Alternative medicines used by diabetics.




Diabet Med

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1
Professional Data: Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1


Type 1 diabetes is a condition in which the pancreatic beta cells fail to secrete insulin. This is known as an absolute insulin deficiency, characterized by hyperglycemia and the breakdown of fats and protein in order to meet the energy demands of the body. The catabolism of fats and protein predisposes insulin dependent diabetics to an accumulation of ketone bodies and subsequent ketoacidosis. Insulin dependent diabetics require a continuous supply of insulin to prevent ketoacidosis and maintain a stable blood sugar concentration. Type 1 diabetes typically occurs in people younger than 30 years of age.

When blood sugar regulation is impaired, despite the availability of insulin, type 2 diabetes is suspected. Type 2 diabetes is characterized by elevated blood sugar and impaired insulin response. It is a non-ketotic form of diabetes. People with type 2 are not dependent on insulin to survive. The pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes is not fully understood. Three physiological abnormalities typically occur in type 2: insulin resistance, increased glucose production in the liver (hepatic gluconeogenesis), and poor beta cell function. These can occur individually or in combination. A person over the age of 45 and overweight is a prime candidate for developing type 2 diabetes.

In chronic conditions such as diabetes, more and more people turn to alternative medicine. A recent study conducted by the Universities of Alberta surveyed diabetic and control subjects regarding their use of prescription drugs, supplements, and alternative medicines. 502 diabetics and 201 control individuals were asked details about themselves, their diabetes, prescription use, supplements and the alternative medications that they used. The subjects were asked to rank the effectiveness of each medication. In the diabetic group, 78% used prescription drugs, 44% used over-the-counter supplements, and 31% were taking alternative medication. Of control group's results, 63% were using prescription drugs, 51% used supplements, and 37% used alternative medicines. The most prevalent supplements used were multivitamins, vitamin E, vitamin C, calcium, and aspirin. For alternative medications, garlic, echinacea, herbal mixtures, and glucosamine were the most common. One third of diabetic patients are taking alternative medications and feel they are effective, but this is equal to the control group. In addition, the money spent on alternative medicines and supplements was equal to the amount spent on prescription drugs.1


1. Ryan EA, et al. Use of alternative medicines in diabetes mellitus. Diabet Med 2001 Mar;18(3):242-5.