TCM FOR DIABETES HAS SCIENTIFIC BACKING
Reports of a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) having beneficial effects for people suffering from type 2 diabetes now has some scientific evidence to back up the claims. A collaboration between Chinese, Korean and Australian scientists at Sydney’s Garvan Institute has revealed that the natural plant product berberine could be a valuable new treatment.
Berberine (plant alkaloid) is found in the roots and bark of a number of plants used for medicinal purposes including wound healing and has been documented as having anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-tumor properties. Berberine is a component of goldenseal, marketed in the combination herbal supplement of echinacea and goldenseal. It has been used in TCM as a remedy for diabetes (among other medicinal purposes) and documented in Chinese literature as having glucose-lowering properties when administered to diabetics, but its mode of action was unknown.
The study, published in a recent issue of Diabetes, investigated the metabolic effects of berberine in two models of insulin-resistance and insulin-responsive cell lines. “Our studies in models of diabetes show that berberine acts in part by activating an enzyme in the muscle and liver that is involved in improving sensitivity of the tissue to insulin—this in turn lowers blood sugar levels. In addition, it seems berberine can reduce body weight,” said Garvan scientist Jiming Ye, M.D. The next step is to investigate how berberine activates the enzyme that mediates these ‘insulin-sensitizing’ effects.
Type 2 diabetes is a growing health concern that requires development of new therapy treatments. A large number of patients cannot tolerate current medications (metformin) and the TZD group of drugs cause weight gain. “Berberine has been used for decades, if not centuries, with few reported side effects. Given the limitations of existing medicines we are excited to have evidence that berberine may be a new treatment for type 2 diabetes,” said Professor James, head of the Garvan’s Diabetes & Obesity Research Program and co-author of the Diabetes paper. For more information about TCM treatment for diabetes contact Dr. Richard Browne at (305) 595-9500.