11 Natural “Magic Bullets” for Diabetes

Dr. Frank Shallenberger, MD

July 22, 2019



Curing diabetes is a lot easier than most doctors will admit. It’s so easy, I wrote a book, The Type 2 Diabetes Breakthrough, to help you do it on your own. In fact, most people can successfully treat diabetes by regular, focused exercise, hormonal replacement, and a low carbohydrate diet.

Unfortunately, there may be times when these treatments aren’t enough. In that case, many doctors resort to drugs. But often, you can avoid drugs with these 11 natural “magic bullets” that can work miracles in many cases. Almost all of my diabetic patients have seen tremendous results using these,

#1 – Chromium picolinate

This nutrient is well known for its ability to improve glucose tolerance. Chromium is an important element in your glucose tolerance factor (GTF). GTF is made up of chromium, niacin, and the amino acids cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine, and works in tandem with insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. Here’s evidence that it works:

The results of a four-month study demonstrated that daily supplementation with 1,000 mcg of chromium picolinate significantly enhanced the action of insulin. The trial involved 29 overweight individuals with a family history of diabetes. The chromium half completed the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial with 40% reduced insulin resistance compared to the placebo group. A smaller dose of 200 mcg was less effective at 2.8% and placebo reduced the test by only 0.5%.

A chromium dosage of 50-100 mcg daily is high enough to correct a deficiency, but not sufficient to improve blood sugar control. Dr. Richard Anderson (a biochemist and nutritionist with the Department of Agriculture) recommends that diabetics and anyone with impaired glucose tolerance take 400-600 mcg of chromium daily. In all my years of testing patients, I’ve almost never found any of them to have optimum levels of chromium. And, while most of them take chromium, most of them don’t take enough. I suggest a dose of 1,000 mcg to 3,000 mcg daily. It’s for that reason that I put a lot of chromium into my Super Immune QuickStart.

#2 – Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)

ALA serves a central role in fat metabolism. It is critical for the production of acetyl-coenzyme A from glucose. Acetyl-coenzyme A is the substance that kick starts the energy production cycle. In the event of a deficiency of this enzyme, both glucose and lactic acid levels rise in the body and can lead to lactic acidosis – a potentially life-threatening condition. Lipoic acid is important for preventing the onset of diabetes, improving blood sugar control, reducing the incidence of cataracts in diabetics, preventing kidney damage (which is a common diabetes complication), and it also helps prevent peripheral neuropathy (which is common in diabetics).

A placebo-controlled study of 72 adult diabetics found that oral ALA improved insulin sensitivity up to 25%. The researchers used daily doses from 600-1,800 mg for four weeks. Similar effects have been seen in mice.

Leading antioxidant authority Lester Packer has studied ALA extensively in his antioxidant research facility at Berkeley. Dr. Packer believes that ALA works against insulin resistance by increasing the permeability of cell membranes. In diabetics, elevated glucose levels decrease membrane permeability, preventing the body’s ability to handle glucose.

What I really like about ALA is its ability to reduce pain and debility in diabetic neuropathy. Many well-conducted studies have shown such a reduction is significant.

Many cases of diabetic neuropathy can be improved and even cured using 400 mg, three times a day. In the absence of neuropathy, I recommend doses of 400 mg two times a day. I consider lipoic acid an absolutely essential part of any treatment or prevention strategy for diabetes.

NOTE: Emerging animal research science suggests that R-lipoic acid may be far superior. It is the biologically active form of ALA, similar to “L” amino acids being the biologically active form. You can get R-lipoic acid from your local health food store.

#3 – Niacinamide

This is a specific form of niacin. It doesn’t cause the flush so common with niacin. Niacin is a nutrient all of us should get more of. For diabetics, it's one of the most important nutrients for maintaining proper fat metabolism and correct triglyceride levels. I have my patients take a minimum of 100 mg of niacinamide a day. Preferably 500-1,500 mg daily.

#4 – L-Carnitine

L-Carnitine is an amino acid that is found in large amounts in meat. It’s also synthesized in the body, but many people, particularly diabetics, do not make enough of it. Without enough carnitine present, cells can’t efficiently metabolize fat. I recommend 1,000 mg to 3,000 mg of carnitine daily.

#5 – Glycyrrhiza glabra

You probably know this one as licorice. Licorice is one of my favorite herbs for my diabetic patients because of its amazing effect on exhausted adrenal glands. It contains natural precursors for the production of adrenal hormones. It works in a similar way to the adrenal hormone aldosterone, which is often deficient in adrenal insufficiency. And it also prevents the liver from metabolizing cortisol (it can even increase cortisol levels when there’s a deficiency).

In rare cases, supplementing with licorice can slightly elevate blood pressure levels. If you have hypertension, it's important to keep a check on blood pressure levels when taking licorice.

In addition, in very large doses, licorice can also lead to a decline in potassium levels. So, stay within the dosage recommendations and be extra careful if you already have problems with decreased potassium levels. I recommend taking 300 mg of potassium daily along with 500 mg of glycyrrhiza glabra extract root, containing 16% glycyrrhizinic acid, twice daily.

