Medicinal Herbs and Plants for Diabetes Management

Written by Dr. Stefanenko Irina Borisovna on Sat, 02 December 2023 — Fact checked by Dr. Iunis Galina Ivanovna

Key Highlights

  • Traditional medicinal plants and herbs can potentially manage diabetes and prevent complications.
  • Bitter melon, ginseng, onions, garlic, holy basil, aloe vera, fenugreek, cinnamon, turmeric, and chilli pepper are beneficial for diabetes management.
  • These botanical wonders possess hypoglycemic, insulin-regulating, and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Integrating traditional remedies with modern medicine can enhance diabetes management plans.
  • It is crucial to consult healthcare professionals when incorporating herbal therapies into diabetes treatment. 

In bustling cities and serene countryside, a treasure trove of traditional remedies awaits those seeking natural solutions for diabetes management.

As the number of individuals affected by diabetes continues to rise globally, the search for alternative therapies has gained momentum. While modern medicine is vital in treating this chronic condition, exploring the rich heritage of medicinal herbs and plants for diabetes in Asian and Southeast Asian geographies presents a promising avenue.

In this blog, we will learn more about the fascinating world of traditional remedies, uncovering the potential of local herbal therapies in aiding diabetes management and preventing diabetes-related complications.

Exploring medicinal herbs and plants for diabetes

Mother Nature boasts a rich history of traditional medicine, deeply rooted in using plants and herbs. Let's take a virtual journey through the diverse landscapes of Asia and Southeast Asia, uncovering the region's widely used botanical treasures.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has investigated over 21,000 plants worldwide with medicinal properties.

From ginseng in Korea to basil and chilli in Thailand, let’s examine the scientific evidence behind these plants' potential to regulate blood sugar levels and boost insulin sensitivity in people who have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes.

Top 10 medicinal herbs and plants for diabetes

Many plants that are part of traditional antidiabetic remedies have been scientifically proven to have hypoglycemic (lowers blood sugar) and antidiabetic effects.

As a result, extensive studies have been done to understand the mechanisms behind these foods' ability to lower blood sugar effectively. A few foods that decrease blood sugar include:

1. Bitter Melon

Bitter Melon

  • Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia) is a popular vegetable in tropical regions like Vietnam and Malaysia.
  • Besides its culinary uses, bitter melon has often been used as a herbal medicine. It possesses multiple beneficial properties, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, anticancer, antibacterial, and antidiabetic activity.
  • The bitter melon’s fruit, seeds, and callus contain insulin-like proteins that reduce blood sugar levels.
  • Traditional wisdom from India and China has recognised bitter melon as a treatment for diabetes for many years, and scientific studies have confirmed its ability to decrease blood glucose levels significantly.

2. Ginseng


  • Ginseng (Panax species) has been widely used in folk medicine in Korea and other parts of Eastern Asia.
  • It contains bioactive compounds such as ginsenosides, vanillic acid, and salicylates.
  • Ginseng has been extensively studied for its antidiabetic activities, focusing on improving insulin resistance, enhancing glucose uptake, reducing blood glucose levels, and protecting or regenerating pancreatic beta cells.

3. Onions


  • Onions (Allium cepa) are commonly used in cooking, especially in countries like Vietnam and China.
  • They possess various bioactive compounds, like phenolics, flavonoids, thiosulfate, amino acids, essential oils, and vitamins.
  • Onion extracts have been demonstrated to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antidiabetic properties, acting as an effective ingredient in food that controls blood glucose levels.
  • The bioactive compounds in onions can boost insulin secretion, making them beneficial for diabetes management.

4. Garlic


  • Garlic (Allium sativum) is a well-known herb in Asian cuisine.
  • Garlic has been recognised as a medicinal plant for centuries, with numerous biological functions, including anti-tumour, antimicrobial, and especially anti-hyperglycemic activities.
  • It contains active phytochemicals like allicin, enzymes, B vitamins, proteins, minerals, and flavonoids.
  • Studies in the Philippines and Indonesia have shown that garlic can control insulin secretion from beta cells, improve glucose tolerance, enhance glucose uptake, and reduce triglyceride and cholesterol levels.

5. Thai Basil

  • Basil (Ocimum sanctum) is known for its therapeutic effect and is beneficial for insulin resistance-related disorders.
  • Chewing on basil leaves can help reduce high blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
  • In addition, it improves metabolism, efficiently processing carbohydrates and fats and regulating blood glucose levels.
  • Basil can be consumed in various forms, such as tea, water, or chewing raw leaves freshly plucked from the plant or cooked in various dishes.

