Can Ginger Help to Control Diabetes?

Man holding ginger.
Fotosearch/Getty Images

One of the most popular plants in herbal medicine, ginger (Zingiber officinale) shows promise as a natural remedy for diabetes. Since the herb is known to offer anti-inflammatory benefits, it's thought that ginger may help reduce diabetes-related inflammation. Some research shows that ginger may also help control diabetes by improving blood sugar levels and treating insulin resistance.

Why Is Ginger Sometimes Used for Diabetes Control?

In preliminary research, scientists have observed that compounds found in ginger may help treat diabetes by regulating blood sugar levels and enhancing insulin sensitivity (a measure of how efficiently your body processes blood sugar).

In addition, some preliminary studies suggest that ginger may help treat diabetes-related abnormalities in cholesterol levels. For example, a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 2005 determined that treatment with ginger extract helped lower total cholesterol and increase HDL ("good") cholesterol in diabetic rats.

What's more, evidence from other animal-based research indicates that treatment with ginger may help protect against certain diabetic complications, including the development of cataracts.

Research on Ginger and Diabetes

So far, only a few clinical trials have looked at ginger's possible benefits as a natural approach to diabetes management.

These clinical trials include a small study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition in 2014, which included 70 people with diabetes. Compared to participants given a placebo for 12 weeks, those treated with ginger supplements for the same length of time showed a significantly greater improvement in blood sugar levels, total cholesterol, and insulin sensitivity by the study's end.

Additionally, a small study published in Advanced Pharmaceutical Bulletin in 2013 found that ginger may help curb the chronic inflammation closely linked to many diabetic complications. For the study, 64 people with diabetes took either ginger supplements or a placebo for two months. Results revealed that study members treated with ginger experienced a significantly greater reduction in certain markers of chronic inflammation (compared to those assigned to the placebo).

Caveats

Some individuals may experience mild side effects, including:

There's also some concern that use of ginger may increase the risk of bleeding, so it should be avoided by people with bleeding disorders and those taking medications that increase the risk of bleeding. It may also increase menstrual bleeding.

While increased intake of ginger may be beneficial for some people with diabetes, this herb should not be used in place of standard care for any condition. When improperly treated, diabetes may lead to life-threatening health issues such cardiovascular disease.

If you're currently using diabetes medications, it's important to talk to your doctor prior to taking ginger supplements. Because ginger may lower your blood sugar, it's possible that using this herb in combination with diabetes medications may cause your blood sugar to drop to abnormally low levels.

Go here for more tips on using dietary supplements.

Alternatives to Ginger for Diabetes Control

Like ginger, herbs such as ginseng, cinnamon, turmeric, milk thistle, and fenugreek may improve health in diabetes patients.

There's also some evidence that maintaining optimal levels of vitamin D and drinking tea on a regular basis may help protect against diabetes.

Some research shows that certain alternative therapies and mind-body techniques (such as acupuncture and yoga) may be of some benefit to people with diabetes as well.

Before using any type of alternative medicine (including ginger) in the management of diabetes, it's crucial to consult your physician for guidance in incorporating the remedy or therapy into your treatment plan.

Sources

Abdulrazaq NB1, Cho MM, Win NN, Zaman R, Rahman MT. "Beneficial effects of ginger (Zingiber officinale) on carbohydrate metabolism in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats." Br J Nutr. 2012 Oct;108(7):1194-201.

Al-Amin ZM1, Thomson M, Al-Qattan KK, Peltonen-Shalaby R, Ali M. "Anti-diabetic and hypolipidaemic properties of ginger (Zingiber officinale) in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats." Br J Nutr. 2006 Oct;96(4):660-6.

Arablou T1, Aryaeian N, Valizadeh M, Sharifi F, Hosseini A, Djalali M. "The effect of ginger consumption on glycemic status, lipid profile and some inflammatory markers in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus." Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2014 Jun;65(4):515-20.

Bhandari U1, Kanojia R, Pillai KK. "Effect of ethanolic extract of Zingiber officinale on dyslipidaemia in diabetic rats." J Ethnopharmacol. 2005 Feb 28;97(2):227-30.

Iranloye BO1, Arikawe AP, Rotimi G, Sogbade AO. "Anti-diabetic and anti-oxidant effects of Zingiber officinale on alloxan-induced and insulin-resistant diabetic male rats." Niger J Physiol Sci. 2011 Nov 23;26(1):89-96.

Mahluji S1, Attari VE, Mobasseri M, Payahoo L, Ostadrahimi A, Golzari SE. "Effects of ginger (Zingiber officinale) on plasma glucose level, HbA1c and insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetic patients." Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2013 Sep;64(6):682-6.

Mahluji S1, Ostadrahimi A, Mobasseri M, Ebrahimzade Attari V, Payahoo L. "Anti-inflammatory effects of zingiber officinale in type 2 diabetic patients." Adv Pharm Bull. 2013;3(2):273-6.

Saraswat M1, Suryanarayana P, Reddy PY, Patil MA, Balakrishna N, Reddy GB. "Antiglycating potential of Zingiber officinalis and delay of diabetic cataract in rats." Mol Vis. 2010 Aug 10;16:1525-37.

Shidfar F, Rajab A, Rahideh T, Khandouzi N, Hosseini S, Shidfar S. "The effect of ginger (Zingiber officinale) on glycemic markers in patients with type 2 diabetes." J Complement Integr Med. 2015 Feb 10.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

Continue Reading