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March 3, 2001

Alternative Therapies and Explanations

Question from a pharmacist in Bakersfield, California, USA:

One of my patients asked about Gymnema Sylvestre for lowering blood sugar. I have searched, and cannot find any information on it. Is there any validity to claims made about Gymnema Sylvestre and diabetes?

Answer:

There is evidence that Gymnema does stimulate insulin release and may also delay glucose absorption. See Gymnema sylvestre stimulates insulin release in vitro by increased membrane permeability (J Endocrinol, 1999 Nov;163(2):207-12, Persaud SJ, Al-Majed H, Raman A, Jones PM). However, as you must know, alternative medicine products that are obtainable in any supermarket are not standardised and have very rarely been subjected to any sort of a double blind controlled study that compares their efficacy to standard treatment of diabetes. There is, moreover, a placebo effect in their use which can help patients to feel that they are actually participating in their management.

DOB

[Editor’s comment: There have been some small studies that have suggested that some herbals might have some effect on decreasing blood sugar, but I’d also suggest you read Herbal remedies: There’s no magic from the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Also, see Herbs and other Supplements at the Diabetes Monitor for more information.

WWQ]