A new Ayurvedic herb for diabetes?

In the February 2008 issue 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 know as koval or ivy gourd, this herb belongs to the same plant family as the better-known bitter melon. Koval is a common plant of India and Bangladesh that grows in the Indian subcontinent like kudzu grows in the southern United States.

Koval grows huge tubers that anchor him in the ground, then spreads vines in all directions. Unlike kudzu, it has white, trumpet-shaped 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.

Since Ayurvedic practitioners generally recommend “a handful” of dried leaves and chopped pumpkin brewed into a tea, researchers at St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences in Bangalore prepared a standardized 15-gram extract of the dried herb . They then gave the extract or a placebo to 60 newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics for 60 days.

If you’re familiar with how most prescription diabetes medications work (many of them promote weight gain), you’ll be shocked by the finding that people taking the herb not only didn’t gain weight, but actually gained weight. there was a slight trend towards weight gain. 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 narrower hips (again, a few millimeters, tenths, or an inch), all with no change in food eaten or total calories. Body fat percentages, however, increased very slightly.

And as you may have read in other natural health headlines, the Ayurvedic herb definitely lowered blood sugar levels.

At the start of the study, the average fasting blood sugar in the test group was 132 mg/dl, and the average postprandial (after eating) blood sugar was 183 mg/dl.

The effects of the herb gradually increased over 90 days. By the end of the third month of the clinical trial, the average fasting blood glucose among diabetics who took the herb had fallen to 111 mg/dl, while diabetics who did not take the herb actually had morning blood glucose levels slightly higher. In the group of diabetics given the herb, postprandial (after eating) blood sugar levels 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 adhere to their diabetic diets. The difference in blood sugar levels was due to the herb. It is also important to note that the diabetics who took the herb were not taking any of the commonly prescribed diabetes medications in North America, Australia, New Zealand, or the United Kingdom, and did not have blood sugar levels that required immediate use of insulin.

Then how Coccinia cordifolia works?

Researchers don’t know for sure, but it appears that some chemical in the herb is an insulin mimetic. That is, this as-yet-unidentified compound works in the same way as insulin to remove glucose from the bloodstream, but it doesn’t work in the same way as insulin to move triglycerides into hungry fat cells.

Is a koval extract for type 2 diabetes coming soon to a natural health retailer near you? Just ask at any Ayurvedic herbal specialty retailer or anywhere the patented Gencinia extract is sold. It is now available. If you take the herb, use 15 g (about half an ounce) a day to make a tea, drink it lukewarm after brewing in a closed kettle for 15 minutes. If using a 15:1 dry extract, use 1,000 mg (1 g) per day.

If you have relatively mild type 2 diabetes and are monitoring your blood sugar levels daily and avoiding carbohydrates, this herb is definitely worth a try.

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