Ginseng continues to show promise in helping diabetics lower their blood sugar. A low dose of the herb taken up to two hours before a meal can lower blood sugar levels up to 20 per cent, according to an updated study by researchers at St. Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto. Taking more ginseng, though, doesn't improve the results. The study found that low doses, three grams of American ginseng, produced the same effect on blood sugar as larger doses.
American ginseng is a variety of China's famous herbal remedy. Also native to Russia, North Korea, Japan and some areas of North America, ginseng has different attributes, depending on where it's grown. It was first cultivated in North America in the late 1800s. The researchers used the American variety, grown especially for them in Ontario.
To test how ginseng affects blood sugar, the researchers gave 10 people with type 2 diabetes capsules containing either a placebo or three, six or nine grams of ground ginseng. The participants took the ginseng either 40, 80 or 120 minutes before eating a high-glucose meal. They found a 15 to 20 per cent reduction in blood sugar, regardless of which dose of ginseng was given.
The fact that ginseng can lower blood sugar levels even when taken two hours before a meal is an important finding, say the researchers. Most prescription medicines require you to take a pill and then eat immediately because it affects blood sugar immediately. But ginseng has no effect on blood sugar unless you eat, he said.
It is still not known what the effects of long-term ginseng consumption will be nor if these findings will hold true for all American ginseng products.
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