Red ginseng may help regulate blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, according to two small studies presented at the American Diabetes Association's recent Scientific Sessions.
In the first study on people with type 2 diabetes, the herb produced a significant reduction in blood sugar levels after a period of four weeks, reported Alexandra Jenkins, a research associate at the University of Toronto.
The 30 participants received either capsules containing ground, North American-grown ginseng and a highly viscous Konjac mannan fiber, or placebo capsules, three times a day for 12 weeks. After a four-week break, they swapped over to placebo or ginseng capsules.
Blood samples taken before and after each 12-week period showed that hemoglobin A1C - a measure of blood sugar levels - dropped into the normal range when participants were taking the ginseng capsules, but not when they were taking placebo, reported the researchers at the sessions that took place June 13-17, in New Orleans.
In the second study, the researchers tested a different type of the herb, Korean red ginseng, on insulin sensitivity. Again, 19 type 2 diabetic subjects received 6g of the Korean ginseng or placebo daily for 12 weeks in a double-blind, randomized, crossover design, while on their conventional diabetes treatment.
The ginseng improved several features of metabolic control, said the researchers. The Korean ginseng improved long-term postprandial glycemia and insulin sensitivity safely beyond conventional treatment in type 2 diabetes. The herb may prove to be a safe and efficacious adjunct to conventional treatment, they added.
The studies show a need for further research into ginseng's properties. It is currently added to beverages to boost energy levels, but has also been linked to improved memory.