Type 1 diabetes is currently considered an incurable disease – there are ways to manage and treat it, but ultimately no way to completely reverse the effects of the disease. Unlike type 2 diabetes, which is caused by the body becoming resistant to its own insulin, type 1 diabetes happens when the body is unable to produce insulin on its own, due to beta cells in the pancreas being impaired or destroyed.
However, several recent studies have provided new hope for researchers hoping to eventually discover a cure for diabetes, particularly type 1 diabetes.
A number of natural plant compounds are being investigated for their anti-diabetic properties, including flax seed, which has been shown to be capable of stimulating beta cell regeneration within the pancreas.
1. Flax Seed And Diabetes
A study published in the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology looked at an active compound found in flax seed, called Linun usitassimum active fraction (or LU6 for short), which was found to have a number of benefits in type 1 diabetes animal models, including improved utilization of glucose in the liver, better glucose forming activity in the liver and muscle tissue, and lowered post-meal blood sugar levels(1).
This flax seed compound also normalized plasma insulin levels, indicating that beta cell function was being restored.
Other Natural Compounds
The idea of exploring natural compounds for anti-diabetic properties is not a new one. There are many plant-based compounds which can help manage blood sugar levels and induce beta cell regeneration. Some of these compounds include:
2. Arginine: L-Arginine is an amino acid capable of stimulating beta cell genesis in an animal model of diabetes, as shown in one 2007 study(2).
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3. Berberine: A plant compound found in herbs like goldenseal and barberry, berberine was found to induce beta cell regeneration in diabetic rats in one 2009 study(3).
4. Chard: Chard extract was found to stimulate recovery in injured beta cells in animal models in the year 2000(4).
5. Corn Silk: Corn silk can help reduce blood sugar levels and stimulate beta cell regeneration in rats with type 1 diabetes(5).
6. Curcumin: The active compound in the herb turmeric, curcumin has been studied extensively for its safety and efficacy in treating diabetes. In 2010, a study found that curcumin could stimulate beta cell regeneration in rats with type 1 diabetes(6).
7. Genistein: Found in soy and red clover, genistein can induce beta-cell proliferation and prevent diabetes in mice(7).
8. Honey: A 2010 study using human participants found that long-term honey consumption could have a positive effect on type 1 diabetes(8).
9. Nigella Sativa: Also known as black seed, consumption of this plant was shown to lead to partial regeneration of beta cells in a 2003 animal model study(9).
10. Stevia: This natural sweetener has anti-diabetic properties, and compared favorably with diabetes drugs like glibenclamide(10).
11. Gymnema Sylvestre: A human clinical trial showed that people taking Gymnema sylvestre extract daily experienced significant reductions in blood sugar levels, hemoglobin A1c and glycosolated plasma protein levels.
At the end of the 18-month study, the participants were able to reduce their drug dosages, and five of the 22 study participants were able to effectively maintain normal blood sugar levels with the herb extract alone. The researchers concluded, “the beta cells may be regenerated in type 2 diabetic patients on Gymnema sylvestre supplementation.”(11)
In another study, researchers gave Gymnema sylvestre extract to 27 people with type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes daily. The conclusions were that the uses of the Gymnema extract dramatically reduced fasting blood glucose, hemoglobin A1c and insulin requirements.
“The average fasting glucose dropped from 232mg/dl to 152mg/dl. Hemoglobin A1c mean of 12.8% at the beginning of the study fell to 8.2% at the end. Total insulin usage was cut in half as compared to the original doses. There were also significant decreases in glycosylated plasma proteins, total cholesterol and triglycerides.”