Can Ayurveda help cure diabetes?
Published on Sep 18, 2020
By Dr. Surya Bhagwati
Chief In- House Doctor
BAMS, DHA, DHHCM, DHBTC | 30+ Years of Experience
Ayurved takes a very different approach to health and diseases, as compared to conventional medicine. It is a holistic health system that focuses primarily on the maintenance and promotion of health, rather than disease treatment. However, Ayurved also includes the use of therapies and herbal medicines that can provide relief from a variety of ailments. Diabetes is just one such ailment and Ayurved certainly has a lot to offer. While it does not promise quick fixes or miraculous cures, Ayurved’s holistic approach addresses imbalances that are believed to be the root causes of diabetes.
The Ayurvedic treatment to help control blood sugar is increasingly regarded as a viable supplement or adjunct to mainstream medical care because of its efficacy, low cost, and safety. Although there is no guaranteed cure from diabetes, Ayurvedic treatments can be highly effective, restoring health and reducing dependence on medications. This should come as no surprise as Ayurvedic literature contains plenty of information on the disease, which is referred as madhumeha. Ayurvedic sages like Charaka and Sushruta also left us their valuable insights, which have been tried and tested over the centuries.
Let’s evaluate the effectiveness of the main Ayurvedic treatments for diabetes and how you can use them.
How Ayurved Can Help Overcome Diabetes
Ayurvedic Panchakarma for Diabetes
Panchakarma is a highly acclaimed Ayurvedic treatment that actually involves 5 different therapies that are aimed at detoxification and purification of the body. This is said to restore the natural balance of doshas, helping correct one of the root causes of diabetes. In fact, panchakarma is regarded as therapeutic for a wide range of metabolic and inflammatory disorders like heart disease. In the case of diabetes, panchakarma therapies are used to pacify kapha and reduce levels of ama in the body.
Panchakarma has been one of the most studied therapeutic practices in Ayurved and researchers have been investigating its potential as a treatment for a number of lifestyle diseases. The research so far has been encouraging, but scientists still do not understand the precise mechanism by which panchakarma yields results.
To reap the benefits of panchakarma, ideally you should check in at an Ayurved clinic as the procedure is best administered by skilled physicians in a clinical setting. With adequate instruction and training some of the panchakarma components may then be tried at home. Vamana (emetic therapy) and virechana (purgation therapy) are the main components of panchakarma when dealing with diabetes. Virechana is known to be particularly helpful at lowering glucose production and blood sugar levels.
You should consider using panchakarama treatment to prepare your body for further diabetic treatments, no matter whether you are relying on natural or conventional medical care.
Ayurvedic Herbal Medications for Diabetes
Ayurvedic herbs are an important facet of Ayurvedic medicine, often used as an independent or supporting treatment for various conditions. It can be used in both capacities when dealing with diabetes and physicians often prescribe herbal concoctions to address kapha buildup and to eliminate any accumulation of ama, which is also regarded as a contributing factor in diabetes. Other herbs are also used to address specific symptoms or diabetes complications.
Numerous herbs and herbal formulations have been studied for their efficacy as natural blood sugar regulators. A number of herbs that are promising work through a range of mechanisms, both direct and indirect. Herbs like tulsi, karela, vijaysar, and methi have been shown to lower glucose levels, while others like ashwagandha and guduchi stimulate insulin production, improve insulin sensitivity, and also protect against diabetes complications. Indirect benefits are also linked to properties that encourage delayed gastrict emptying and slowed carb metabolism, which helps to control glucose levels.
Ayurvedic herbal medicines can be used in combination with other treatments to control blood sugar levels, lower the risk of complications, and reduce dependence on other drugs. However, treatment should only be initiated with approval and knowledge of your doctor, so that the dosage of conventional medications can be reduced accordingly. Instead of using individual herbs it is also advisable to use Ayurvedic diabetes medicines that contain polyherbal formulations in the appropriate dosage.
Yoga for Diabetes
The importance of physical activity or exercise as a tool for managing diabetes is well-established. In this context diabetics are advised to practice mild to moderate intensity exercises as high intensity activities can blood glucose levels to rise temporarily. This makes yoga the perfect activity and it is already recommended in Ayurved, with specific poses advocated as a remedy for diabetes.
Because of the overwhelming evidence for yoga’s health benefits, yoga is often prescribed to patients even in a conventional medical setting. This is because in addition to its obvious benefits in terms of fitness, flexibility, and weight management, yoga is a powerful stress reduction tool and this improves treatment outcomes. However, research also supports the Ayurvedic yoga recommendation as yoga may offer psychoneuro-endocrine and immune benefits that result in improved metabolic function.
To enjoy the benefits of yoga, adopt a regular yoga routine right away. Ideally, you should sign up for a yoga class with a qualified trainer who can give you personalized recommendations. However, if you already know the basics or are open to learning from instructional videos, you could try a beginner’s routine and include simplified versions of asanas such as surya namaskar, balasana, halasana, and vajrasana – these are regarded as particularly beneficial for diabetes. Don’t forget to also include some pranayamas and other meditative practices in your routine too.
If you’re still unsure about how to take advantage of and enjoy the benefits of our rich Ayurvedic tradition, consult a reputed Ayurvedic therapist with expertise in diabetes. An Ayurvedic doctor will be able to give you personalized recommendations and can also help point you in the right direction. Remember, natural treatments take time to yield results, so it’s best that you start making some of these changes to your life right away.
- Jindal, Nitin, and Nayan P Joshi. “Comparative study of Vamana and Virechanakarma in controlling blood sugar levels in diabetes mellitus.” Ayu vol. 34,3 (2013): 263-9. doi:10.4103/0974-8520.123115
- Saxena, Abha, and Naval Kishore Vikram. “Role of selected Indian plants in management of type 2 diabetes: a review.” Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.) vol. 10,2 (2004): 369-78. doi:10.1089/107555304323062365
- Sangeetha, M K et al. “Anti-diabetic property of Tinospora cordifolia and its active compound is mediated through the expression of Glut-4 in L6 myotubes.” Phytomedicine : international journal of phytotherapy and phytopharmacology vol. 20,3-4 (2013): 246-8. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2012.11.006
- Innes, Kim E, and Terry Kit Selfe. “Yoga for Adults with Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review of Controlled Trials.” Journal of diabetes research vol. 2016 (2016): 6979370. doi:10.1155/2016/6979370
- Raveendran, Arkiath Veettil et al. “Therapeutic Role of Yoga in Type 2 Diabetes.” Endocrinology and metabolism (Seoul, Korea) vol. 33,3 (2018): 307-317. doi:10.3803/EnM.2018.33.3.307