Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects about 422 million people across the globe, as stated by WHO. It is characterised by increased blood sugar levels due to either insufficiency of insulin hormone or insulin resistance. Chronic diabetes is known to affect our vision health, blood vessels, nerves and increase the incidence of renal disorders.
Due to this reason, it is very important to manage diabetes. Diet plays a very crucial role in managing the same therefore, food options should be chosen wisely. Complex carbohydrates, proteins, good fats should be preferred. In addition, there are some herbs and spices which help in preventing blood glucose level fluctuations and improve insulin sensitivity. For example fenugreek, aloe vera, giloy, cinnamon, etc.
In this article, we will discuss one such diabetic-friendly herb - Neem.
Neem (Azadirachta indica) is one of the ancient and popular herbs of India. Neem has numerous medicinal properties and each and every part including leaves, fruit, bark, root and stem are useful in treating and preventing a variety of ailments. It has anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting and antioxidant properties. Neem is used to treat dental issues, skin diseases, infections, inflammation, fever and many more.
Some researchers claim that neem is beneficial for managing elevated blood sugar levels as well due to the presence of certain flavonoids, carotenoids, alkaloids, active ingredients like azadirachtin salannin, meliantriol, nimbocinone, kulactone, Nimbin, myricetin, isomargosinolide and triterpenoid.
A study conducted in 2011 by M. Bhat et al found that neem extract had a protective effect on the pancreas cells which secretes insulin hormone and may have a beneficial effect in diabetes mellitus. Similar effects were found in another study in 2000 in which neem leaves extracts and seed oil were given. It was found that neem may be helpful in reducing the incidence or onset of diabetes.
Due to the presence of powerful biologically active compounds, neem is also used in many cosmetics, dermatological and skin products. The residue which is left after extracting the oil from neem seeds is used as a fertiliser as it has natural insecticidal properties.
A research was conducted in India to check the individual effect of neem, methi and curry leave on type 2 diabetic patients. In this study, 252 diabetic people between 30-60 years of age were included. Subjects were divided into three equal groups in which 10 g of neem leaf powder was given to the first group, the second group had 10 g methi leaf powder and 10 g curry leaf powder was administered to the third group. Their biochemical parameters were checked post every 2, 4 and 6 months. Significant improvements in the blood sugar levels were found for all three leaves providing evidence that these leaves can easily be used in the nutritional management of diabetes.
To sum up, neem is one of the all-rounder herbs which possess various health-boosting and medicinal qualities like analgesic, anti-helminthic, antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antimalarial, antipyretic, antispasmodic, insecticidal and anti-tumour. Due to its anti-hyperglycaemic effect, neem is also good for diabetics as it improves and protects the functioning of pancreatic cells.
It is good to include a small cup of neem leaves concoction on a daily basis to prevent hyperglycemia. In case opting for supplements, it is better to consult a doctor for the timing and dosage. This is because excess neem intake may cause hypoglycemia which is also not desirable.
- Diabetes. (2019, May 13). WHO. https://www.who.int/health-topics/diabetes#tab=tab_1
- Khosla, P., Bhanwra, S., Singh, J., Seth, S., & Srivastava, R. K. (2000). A study of hypoglycaemic effects of Azadirachta indica (Neem) in normal and alloxan diabetic rabbits. Indian journal of physiology and pharmacology, 44(1), 69–74.
- Bhat, M., Kothiwale, S. K., Tirmale, A. R., Bhargava, S. Y., & Joshi, B. N. (2011). Antidiabetic Properties of Azadirachta indica and Bougainvillea spectabilis: In Vivo Studies in Murine Diabetes Model. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2011, 561625. https://doi.org/10.1093/ecam/nep033
- Okpe AC, Shu EN, Nwadike KI, Udeinya IJ, Nubila NI, et al. (2019) Effects of Fractionated Neem Leaf Extract (IRC) on Blood Glucose Level in Alloxan Induced Diabetic Wistar Rats. Int J Diabetes Clin Res 6:105. doi.org/10.23937/2377-3634/1410105
- Singh, Laxmi & Mishra, Sunita. (2010). Effect of Neem, methi and curry leaves on diabetic patients (type-II). Asian Journal of Home Science, ISSN:0973-4732. 4. 309-312.