6. Rosella Flower

Rosella Flower

  • Rosella flower (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.), a medicinal herb widely utilised by individuals in Indonesia, is believed to possess numerous health benefits.
  • Among its reputed effects, rosella is said to aid in managing metabolic syndrome, with potential benefits in controlling high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity.
  • People in Indonesia rely on rosella as a safe and effective herbal remedy.

7. Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera

  • Aloe vera is widely used in the cosmetic and medicinal industries. It contains alkaloids, flavonoids, tannins, phenols, saponins, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, contributing to its pharmacological activities, including antioxidant, antimicrobial, antidiabetic, and anticancer effects.
  • Aloe vera water extract has shown antidiabetic properties with fewer side effects, making it a cost-effective option for diabetes management.

8. Cinnamon


  • Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) is a sweet-and-pungent spice indigenous to Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia.
  • It not only adds flavour to baked goods but also offers health benefits. Cinnamon is known to improve glucose metabolism and lower blood glucose levels.
  • It contains active compounds and polymers that stimulate glucose uptake and regulate insulin receptors, promoting cell glucose uptake.
  • Cinnamon consumption as powder or bark has been associated with reduced risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular diseases and prevents diabetes-related conditions.
  • Research has found that including cinnamon in the meal plans of people with type 2 diabetes can help lower blood sugar and heart-related problems. Cinnamon reduced a substance called haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) by 0.83% compared to those who didn't consume cinnamon. This means that cinnamon can help lower HbA1c levels by 0.37%.

9. Turmeric


  • Curcumin, a bioactive in Turmeric (Curcuma longa), exhibits several physiological and pharmacological properties, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, neuroprotective, and antidiabetic activities.
  • Turmeric is often used in traditional Chinese medicines. Curcumin's antioxidant properties help reduce oxidative stress associated with diabetes, while its anti-inflammatory effects improve insulin sensitivity.

10. Chili Pepper

Chili Pepper

  • Cayenne pepper or chilli pepper contains capsaicin, which offers multiple health benefits. Bird’s eye chilli, or Thai chilli, is common in Thailand and Vietnam.
  • It improves metabolism, insulin sensitivity, and tissue glucose uptake, lowering blood glucose levels. Besides its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, capsaicin has been used to alleviate nerve pain (neuropathy) associated with diabetes.
  • Xylopia aethiopica (Dunal), commonly called African or Ethiopian pepper, is known for its distinctive tropical characteristics, being tall, slim, and aromatic, with a remarkable height ranging from 15 to 30 meters.
  • It predominantly thrives in the humid forest regions of western, central, and southern Africa, originating specifically from Nigeria.
  • The fruit and vegetable of this plant possess many medicinal attributes and are rich in phytochemicals, essential vitamins, and minerals.
  • Local studies show that herbal formulations containing xylopia plant extracts can decrease blood sugar levels.


The studies on these ancient plants have revealed their remarkable power, showcasing their ability to alleviate symptoms and improve overall well-being. From the hypoglycemic effects of bitter melon and the anti-diabetic properties of ginseng to the insulin-regulating qualities of onions and garlic, these medicinal herbs and plants for diabetes have proven their worth in numerous scientific investigations.

It is essential to recognise that we need to combine the knowledge of traditional remedies with the guidance of healthcare professionals. While these local herbal therapies offer immense potential, as foods that reduce blood glucose, they should be integrated into diabetes management plans with responsibility.

By embracing the benefits of nature's pharmacy, we can embark on a holistic approach to diabetes management, harnessing the synergistic power of traditional remedies and modern medicine. This will provide a brighter future for people with diabetes and prevent diabetes-related complications.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, certain herbs have shown potential in helping regulate blood sugar levels and improving insulin sensitivity, but they should complement medical treatment and lifestyle changes.

Herbs like bitter melon, cinnamon, fenugreek, and ginseng are often used for their potential benefits in aiding diabetes management.

No, herbs are not a substitute for prescribed medications. They can be used as complementary approaches but should be discussed with a healthcare professional.

Some herbs can interact with medications or cause adverse effects. It's important to consult a healthcare provider before incorporating new herbs into your routine.

Herbs can be consumed in various forms, such as teas, supplements, or added to meals. Consult with a healthcare provider or herbalist for guidance on appropriate usage and dosages.


Dr. Stefanenko Irina Borisovna

Dr. Stefanenko Irina Borisovna Is a medical doctor based out of Ukraine. Dr. Borisovna graduated from the Vinnitsa State Medical University, in 1995. In between 1995-2000, Dr. Borisovna went on to further pursue her post graduation studying scientific activity from the Vinnytsa Medical University in Ukraine.

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Current Version

Dec, 02 2023

Written By

Dr. Stefanenko Irina Borisovna

Fact checked By

Dr. Iunis Galina Ivanovna