Ayurvedic Doctor

A young man preparing Ayurvedic medicine in the traditional manner in India. (Credit: University of Nottingham)

NOTTINGHAM, United Kingdom — Traditional Indian medicines can effectively treat type 2 diabetes, a new study finds. Researchers from the University of Nottingham found that Ayurveda medicines, which are a common tool in South Asia, can help people with the condition maintain their blood sugar levels.

These remedies can also help people manage their body weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol, according to the study. Ayurveda is a traditional medical system in practice for thousands of years in many South Asian countries including India and Nepal.

It involves lifestyle changes, including to diet, detoxifying and purifying therapies and medicines which contain plant, animal, or mineral ingredients – either alone or mixed together. Some of the herbs are also ingredients in remedies treating illnesses in Iran, China, and Mexico.

For the study, the research team conducted a systematic review of existing research into the practice. They looked at results from 199 randomized control trials involving 21,191 participants and 98 Ayurvedic medicines. Results show the traditional medicine was effective at treating the condition.

Earlier reviews had found the traditional medical method could help people with type 2 diabetes, but many did not include newer trial results, and none have provided a comprehensive summary of all the medicines used for managing the condition.

Why choose traditional remedies?

The researchers say theirs is the first “comprehensive” systematic review on any traditional medicine. Many Ayurvedic doctors believe some of the herb extracts and proprietary Ayurvedic medicines in the researchers’ review are a deviation from traditional Ayurveda.

“This is the first time a thorough review has taken place looking at all these medicines on a much larger scale,” says lead study author Dr. Kaushik Chattopadhyay in a university release.

“The current evidence suggests the benefits of a range of Ayurvedic medicines in improving glycemic control in type 2 diabetes patients. Given the limitations of the available evidence and to strengthen the evidence base, high-quality randomized controlled trials should be conducted and reported. As part of the funded project, we have developed a clinical guideline for managing type 2 diabetes by Ayurvedic practitioners based on this evidence and will be evaluating it.”

Type 2 diabetes is one of the main diseases for which patients use Ayurvedic medicines, often continuously from the point of diagnosis. The traditional medicine is often used by people because it fits in with their culture and existing beliefs about health.

Patients from low-income backgrounds, older people, and minority groups also often use it. Many diabetics prefer not to use Western medicine because of the cost, the side-effects, and a fear of regular injections.

The findings are published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology.

South West News Service writer Gwyn Wright contributed to this report.

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