics, Sievenpiper suggested that it might be because the diabetics' systems are more sensitive to the herbal remedy.

“Six of the diabetics were taking drugs to control blood sugar levels and the ginseng may have acted in concert with the medications”, he said.

"It's quite possible the ginseng was able to enhance the effects of those drugs and that's why it worked whether you gave it together (with the meal) or before."

In China, where ginseng and other herbal medicines are traditionally consumed, the prevalence of diabetes is only at about 2.5 per cent of the population, much lower than in North America, according to the World Health Organization.

While there is no hard evidence to connect ginseng with these lower diabetes rates, Sievenpiper said it "might be one of the factors."
 
However, because of poor standardization in the herbal industry, Vuksan warns that it is not certain if all American ginseng products would have the same effect, or if the results would even apply to different ginseng species, such as Chinese, Siberian or Korean.

"This is an initial, short-term study that only indicates a need for more research," he said. "We don't know what the effects of long-term consumption of ginseng will be."
 
Given the positive initial results, coupled with the herbs longstanding reputation as a health tonic, it certainly appears that ginseng consumption can only benefit the consumer.

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