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Anti-diabetic Indian Herbs

Anti-diabetic Indian Herbs

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Published by DR. NILANJAN RAY

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Published by: DR. NILANJAN RAY on Oct 25, 2010
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 Serial Review
 J. Clin. Biochem. Nutr.
, 163–173, May 2007
Recent Advances in Indian Herbal Drug Research
Guest Editor: Thomas Paul Asir Devasagayam
Indian Herbs and Herbal Drugs Used for the Treatment of Diabetes
Manisha Modak 
, Priyanjali Dixit
, Jayant Londhe
, Saroj Ghaskadbi
, andThomas Paul A. Devasagayam
 Department of Zoology, University
of Pune, Pune 411007, India
 Biology and Health Sciences Division, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai 400085, India
Received 19 September, 2006; Accepted 6 December, 2006
Traditional Medicines derived from medicinal plants are used by about 60% of the world’s population. This review focuses on Indian Herbal drugs and plants used in the treatmentof diabetes, especially in India. Diabetes is an important human ailment afflicting many fromvarious walks of life in different countries. In India it is proving to be a major health problem,especially in the urban areas. Though there are various approaches to reduce the ill effects of diabetes and its secondary complications, herbal formulations are preferred due to lesser sideeffects and low cost. A list of medicinal plants with proven antidiabetic and related beneficialeffects and of herbal drugs used in treatment of diabetes is compiled. These include,
 Allium sativum
 Eugenia jambolana
 Momordica charantia Ocimum sanctum
 Phyllanthus amarus
 Pterocarpus marsupium
Tinospora cordifolia
Trigonella foenum graecum
Withania somnifera
One of the etiologic factors implicated in the development of diabetes and its complications isthe damage induced by free radicals and hence an antidiabetic compound with antioxidantproperties would be more beneficial. Therefore information on antioxidant effects of thesemedicinal plants is also included.
 Key Words
: medicinal plant, India, antidiabetic, antioxidant, diabetesIntroduction
In the last few years there has been an exponential growthin the field of herbal medicine and these drugs are gainingpopularity both in developing and developed countriesbecause of their natural origin and less side effects. Manytraditional medicines in use are derived from medicinal plants,
minerals and organic matter [
]. A number of medicinal plants,
traditionally used for over 1000 years named rasayana arepresent in herbal preparations of Indian traditional health caresystems [
]. In Indian systems of medicine most practitionersformulate and dispense their own recipes [
]. The WorldHealth Organization (WHO) has listed 21,000 plants, whichare used for medicinal purposes around the world. Amongthese 2500 species are in India, out of which 150 species areused commercially on a fairly large scale. India is the largestproducer of medicinal herbs and is called as botanicalgarden of the world [
]. The current review focuses onherbal drug preparations and plants used in the treatment of diabetes mellitus, a major crippling disease in the worldleading to huge economic losses.
*To whom correspondence should be addressed.Tel: +91-22-25593948Fax: +91-22-25505151E-mail: tpauld2001@yahoo.co.in
