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Herbal medications to prevent diabetes?

Question: Can I take herbal medications so I don’t get diabetes?

Not because herbs or their ingredients don’t work but because herbal supplements once registered as supplements are approved by the local agency or even the US FDA as foods. Therefore these products don’t have to undergo the same rigorous testing for effectiveness and safety as the usual prescription medications.

As such, there can be significant differences between what’s listed on the label and what they really contain and that some supplements have been found to be contaminated with metals, even prescription drugs of unknown quantity endangering your safety. The FDA is tasked to address the safety problems of these supplements ONLY if harm is reported after they are being sold. So seeing the word FDA or BFAD-approved simply means approved for use as supplements and not to be taken as prescription drugs meant to heal or prevent a disease. If you do, then “You take it at your own risk.”

However, one should not discount the potential of herbs in helping combat chronic diseases like diabetes as several herbal plants have components in them that have been shown to lower blood sugar. Examples of these include aloe vera and Momordica Charantia known to help lower blood sugar. One can therefore see supplements bearing these two herbs as ingredients claiming them to help lower blood sugar but one has to be cautious as no long-term studies have been done to prove that these supplements can indeed control blood sugar and in the long run help prevent the dreaded complications.

Likewise, one can’t be assured that the dose of the ingredients the supplements contain is the actual dose known to cause the desired effect or the dose known to be safe. Remember, herbs like aloe vera can interact with other drugs and interfere with the effect of a heart-saving drug called Digoxin. Both liver and kidney damage have also been reported with use of herbal supplements.

In short, be very cautious in taking herbal supplements and use them as if they are prescription drugs meant to prevent or treat diabetes. You are not assured of their claimed effectiveness and likewise put yourself at risk of drug interactions and harm. Be very cautious, too, because in this internet age, there has been a significant increase in the number of web addresses selling, marketing and promoting herbal supplements. The US Federal Government has taken legal action against some of these companies due to false advertising and claims. Don’t just believe in what you read on the internet these days. Search for the data preferably from a reputable source or better still ask your doctor.

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