In general, herbal treatments for diabetes can have positive effects on blood sugar levels but are not recommended as a substitute for conventional Western medicine, states the American Diabetes Association. In addition, herbal remedies cause complications when used to treat diabetes in specific populations.
Discontinuing the use of traditional diabetes medications in favor of herbal remedies is not recommended, according to the American Diabetes Association. Hyperglycemia commonly results when herbal therapy is substituted, and hypoglycemia may happen when combining herbal therapy with traditional medications for diabetes without the supervision of a health professional. Information on drug-herb interactions is small, so patients must exercise caution when combining treatments. Specific populations, such as pregnant women, should not use herbal remedies for diabetes.
An herbalist who is a member of the American Herbalist Guild should handle traditional herbal remedies to treat diabetes, reports the American Diabetes Association. Despite this, herbal remedies have been found to be laced with heavy metals, and sometimes they contain conventional Western medications. Herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so the purity, effectiveness and safety of these products is unknown. Commonly used herbal supplements include Korean ginseng, Balsam pear and bottle gourd. These supplements have not been found to increase insulin levels, but they slow the digestion of carbohydrates in the body.