M. Modak
et al 
 J. Clin. Biochem. Nutr.
Diabetes and Significance
Diabetes is a chronic disorder of carbohydrate, fat andprotein metabolism characterized by increased fasting andpost prandial blood sugar levels. The global prevalence of diabetes is estimated to increase, from 4% in 1995 to 5.4%by the year 2025. WHO has predicted that the major burdenwill occur in developing countries. Studies conducted inIndia in the last decade have highlighted that not only is theprevalence of diabetes high but also that it is increasingrapidly in the urban population [
]. It is estimated that thereare approximately 33 million adults with diabetes in India.This number is likely to increase to 57.2 million by the year2025.Diabetes mellitus is a complex metabolic disorder resultingfrom either insulin insufficiency or insulin dysfunction. TypeI diabetes (insulin dependent) is caused due to insulininsufficiency because of lack of functional beta cells.Patients suffering from this are therefore totally dependenton exogenous source of insulin while patients suffering fromType II diabetes (insulin independent) are unable to respondto insulin and can be treated with dietary changes, exerciseand medication. Type II diabetes is the more common formof diabetes constituting 90% of the diabetic population.Symptoms for both diabetic conditions may include: (i) highlevels of sugar in the blood; (ii) unusual thirst; (iii) frequenturination; (iv) extreme hunger and loss of weight; (v) blurredvision; (vi) nausea and vomiting; (vii) extreme weakness andtiredness; (viii) irritability, mood changes etc.Though pathophysiology of diabetes remains to be fullyunderstood, experimental evidences suggest the involvementof free radicals in the pathogenesis of diabetes [
] and moreimportantly in the development of diabetic complications [
]. Free radicals are capable of damaging cellular molecules,DNA, proteins and lipids leading to altered cellular functions.Many recent studies reveal that antioxidants capable of neutralizing free radicals are effective in preventing experi-mentally induced diabetes in animal models [
] as wellas reducing the severity of diabetic complications [
].For the development of diabetic complications, the abnor-malities produced in lipids and proteins are the major etiologicfactors. In diabetic patients, extra-cellular and long lived
proteins, such as elastin, laminin, collagen are the major targets
of free radicals. These proteins are modified to form glyco-proteins due to hyperglycemia. The modification of theseproteins present in tissues such as lens, vascular wall andbasement membranes are associated with the development of complications of diabetes such as cataracts, microangiopathy,atherosclerosis and nephropathy [
]. During diabetes, lipo-proteins are oxidized by free radicals. There are also multipleabnormalities of lipoprotein metabolism in very low densitylipoprotein (VLDL), low density lipoprotein (LDL), and highdensity lipoprotein (HDL) in diabetes. Lipid peroxidationis enhanced due to increased oxidative stress in diabeticcondition. Apart from this, advanced glycation end products(AGEs) are formed by non-enzymatic glycosylation of proteins. AGEs tend to accumulate on long-lived molecules intissues and generate abnormalities in cell and tissue functions[
]. In addition, AGEs also contribute to increasedvascular permeability in both micro and macrovascularstructures by binding to specific macrophage receptors. Thisresults in formation of free radicals and endothelial dys-function. AGEs are also formed on nucleic acids and histonesand may cause mutations and altered gene expression.As diabetes is a multifactorial disease leading to severalcomplications, and therefore demands a multiple therapeuticapproach. Patients of diabetes either do not make enoughinsulin or their cells do not respond to insulin. In case of totallack of insulin, patients are given insulin injections. Whereasin case of those where cells do not respond to insulin many
different drugs are developed taking into consideration possible
disturbances in carbohydrate-metabolism. For example, tomanage post-prandial hyper-glycaemia at digestive level,
glucosidase inhibitors such as acarbose, miglitol and voglibose
are used. These inhibit degradation of carbohydrates therebyreducing the glucose absorption by the cells. To enhanceglucose uptake by peripheral cells biguanide such asmetphormine is used. Sulphonylureas like glibenclamide isinsulinotropic and works as secretogogue for pancreatic cells.Although several therapies are in use for treatment, there arecertain limitations due to high cost and side effects such asdevelopment of hypoglycemia, weight gain, gastrointestinaldisturbances, liver toxicity etc [
]. Based on recentadvances and involvement of oxidative stress in complicatingdiabetes mellitus, efforts are on to find suitable antidiabeticand antioxidant therapy.Medicinal plants are being looked up once again for thetreatment of diabetes. Many conventional drugs have beenderived from prototypic molecules in medicinal plants.Metformin exemplifies an efficacious oral glucose-loweringagent. Its development was based on the use of 
to treat diabetes.
Galega officinalis
is rich inguanidine, the hypoglycemic component. Because guanidineis too toxic for clinical use, the alkyl biguanides synthalin Aand synthalin B were introduced as oral anti-diabetic agentsin Europe in the 1920s but were discontinued after insulinbecame more widely available. However, experience withguanidine and biguanides prompted the development of metformin. To date, over 400 traditional plant treatments fordiabetes have been reported, although only a small numberof these have received scientific and medical evaluation toassess their efficacy. The hypoglycemic effect of some herbalextracts has been confirmed in human and animal models of type 2 diabetes. The World Health Organization ExpertCommittee on diabetes has recommended that traditionalmedicinal herbs be further investigated.