#6 – Vanadium

Vanadium is a trace mineral that plays an enormous role in the activity of insulin. In the form of vanadyl sulfate, it not only improves insulin resistance, but has its own insulin effect, making it especially important for people with low insulin levels. If your blood sugar control isn’t perfect and your insulin levels are lower than 10 microunits per milliliter (mU/ml), I recommend you take 50 mg of vanadyl sulphate, two to three times daily.

#7 – Gymnema Sylvestre

As far as I’m aware, this is the only supplement available that has the ability to increase the pancreatic output of insulin. It does this by increasing the number of islet cells in the pancreas and actually regenerates and repairs islet cells previously destroyed by free radicals.

Gymnema is an herb from India. Its name means “sugar destroyer” and that’s exactly what it does. Regular blood tests show this herb can work wonders with glucose levels. If you’re diabetic, you know that a test called hemoglobin A1c is a measure of your average blood sugar level over several weeks. Lower levels indicate better blood sugar control. High levels mean long-term damage to your body.

A recent study showed the herb works well even in type-1 diabetes (juvenile diabetes). In the study, researchers gave 400 mg per day of the herb to each participant. They saw the participants’ hemoglobin A1c decrease from 12.8% to 8.2% in 26-30 months. (That’s unheard of! According to most doctors, the only treatment that works for type-1 diabetes is insulin.) In type-2 diabetics, it dropped from 11.9% to 8.5% at 20 months.

This study also found that the Gymnema extract reduced insulin requirements by about 50%. Each of the 27 type-1 patients in the study was able to reduce their insulin dose by an average of 15 units. Five of 22 type-2 diabetics were able to discontinue their oral drugs.

There is one caution with this herbal extract: If you’re on oral diabetic drugs, Gymnema is so effective your drug dosage will likely need to be adjusted. So take it under the care of an integrative physician.

I usually prescribe my low insulin-diabetes patients – those with insulin levels below 10 mU/ml – anywhere from 600 mg to 1,200 mg per day of gynema silvestre extract standardized to contain 24% gymnemic acids.

#8 – Aloe vera

Another natural “magic bullet” for type-2 diabetes that works better than drugs comes from this ordinary houseplant. And it’s quite possible you already have this plant growing in your living room.

The evidence for aloe comes from an Indian study on 5,000 patients. Interestingly, the study wasn’t done on diabetes, but on angina. The researchers were looking for a way to reduce angina pain, but they found much more. At the end of five years, here’s what happened:

The patients had a significant reduction in their need for drugs, while their angina attacks likewise significantly decreased. Total cholesterol and triglycerides fell, while HDL cholesterol increased.

And, surprisingly, there was a marked reduction in their fasting blood sugar levels – and even in their blood sugar after eating. Diabetics benefited most, without the addition of any diabetic drugs, and there were no side effects. These are absolutely stunning results. Now we know that the same plant that does wonders for burn pain also treats angina, lowers cholesterol and triglycerides, raises HDL cholesterol, and significantly reduces blood sugar levels.

But this wasn’t the only study confirming aloe’s use in diabetes treatment. One study on 40 patients saw aloe drop fasting blood sugar levels from 250 to 142 after just 42 days. The dose they used was one tablespoon of aloe gel per day. The placebo group saw their blood sugar increase from 251 to 257.

#9 – Cinnamon

This is one of the most researched herbs in diabetes treatment. For instance, one group of researchers proved its effectiveness in a randomized trial with 60 type-2 diabetes patients. They divided the participants into four groups. Then they gave each group one, three, or six grams of cinnamon four times daily. And the fourth group received a placebo. All of the cinnamon groups experienced a dramatic fall in fasting blood glucose levels. Their blood glucose levels fell from 205-234 to 157-169. The placebo group didn’t see any change.

Moreover, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL (bad) cholesterol also dropped in the cinnamon groups. Dr. Shane McWhorter, a certified diabetes educator at University of Utah, says the data are so good that she recommends patients use one-half to one teaspoon of cinnamon per day on cereal or other foods. I agree. Feel free to eat as much cinnamon as you like.

#10 and #11 – Galega Officinalis and Mormodica Charantia

I also recommend a couple of herbal supplements to help improve insulin sensitivity. One is Galega officinalis, which contains an ingredient called guanidine from which the diabetes drug metformin is produced. I give my patients 80 mg twice a day of the leaf extract that’s standardized to 20% guanylhydrazine. And the second is Mormodica Charantia, or bitter lemon. I recommend 320 mg of a 4:1 extract, twice daily. Together, these two herbs alone can have a modest effect on insulin sensitivity, but when combined with the other supplements mentioned here, they can make quite a difference.


Family Practice News, September 15, 2005

Liu, J., et al. “Memory loss in old rats is associated with brain mitochondrial decay and RNA/DNA oxidation: partial reversal by feeding acetyl-l-carnitine and/or R-alpha-lipoic acid,” Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 2002 February 19;99 (4):2356-61

Hagen, T.M., et al. “Feeding acetyl-l-carnitine and lipoic acid to old rats significantly improves the metabolic function while decreasing oxidative stress.” Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 2002 February 19;99(4):1870-5; Diabetes Med. 2004,21; Diabetes, 1997,46; Angiology, 1985 August;36(8):485-92  Phytomedicine, 1996;3.

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