Controlling diabetes through medicinal plants

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Prof (Dr) R D Gupta
In India, the earliest mention of use of medicinal plants has been made in Atharva Veda, one of the oldest repositories of human knowledge. As far back as 4,000 BC and even earlier, Ayurveda-an ancient Hindu art of medicines and of prolonging life, has been believed to possess a status of its development. The whole credit for standardising this system of medicines goes to well-known renowned personalities viz., Charak, the Physician and Susruta- the Surgeon. Their well-noted works, written so long ago, are still greeted by the leading authorities of the western countries. However, the contribution of Dhanwantri, the pioneer God of Medicine, destroyer of senility, disease and death descended on the Mother Earth, cannot be ruled out. He was, infact, teacher of Susruta and his other colleague and is known as Progenitor of Ayurveda.
Medicinal plants not only play an important role in human life but also play a pivotal role in animal life, especially in rural areas. Rural people of India living in about 6 lakh villages and tribal dwelling in forests always utilise medicinal plants for preventing and curing various ailments and diseases. However in the present write-up, role of about 11 medicinal plants has been detailed with regard to curing diabetes.
Diabetes is a disease which happens due to some physiological disorder, i.e. metabolic disorder. It occurs as a result of lack of insulin or a surplus of insulin antagonists leading to a relative insulin lack. According to WHO, India has the largest number of diabetes in world hovering between 25 to 30 millions. In the coming years India is projected to have more than over 57 million in 2025.
There are three types of diabetes:
i. Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM): lt mostly occurs in children and is attributed to an absolute deficiency of insulin. lt can also develop during some cases of pregnancy which usually disappears after pregnancy. This kind of diabetes is also known as Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM).
ii. Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (NIDDM): In this type of Diabetes, though insulin is secreted by pancreas yet it fails to exert its full action on peripheral tissues. It is usually associated with obesity.
iii. Secondary diabetes: In this case of diabetes, there is hyper function of one or other insulin antagonists leading to a relative insufficiency of insulin. The number of individuals with diabetes has been rising significantly in the last few years. In most chronic conditions, diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.
The following symptoms are discernible during moderately to severe diabetes, viz loss of weight due to increased breakdown of fat and tissue protein, dehydration due to elimination of large amount of water with glucose in urine, lowering of pH of blood due to circulation of Ketoacids, increased level of lipid, fatty acid and cholesterol in the blood and increased tendency to develop cataract in eyes.
Eleven Ethno-medicinal plants used against Diabetes
In many parts of developing countries of the world more than 80 per cent of people depend on traditional medicines. There are many medicinal plants that have potential for treating the symptoms of diabetes and are generally regarded as safe.
The 11 plants, in view of their occurrence in many Sates of India, including Jammu region of Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory, which can be used to cure diabetes are:
(i) Bel: The plant comes of Rutaceae family. Fresh leaf extract (10 to 15 ml) of this plant/tree is taken thrice daily (morning, noon and night) for a month.
(ii) Neem: This species belongs to family Meliaceae. Use of Neem reduces glucose level, reduces infections which is caused due to slow healing, improves the normal tone of an organ and regularises all biological processes. Its fresh leaf extract (10 to 20 ml) is taken once in morning empty stomach. Alternatively 10-12 leaves of neem are boiled in a cup of water for 5 to 10 minutes. The liquid is then strained and taken daily
(iii) Aam: The family of this tree is Anacardiaceae. It repairs activity of pancreas, improves insulin secretion, destroys intestinal worms and regularises all biological processes. The tender leaves are proved beneficial for diabetes. An infusion is prepared by soaking 15 gm of fresh leaves in 250 ml of water overnight and squeezing them well in the water in the morning. About 100 ml of the filtrate should be taken every morning to control early diabetes. Alternatively, leaves are dried in the shade, powdered and preserved for use whenever it becomes necessary about 4-g of this powder is taken once daily in empty stomach or half a teaspoon of this powder should be taken twice daily.
(iv) Jamun: lt controls pathological conversion of starch into glucose, repairs activity of pancreas, regularises all biological processes, helps in active movement of bowls and reduces glucose level. To treat diabetes, Jamun tree’s (Myrtaceae family) seed powder (2 gm to 4 gmis taken thrice a day (morning, afternoon and night. Alternatively, fresh leaf extract (5 to 10 ml) of the tree can be taken twice a day (morning and night). The inner bark of the Jamun tree is also used in the treatment of diabetes The bark, after drying is burnt to produce white ash. About 10 gm of this ash should be given to the diabetic patients during empty stomach with water in the morning, and 20g in afternoon and evening (10 g each) an hour after taking meals. An equal quantity of Jamun, Amla and Bitter-gourd powder makes a very useful remedy for diabetes. A teaspoon of this mixture once or twice a day has proved very effective in controlling the progress of the disease.
(v) Bitter gourd: Bitter gourd (Karela) or bitter melon has been known to reduce glucose level by improving peripheral glucose uptake. It also regenerates the activity of pancreas. This vegetable should, therefore, be included in the juice every diet of the diabetic patients. For getting good results, the diabetic patients should take its juice every morning on empty stomach. For this purpose, about four or five Bitter Gourd are taken, and after pealing, their juice is extracted. The seeds of bitter gourd can be added to food in a powdered form. Diabetics can also use bitter gourd in the form of dry powder.
(vi) Fenugreek: Its use helps in stimulating and enhancing insulin secretion and, thereby, reducing the blood glucose. It also improves glucose oxidation and reduces cholesterol level. The seeds of fenugreek have been found effective in the treatment of diabetes. Fenugreek seeds when given in the range of 25 to 100 gm daily, assist in diminishing hyperglycaemia in diabetic patients. Levels of glucose serum cholesterol and triglycerides also reduced significantly when the seeds of Fenugreek are given to the diabetic patients.
(vii) Sohanjna or Munga: Belonging to family of Moringaceae, the root decoction of the tree (5 to 10 ml) is taken twice daily, i.e., morning and evening hours.
(viii) Giloe or Gulchi: The plant is a climber and belongs to Menispermaceae. The stem of Giloe (about 30 gm to 40 gm) and Amla fruit (25 gm) are boiled together. The decoction (50 ml) with a pinch of turmeric powder is taken twice daily.
(ix) Til: Til is known to reduce glucose level. For the treatment of diabetes, 3 gm to 5 gm seeds are roasted and are then ground with small quantity of milk to make paste. The so prepared paste is given to the diabetic patients for about a month for obtaining good results.
(x) Pipal: Use of bark of this tree has been found very useful in reducing glucose level in the blood. It also improves the normal tone of an organ. Grind dry bark to get powder. Take half teaspoon powder once daily for 3-4 days.
(xi) Karanj: It belongs to the family of Fabaceae. Its flowers (100 to 150 gm) are boiled to obtain a decoction. The decoction (50 to 60 ml) is taken orally once daily empty stomach.
There are strong indications that use of 11 plants are highly beneficial for diabetic patients. The present paper although deals with 11 medicinal plants used in diabetes by the tribal and other ethnic communities yet there are number of other plants like ‘Tulsi’, ‘Amla’ and many others which can be exploited for their use in checking diabetes.
(The author is former Chief Scientist KVK Cum Associated Dean, SKUAST-J)