We weren’t meant to be sedentary for 23 ½ hours a day. (Hopefully, you take at least a half hour walk every day.) We also weren’t meant to snack all day. And our distant ancestors certainly didn’t eat as much sugar as we do nowadays. Did you know the average American consumes over a whopping 125 grams of sugar every day? That’s the equivalent of 30 teaspoons of sugar. About a century ago, the average annual sugar consumption was approximately 17 pounds per person. These days, it’s 150 pounds!
There are many health risks associated with high-sugar consumption. Your risk of dying from heart disease is twice as high if 25% or more of your total daily calories comes from sugar. Obviously, it’s important to watch what you eat and to get plenty of exercise.
Can Chinese Herbs Help Support Blood Sugar?
Ancient Chinese medicine doctors didn’t have A1C levels or insulin to work with. But Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a long history of supporting blood sugar and metabolic imbalances.
Xiao Ke, or “wasting and thirsting syndrome” is the TCM term that explains the symptoms caused by chronic high blood sugar problems. There are different characteristics of the syndrome that relate to the three regions of the body (upper, middle, and lower). Excessive thirst describes upper Xiao Ke. Representative of the middle section is excessive hunger, while the lower Xiao Ke syndrome is indicative of excessive urination. All three are associated with Yin deficiency. Yin is the cooling element of the body. If you are Yin deficient, excess heat (fire) will manifest in the body.
Thus, traditional Chinese herbs may support blood sugar by replenishing Yin (fluid) and evacuating fire (heat) from the body.
Top Chinese Herbs For Blood Sugar Support
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a long history of supporting blood sugar and metabolic imbalances.
In a study published in an endocrinology medical journal, 22 Chinese herbs were selected. In these studies (mostly on rodent models), these traditional botanical remedies were shown to support blood sugar and cholesterol levels. (Several of the 22 herbs are included in our formula, GlucoAssure.)
Of the most commonly used herbs in TCM, here are our favorite single herb granule extracts you can easily mix in water or other beverages (and yogurt, too.)
Reishi (Ganoderma) mushroom is a potent Qi tonic. From a TCM perspective, blood sugar imbalances can impede the smooth flow of Qi (vital energy) to the organs and tissues. So in addition to nourishing Yin, Qi must be kickstarted to support blood sugar.
The polysaccharides in reishi, called beta-glucans, such as ganoderan B, have been shown to support cholesterol and insulin metabolism. Researchers believe the way by which reishi supports blood sugar is through its action as a calcium cation, which plays a critical role in human metabolism.
Consuming a lot of sugar increases the amount of compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). “AGE” is an appropriate acronym, because the more glycation end products your body is exposed to, the more the ageing process is accelerated. (Eating blackened/grilled meats and processed meats are other sources of AGEs.)
Cinnamon Bark (Cortex Cinnamomi) has been shown to prevent the binding of sugar to protein, which produces AGEs. Other research, such as a double-blind, placebo-controlled study from Germany, suggests cinnamon helps support blood sugar metabolism. Rather than just sprinkling cinnamon on your pancakes, waffles or french toast, drink cinnamon extract tea to support your blood sugar.
Don’t associate Licorice Root (Radix Glycyrrhizae) with the popular movie-theater candy. Gan Cao extract has no added sugar. From a TCM perspective, the popular herb (approximately 40% of all TCM formulas include licorice root) tonifies the Spleen, which is the most important digestive organ system in TCM theory. Licorice also augments Qi, clears heat and resolves toxicity, actions which are necessary to support blood sugar.
Ginger (Rhizoma Zingiberis Officinalis) does several important things that support metabolism. It warms the middle, disperses cold and unblocks the Channels to improve Qi flow. It also dries excessive dampness and eliminates phlegm.
Coptis Rhizome (Rhizoma Coptidis) is one of the best herbs for blood sugar support, owing to its heat-clearing and dampness-draining actions. The underground, root-like structure of the coptis plant (aka goldthread) also drains fire (excess heat) and resolves toxicity. The main active ingredient in Huang Lian is berberine, which has become quite a popular health supplement in its own right. Berberine has been tested in dozens of research studies, and has been shown to support many systems in the body, including metabolism.
What can’t Ginseng (Radix Ginseng) help support? This adaptogenic herb (so called by modern herbalists because of its ability to help the body adapt to stress without toxic effects) is one of the best herbs for tonifying Qi. It also helps improve digestion by nourishing Spleen Qi. Another important action ginseng has when it comes to blood sugar support is fluid generation. Both cell and human studies show that ginsenoside Rb1, one of the active ingredients in this herb, supports normal glucose metabolism.
Using Chinese Herbs To Support Blood Sugar: Conclusion
You can drink all the Chinese herbs for blood sugar support all you want. But you also need to watch your diet (limit added sugars and starchy carbohydrates), exercise daily and manage stress. With proper diet, exercise and stress management, Chinese herbs may be part of an effective strategy for managing blood sugar.
Suggested Reading From Our Blog:
Diabetic Neuropathy – Chinese Medicine View: Part I
Diabetic Neuropathy – Chinese Medicine View: Part II
Chinese Herbal Remedies for Diabetes: BeenThere. Done That.