Blood-Sugar-Balancing Herbs & Teas That We Should All Have On Hand
I don't know about you, but I think winter is probably the hardest time of year to cut down on sugar. First, there's the sugar binding over the holidays and then there's Valentine's Day, movie nights and cozy dinner parties, and of course, the lack of time outside in the sun to distract us and keep us active. It's the perfect storm—and it can leave blood sugar feeling totally out of whack and many of us wondering what happened to our healthy intention of eating less sugar in 2019.
Luckily, I'm here to tell you not to worry. Despite all the obstacles, it's not too late. You can still make moves to cut down on your sugar intake and get your blood sugar back on track.
Why balancing your blood sugar is so important.
Understanding why healthy blood sugar levels are so important to our health can act as serious motivation when we're trying to cut down on the sweet treats we love. In simple terms, chronically elevated blood sugars and insulin resistance are key drivers in the development of chronic disease, particularly type 2 diabetes.
So how do you reduce spikes in insulin and blood sugar? Food choices certainly play a large role in this process, and so does how much you are exercising, sleeping, and avoiding toxins. There are also other natural ways that you can give your body a boost when it comes to blood sugar regulation, including blood-sugar-balancing teas and herbs.
How tea helps balance blood sugar and keep you healthy for life.
Teas are my favorite blood-sugar-balancing remedy and a plant medicine that I frequently prescribe in my office for a variety of conditions (as well as sip myself throughout the day). And luckily, there are so many great types of teas. Green tea is my favorite because there are so many different variations—although my personal favorite is jasmine green tea—that it doesn't ever become boring to drink. Green tea has been shown to be useful in managing the absorption and metabolism of sugars1, and very recently, a study demonstrated that the effects of a green tea polyphenol, called Polyphenon E, can affect the gut microbiome resulting in blood-sugar-lowering effects2.
If you want to switch it up a bit and drink some black tea, you'll be happy to know that a recent study showed that black tea consumption3 may also decrease levels of blood sugar after eating. Another helpful tea that has been shown to suppress blood glucose levels4 after taking in a carbohydrate-rich meal is pu-erh tea. In fact, a recent study showed that it might help lower blood sugar better than the drug acarbose. Pretty impressive, right?
Remember, just because it's a tea does not mean you have to drink it warm or hot. I often enjoy mine on the cooler side or even iced. Just make sure you're not loading your tea with cream or sugar.
Blood-sugar-balancing herbs you should know about.
In addition to these helpful teas, herbs can also be great weapons to add to your blood-sugar-friendly wellness routine. My favorite herb for this is cinnamon. A recent randomized controlled clinical trial showed that cinnamon could improve factors5 such as BMI, body fat, and visceral fat in addition to blood sugar indices and lipid profiles. Try putting cinnamon on top of your mixed berries, coffee, or even add it to your matcha. There are so many ways to get the benefits of this powerful herb!
Another great option is Gymnema sylvestre, which has been referred to as the "platform" of therapies for those with diabetes because it has significant blood-sugar-lowering properties6. It literally blocks sugar from being absorbed, which sounds pretty amazing if you ask me.
Last but not least, let's not forget about turmeric. This anti-inflammatory super-herb has a lot of functions and can be helpful in a wide variety of settings. One of these is with regards to blood sugar management. Curcumin has been shown to help prevent diabetes7 in those who are prediabetic, and it can also downregulate alpha-glucosidase and alpha-amylase (enzymes found in the intestinal tract that are critical for the digestion of carbohydrates), which helps control sugar levels in the blood. Luckily, turmeric is also easy to add to pretty much any meal, and you can also whip up some homemade golden milk latte.
So, there you have it! You can see that on top of making healthy food choices and getting plenty of exercise, there are a whole bunch of ways to naturally help improve your blood sugar levels. Keep in mind, however, that it's important to discuss using these supplements and herbs with your physician. It's possible you may lower your blood sugar levels too much and develop hypoglycemia.
Even if you have diabetes, if you systematically include some of these natural remedies in your toolbox—while also focusing on some of the key elements of lifestyle modification—you may be able to give a boost to the treatments you are already taking for blood sugar control. As always, when sourcing teas, herbs, and supplements, try to go with trusted brands that have purity certifications to avoid any potential issues with contaminants or dosage.
Marvin Singh, M.D is an Integrative Gastroenterologist in San Diego, California, and a Member of the Board and Diplomate of the American Board of Integrative Medicine. He is also trained and board certified in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology/Hepatology. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Singh completed his residency training in Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Health System followed by fellowship training in Gastroenterology at Scripps Clinic Torrey Pines. Singh was trained by Andrew Weil, M.D., a pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, at the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine.
Singh is currently the Director of Integrative Gastroenterology at the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute at UC Irvine. He is also currently a voluntary Assistant Clinical Professor at UCSD in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health; prior to this, he has been a Clinical Assistant Professor at UCLA and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University. Singh is a member of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, American College of Lifestyle Medicine, and many other societies. He is actively involved in the American Gastroenterological Association. He is one of the editors of the textbook of Integrative Gastroenterology, 2nd edition (a Weil Series text) and has written several book chapters and articles.
He is dedicated to guiding his clients toward optimal wellness every step of the way, using the most cutting edge technologies to design highly personalized precision based protocols. Towards this end, he founded Precisione Clinic and wrote the book Rescue Your Health to bring the best in preventive medicine to his clients.