Diabetes Educ. 1998 Mar-Apr; 24(2): 201-2, 205-8.
Natural products and diabetes treatment.
Washington State University College of Pharmacy, Pullman 99164-6510, USA.
Many natural products are promoted to improve the health status of patients with diabetes by people making a profit on these products. Few of these claims have any scientific basis. Certain natural products are potentially damaging to patients with chronic diseases, especially if the products are used instead of proven scientific treatment regimens. Many individuals believe that if a product is natural it must be effective and safe. What is ironic is that if the products were safe and effective, and if studies would have been done on humans to prove safety and effectiveness, the sales of the products would greatly increase (as opposed to present limited sales as herbs from health food stores). Some of the products do have a beneficial effect, especially as a placebo if the patient believes that the product is going to work. As can be seen from the summary of products that are listed here that claim to improve the treatment of patients with diabetes, very few are available in a standard form that would produce a known positive effect. The few products that do have a mild impact on lowering blood glucose levels are much less effective than standard treatments. In a recent review of the role of plant-derived drugs and herbal medicines in healthcare, no natural products were listed as having a beneficial effect on diabetes. Diabetes care providers need to confront the issue of the use of natural products with their patients. Patients should be taught the importance of using proven, effective treatment regimens. Any patient who decides to use a natural product should be followed closely to make sure that no toxic effects occur and that treatment objectives are achieved.