(NaturalNews) Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus or "insulin-dependent diabetes" is a chronic illness that we're told is irreversible. Most natural approaches to diabetes treatment and reversal focus on Type 2 because it is easier to manage or even reverse. But does that mean that there are no answers for Type 1 diabetics or simply that the answers are more obscure? According to some sources an Ayurvedic herb from the rain forests of India, known as Gymnema Sylvestre may be the answer for some Type 1 diabetics (1). In Type 1 diabetes a very specialized group of cells in the pancreas, known as Beta-cells, located in the pancreas in the islet of Langerhans are damaged. Many believe that because these cells have been damaged or destroyed that there is no chance of naturally managing or reversing Type 1 diabetes. A diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes typically means regular blood sugar monitoring as well as lifelong insulin injections for most patients diagnosed with the disease.
A Brief Overview of Gymnema Sylvestre
Gymnema Sylvestre has been used for hundreds of years throughout India and has been known as the "destroyer of sugar". This herb is still in use there today as a regular treatment for Type 1 diabetes. It is said to benefit diabetics by reducing the need for insulin and lowering fasting glucose levels which it does through active components such as gymnemic acid, thought to increase production of Beta-cells and reduce blood glucose levels. Additionally, Gymnema Sylvestre has been used in Ayurvedic and naturopathic medicine to reduce LDL and triglycerides, raise HDL, control sugar cravings, aid in digestion, and in weight loss (2). Loss of sugar cravings and weight reduction associated with the herb are likely due to its effects on the taste buds, which makes sweet things bland, resulting in a "spontaneous" calorie reduction.
One study of Type 1 diabetics taking 400mg of Gymnema Sylvestre daily for 6 months to 2 1/2 years showed a significant reduction in daily insulin needs while taking the herbal extract. They also showed a significant improvement in long term blood sugar test markers (3).
Worried about those pesky side effects? You can forget about them. Unlike pharmaceutical drugs that warn of a host of uncomfortable and potentially deadly side-effects, patients in a clinical trial on Gymnema Sylvestre reported no ill side-effects at all while some patients even reported increased feelings of alertness and general well-being (4).
Further studies need to be done on this herb before we can say with certainty what effects it has on Type 1 diabetes. But the research that is out there, as well as anecdotal evidence, suggests that with a healthy diet and regular exercise, Gymnema Sylvestre may potentially become an important part of any Type 1 diabetics arsenal.
Megan Rostollan is a Certified Family Herbalist and works with her husband David, a private natural health and nutrition consultant (www.reforminghealth.com). She is also the author of a blog which can be found at NaturalHousewifery.com. Her areas of greatest interest include women's reproductive and prenatal health, as well as organic and green living and dietary and lifestyle changes.