Supplements To Lower Blood Sugar: Part V (Conclusion)

*** Supplements and Herbs That Are Not Recommended***

Berberine: Berberine’s potent hypoglycemic effects have been demonstrated in multiple human studies with an ability to regulate glucose metabolism to an effect comparable or even identical to metformin (119-121) The concern is not whether or not berberine can lower blood sugar, as it does so remarkably, but how it may affect individuals long-term.

Berberine is a DPP-4 (dipeptidyl peptidase 4) inhibitor, and this is one way berberine can powerfully lower glucose (122). In clinical trials which are usually short-term (< 1 year), berberine’s short-term safety profile is overall favorable with side effects that are rare and mild (nasopharyngitis, headache, urinary tract infections inhibiting, and gastrointestinal symptoms that resolved with lowering the dosage). (123) Long-term use (>1 year), however, is what can cause serious adverse effects. Other than lowering blood sugar, DPP-4 also prevents the degradation of GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1), which translates to enhanced action of incretin hormones. (124) Chronically elevated levels of GLP-1 from DPP-4 inhibitors do incite the proliferation of beta cells, which would normally be welcomed as it would increase the capacity for insulin production, but the sixfold increase in beta cell mass observed in a new study as a result of incretin therapy did not improve the diabetic condition since this growth was abnormal, with the potential to form a tumor. (125) These unique changes were only seen in those using such therapy for over a year, not in other diabetics who were not using this type of treatment. Other recent studies have noted significantly increased odds of acute pancreatitis and hospitalization in users of GLP-1-based therapies. (126-127)

Cinnamon:  Cinnamon activates genes that influence insulin signaling (112), and large amounts (1-6g) have lowered fasting glucose and decreased sugar spikes after meals (113-114), but these results are not always consistent (115), and more importantly, cinnamon also contains coumarin, which invites hepatotoxicity at therapeutic doses in animals. Heavy consumers of cinnamon from diet alone approach the tolerable daily intake. (116) It is likely that cinnamon taken daily at therapeutic doses will lead to toxic symptoms. Even ignoring its potential for toxicity, 1 gram only reduced insulin resistance in diabetics by <.1% in a well-controlled study. (117)

A variant of cinnamon without coumarin called Ceylon cinnamon or C. zeylanicum is bereft of the toxic threat of Cinamonmum cassia or C. cassia – the dominant form in the U.S. and the one used in studies – and unfortunately it also seems lack the same insulin-sensitizing ability. (118) Despite the fact that it does not appear to directly enhance the functioning of insulin, it can indirectly control blood glucose if used in the diet where sugar or fat would normally be substituted.

Galega Officinalis (Goat’s Rue, French Lilac): This guanidine-containing herb is considered a natural diabetes cure due to its active ingredient – guanidine, which metformin is derived from. It may be assumed that  this herb can serve as a metformin-like substitute to lower glucose levels, but unfortunately guanidine was considered too toxic for clinical use (128), hence the creation of metformin as a second-generation, safer alternative. Serious side effects such as hypotension, ataxia, seizures, and kidney and liver damage can result from using guanidine compounds. (129-132) There are also case reports of lactic acidosis with guanidine-derivatives.(133-134) While lactic acidosis is a risk also associated with metformin, the risk with metformin is much more rare since it is safer as a less lipophilic guanidine derivative. (147) Despite the fact that these ‘remedies’ are still sold and advertized as safe, natural alternatives for diabetes, use is not advised.

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