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Ginseng in prevention and treatment of diabetes

TORONTO, CANADA. Ginseng is one of the most popular herbal remedies and has been used in China for thousands of years. Asian ginseng is known to combat stress, fatigue, and memory loss while American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L) is believed to enhance sex drive and improve memory and learning. There is also evidence from animal experiments that American ginseng helps regulate the digestion and protects the liver.

Researchers at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Medicine now report that American ginseng also helps control blood glucose levels. Their randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial involved 10 non-diabetic subjects (6 males and 4 females) and 9 patients with type 2 diabetes (5 males and 4 females). The trial consisted of two parts. In part one subjects were given either a 3-gram capsule of American ginseng or a placebo capsule (containing 3 grams of corn flour) 40 minutes before drinking 100 ml of a glucose solution containing 25 grams of glucose. In part two the ginseng and placebo capsules were swallowed together with the glucose solution. Blood samples were taken before the start of the test, immediately before swallowing the glucose solution, and then 15, 30, 45, 60 and 90 minutes later. The diabetics also had a blood sample drawn after 120 minutes.

In the non-diabetic subjects who took the ginseng and glucose solution simultaneously no differences were found in blood glucose levels between ginseng and placebo. When ginseng was taken 40 minutes before the glucose challenge a significant change in blood glucose response was noted (an 18 per cent reduction in area under the glycemic curve [AUC]). In the patients with diabetes improved glucose control (over placebo) was noted regardless of when the ginseng was taken (19 per cent reduction in AUC if taken before glucose challenge and 22 per cent if taken with glucose solution). The researchers conclude that American ginseng may be useful in improving glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes and also speculate that it may help prevent diabetes from developing in non-diabetics. They caution that non-diabetics prone to hypoglycemia should take ginseng with a meal in order to avoid an unintended drop in blood sugar. NOTE: This study was partially funded by Chai-Na-Ta Corp, a producer of American ginseng products.
Vuksan, Vladimir, et al. American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L) reduces postprandial glycemia in nondiabetic subjects and subjects with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol. 160, April 10, 2000, pp. 1009-13

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