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Traditional Chinese Medicine May Be Beneficial in Diabetes Prevention

Can taking a mixture of herbs three times daily help moderate glucose levels?… 

A recent randomized controlled trial in China suggests that giving pre-diabetic patients a medicinal herb mixture three times daily may help prevent a future diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. This trial was conducted over 11 sites in China and involved 389 pre-diabetic participants.

The patients were randomized to take either a placebo capsule three times daily before meals or a capsule containing a mixture of traditional Chinese herbs three times daily before meals. The herb mixture is called Tianqi and contains 10 herbs which have long been thought to improve blood glucose control. In addition to taking the capsules, both groups received diabetes education for a month and met with a nutritionist multiple times throughout the course of the study. The trial lasted for a year.

After the conclusion of the trial it was discovered that less people in the Tianqi group developed diabetes as compared to those in the placebo group. By taking the Tianqi herbs, patients reduced their risk of developing diabetes by 32.1% as compared to the placebo group. This risk reduction is similar to other trials comparing the preventative effects of taking metformin or acarbose.

This study suggests that, with further research, Chinese herbal medicine may be able to play a part in preventing a diagnosis of diabetes in at-risk patients. Also, while some first line diabetes medication may lead to gastrointestinal upset, patients reported no adverse effects to taking the herbal supplement and it was generally well tolerated.

Practice Pearls:
  • A mixture of 10 Chinese herbs consumed three times daily may help pre-diabetic patients avoid a diagnosis of diabetes in the future.
  • The patients consuming the herbal mixture had a 32.1% diabetes risk reduction as compared to the placebo group.
  • This herbal mixture, called Tianqi, is well tolerated by patients and there were no adverse events recorded during this trial.

Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, January 2014