Taking herbal supplements and plant derivatives to help in treating diabetes should definitely not be overlooked. But with the multitude of diabetes treatments claiming great ‘curative’ ability to the point of replacing insulin as a treatment, one should not take a potential cure at face value without even researching and consulting an expert. That having been said, certain herbs possess medicinal properties beneficial for diabetics and one such herb milk thistle. Taking milk thistle for diabetes may reduce the signs and symptoms associated with this illness.
Silymarin, the active component of milk thistle, has been used for two thousand years as a support treatment for different types of liver diseases. Recent research reveals that milk thistle also shows significant health benefits for Type 2 Diabetes.
A recent study conducted by a group of Iranian researchers at the Institute of Medicinal Plants shows the effectiveness of milk thistle for diabetes. Researchers recruited 50 patients diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. In this four-month study, they were divided into two groups with one given 200 mg of milk thistle extract per day while the other took a placebo. Both groups continued their diabetes medications while under the study. After four months, results showed reduced fasting glucose levels by 15%, a 12% drop of LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol as well as 25% reduction in the level of triglycerides in the milk thistle group. The placebo group did not show any positive and significant changes. Perhaps the most significant result in this study were the deviations in glycosylated hemoglobin, also called HbA1C. The level of HbA1C reduced by 1% in the control group but increased over one percent in the placebo group.
You may wonder about the significance of HbA1C in connection to diabetics. This test shows the severity of hyperglycemia since it is not influenced by the daily fluctuations of glucose level in the blood. Studies show that for every one percent increase of glycosylated hemoglobin, stroke and heart disease risk increase by about 20%. When it drops, the risks go down as well.
The mechanism of action of silymarin that is responsible for it being able to lower glucose is not clear. Milk thistle for diabetes contains a variety of active ingredients, which includes bioflavonoids with antioxidants that can increase the cellular glutathione levels and cell membrane stabilizing properties. Type 2 diabetics have elevated glucose and free form fatty acid levels that result to the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and oxidative stress. These abnormalities not only lead to complications but also to insulin resistance and impaired insulin secretion. The powerful antioxidant property of silymarin may induce favorable effects on the metabolic abnormalities of diabetics as well as against oxidative stress. Overall, the results of several studies show that silymarin has beneficial effects in lessening the glycemic state in Type 2 diabetics.
The use of antioxidants such as milk thistle for diabetes as a complementary treatment still needs further research and investigation. People suffering from diabetes with cirrhosis can greatly benefit from taking milk thistle due to its hepatoprotective property. Milk thistle rarely causes side effects except for mild diarrhea or nausea but should talk to your health care provider before supplementing your diabetic medications with milk thistle extract.