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A New Ayurvedic Herb for Diabetes?
In the February 2008 edition of the medical journal Diabetes Care there is a report of a clinical trial of a “new” Ayurvedic herb for type-2 diabetes, Coccinia cordifolia.
Also known as koval or ivy gourd, this herb is in the same plant family as the better known bitter melon. Koval is a common plant of India and Bangladesh that grows across the Indian subcontinent like kudzu grows across the southern US.
Koval grows huge tubers that anchor it in the ground and then he spreads vines in all directions. Unlike kudzu, it bears trumpet-like white flowers that produce a zucchini-shaped but purplish red fruit. Ayurvedic medicine has used the fruit and leaves for centuries as a treatment for diabetes, but this study is the first detailed clinical trial.
Because Ayurvedic practitioners typically recommend “a handful” of the dried leaves and chopped pumpkin brewed in a tea, the researchers from the St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences in Bangalore prepared a standardized extract from 15 grams of the dry herb. Then they gave the extract as a placebo to 60 newly diagnosed type-2 diabetics for 60 days.
If you are familiar with how most prescription diabetes medications work (many of them promote weight gain), you will be impressed that the finding that people who took the herb not only did not gain weight , there was a slight trend toward weight loss (less than 0.1 kilo, or a quarter of a pound, per month). There was also a very slight trend toward slimmer waists and tighter hips (again, a few millimeters, or tenths, or an inch), all without changes in food intake or total calories. However, body fat percentages increased slightly.
And as you may have read in other natural health headlines, the Ayurvedic herb definitely lowers blood sugar.
At the beginning of the study, the average fasting blood sugar in the test group was 132 mg/dl, and the average post-prandial (after eating) blood sugar was 183 mg/dl.
The effects of the herb gradually increased over 90 days. At the end of the third month of the clinical trial, the average fasting blood glucose among the diabetics who received the herb had dropped to 111 mg/dl, while the diabetics who did not receive the herb actually had slightly higher morning blood glucose levels. In the group of diabetics who received the herb, post-prandial (after eating) blood sugar fell to an average below 150 mg/dl. The improvement in blood sugar levels was confirmed by an average drop of 0.6 percent in HbA1C.
The researchers noted that similar percentages of diabetics given the herb (94 percent) and diabetics given the placebo (93 percent) were able to stick to their diabetic diet. The difference in blood sugar was due to the herb. It is also important to note that the diabetics taking the herb were not taking any of the diabetes medications commonly prescribed in North America, Australia, New Zealand, or the United Kingdom, and that they did not have blood sugar levels that required immediate use of insulin.
So how does Coccinia cordifolia work?
The researchers don’t know for sure, but it seems that some chemical in the herb is insulin mimetic. That is, this as yet unidentified compound works in the same way as insulin in clearing glucose from the bloodstream, but does not work in the same way as insulin in moving triglycerides into hungry fat cells.
Will a koval extract for type-2 diabetes be coming to a natural health product retailer near you soon? Just ask at any store specializing in Ayurvedic herbs or anywhere the proprietary extract Gencinia is sold. It is already available. If youare taking the herb, use 15 g (about half an ounce) a day to make a tea, drunk hot after brewing in a closed teapot for 15 minutes. If you use a 15:1 dry extract, use 1,000 mg (1 g) per day.
If you have relatively mild type-2 diabetes and you take your blood sugar every day and avoid carbohydrates, this herb is definitely worth a try.
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