Herbal preparations, often promoted as being natural and completely safe, are gaining popularity in the management of diabetes mellitus, despite the lack of scientific data to confirm their efficacy and safety claims.

In a new study, researchers at the University of Ibadan confirmed the efficacy of eight commercial antidiabetic herbal products, with an accompanying blood glucose level decrease ranging from 21.9 per cent to 73.9 per cent, which was significant in three samples when compared with metformin.

The test in rats with induced diabetes showed that the eight commercial antidiabetic herbal products, however, had deleterious effects on the liver, kidneys, and lungs, calling for caution in their consumption for the management of diabetes.

The herbal products were selected randomly based on efficacy claims, popularity among some diabetic patients interviewed, and availability to the public.

Diabetes mellitus, often known simply as diabetes, is a condition that happens when the blood sugar (glucose) is too high. It develops when the pancreas does not make enough insulin or any at all, or when the body is not responding to the effects of insulin properly. Diabetes affects people of all ages, and most forms of diabetes are chronic (lifelong).

The blood carries glucose to all the body’s cells to use for energy. When glucose is in the bloodstream, it needs help—a “key”—to reach its final destination. This key is insulin (a hormone). If the pancreas is not making enough insulin or the body is not using it properly, glucose builds up in the bloodstream, causing high blood sugar (hyperglycemia).

Over time, having consistently high blood glucose can cause health problems such as heart disease, nerve damage, and eye issues.

Its prevalence is widespread and, on the increase, globally as a result of the adoption of sedentary lifestyles and high-calorie diets due to seeming affluence.

There are various classes of drugs, such as insulin and sulfonylureas, that are currently available for the management of diabetes. However, these drugs are associated with several adverse effects, such as hypoglycemia (causing low blood sugar), weight gain, gastrointestinal disturbance, and liver toxicity.

Thus, many diabetic patients discard the use of their orthodox drugs in favour of herbal therapies alone or in conjunction with prescribed medications, often without the knowledge of their physicians.

Numerous traditional herbs and their parts have been shown to have medicinal value and can be used to prevent, alleviate, or cure several human diseases, including diabetes. Hence, herbal preparations are gaining popularity in the treatment of diabetes in many countries, as they are frequently considered to be less toxic, low-cost, and free from side effects.

Many antidiabetic herbal products containing a single or combination of plant extracts have been reported and considered to be effective in the management of diabetes globally, with numerous mechanisms of action proposed.

For the study, the researchers, namely: Olayemi Modupe Adegbolagun, Olaoluwa Daniel Ibukun and Yetunde Ogunremi, investigated the comparative efficacy and safety of eight commercially available herbal products available within the southwestern part of Nigeria in rats under laboratory conditions. The study was published in the 2023 edition of the Journal of Pharmacy & Bioresources.

The 40 previously confirmed diabetic rats were randomised into 10 groups with an equal number of both sexes. Following an overnight fast, the extracts of the eight commercially available antidiabetic herbal products were administered twice daily for 12 days.

Metformin served as the reference positive control, while the diabetic negative control and healthy rats (without diabetes and high cholesterol) were administered distilled water.

Blood samples from the rats were collected to test the blood glucose level, body weight, and blood tests such as haemoglobin concentration (Hb), packed cell volume (PCV), white blood cell count (WBC), red blood cell count (RBC), white blood cells, and platelets. The liver, kidney, and lung were harvested and checked for any damage.

The first antidiabetic herbal product, which is recommended to be taken twice daily, contains neem, bitter leaf, and aloe bitters. The second one had Radix rehmannia preparata (Chinese foxglove), Cortex montan, Fructus comi (Asiatic cornelian cherry fruit), Rhizome dioscoraea (Chinese yam), Poria, and Rhizomia alismatis (Water Plantain).

In another were Viscum album (mistletoe), Flax seeds, and extracts of natural Kaolin made into tablets: Ginseng radix rubrie, Rehmannia glutinosa (Chinese foxglove), Cortex phellodendri, and Fructus lycil.

The content of another is Piper nigrum (black pepper), while another contains mango leaf, Tridax procumbens (coatbuttons), Viscum album, and ginger. Similarly, another has Trichosanthis radix (Chinese cucumber), Lobed Kudzuvine Root, and Stevia rebaudiana (sweet leaf).

The researchers said the reduction in body weight of the treated groups compared to the untreated (DNC) group suggests the inability of the herbal drug products to curb muscle wasting and structural protein degradation in the diabetic rats, indicating the absence of weight gain effects usually associated with antidiabetics such as sulphonylureas.

“However, the varied effect of these herbal products on some biochemical parameters and the damage caused to the liver, lungs, and kidney within the short period of administration by some of the products call for caution in their consumption at the chronic level associated with the management of diabetes mellitus,” they concluded.








@ Nigerian Tribune

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