Indian Herbal Drugs for Diabetes
Vol. 40, No. 3, 2007
Major hindrance in amalgamation of herbal medicine inmodern medical practices is lack of scientific and clinicaldata proving their efficacy and safety. There is a need for
conducting clinical research in herbal drugs, developing simple
bioassays for biological standardization, pharmacologicaland toxicological evaluation, and developing various animalmodels for toxicity and safety evaluation. It is also importantto establish the active component/s from these plant extracts.
Indian Medicinal Plants with Antidiabetic andRelated Beneficial Effects
There are many herbal remedies suggested for diabetesand diabetic complications. Medicinal plants form the mainingredients of these formulations. A list of medicinal plantswith antidiabetic and related beneficial effects is given inTable1 [
]. A list of such formulations is given in Table2.
 Acacia arabica
: (Babhul)It is found all over India mainly in the wild habitat. Theplant extract acts as an antidiabetic agent by acting assecretagouge to release insulin. It induces hypoglycemia incontrol rats but not in alloxanized animals. Powdered seedsof 
 Acacia arabica
when administered (2,3 and 4g/kg bodyweight) to normal rabbits induced hypoglycemic effect byinitiating release of insulin from pancreatic beta cells [
 Aegle marmelos
: (Bengal Quince, Bel or Bilva)Administration of aqueous extract of leaves improvesdigestion and reduces blood sugar and urea, serum cholesterolin alloxanized rats as compared to control. Along withexhibiting hypoglycemic activity, this extract also preventedpeak rise in blood sugar at 1h in oral glucose tolerance test[
 Allium cepa
: (onion)Various ether soluble fractions as well as insoluble fractionsof dried onion powder show anti-hyperglycemic activity indiabetic rabbits.
 Allium cepa
is also known to have anti-oxidant and hypolipidaemic activity. Administration of a sulfur containing amino acid from
 Allium cepa
, S-methylcysteine sulphoxide (SMCS) (200mg/kg for 45days) toalloxan induced diabetic rats significantly controlled bloodglucose as well as lipids in serum and tissues and normalizedthe activities of liver hexokinase, glucose 6-phosphatase andHMG Co A reductase [
]. When diabetic patients weregiven single oral dose of 50g of onion juice, it significantlycontrolled post-prandial glucose levels [
 Allium sativum
: (garlic)
This is a perennial herb cultivated throughout India. Allicin,
a sulfur-containing compound is responsible for its pungentodour and it has been shown to have significant hypo-glycemic activity [
]. This effect is thought to be due toincreased hepatic metabolism, increased insulin release frompancreatic beta cells and/or insulin sparing effect [
].Aqueous homogenate of garlic (10ml/kg/day) administeredorally to sucrose fed rabbits (10g/kg/day in water for twomonths) significantly increased hepatic glycogen and freeamino acid content, decreased fasting blood glucose, andtriglyceride levels in serum in comparison to sucrose controls[
S-allyl cystein sulfoxide (SACS), the precursor of allicin and 
garlic oil, is a sulfur containing amino acid, which controlledlipid peroxidation better than glibenclamide and insulin. Italso improved diabetic conditions. SACS also stimulated
insulin secretion from beta cells isolated from normalrats [
]. Apart from this,
 Allium sativum
exhibits anti-microbial, anticancer and cardioprotective activities.
 Aloe vera and Aloe barbadensis
Aloe, a popular houseplant, has a long history as a multi-purpose folk remedy. The plant can be separated into twobasic products: gel and latex. Aloe vera gel is the leaf pulp ormucilage, aloe latex, commonly referred to as “aloe juice,”is a bitter yellow exudate from the pericyclic tubules justbeneath the outer skin of the leaves. Extracts of aloe gumeffectively increases glucose tolerance in both normal anddiabetic rats [
]. Treatment of chronic but not single doseof exudates of 
 Aloe barbadensis
leaves showed hypo-glycemic effect in alloxanized diabetic rats. Single as well aschronic doses of bitter principle of the same plant alsoshowed hypoglycemic effect in diabetic rats. This action of 
 Aloe vera
and its bitter principle is through stimulation of synthesis and/or release of insulin from pancreatic beta cells[
]. This plant also has an anti-inflammatory activity in a dose dependent manner and improves wound healing indiabetic mice [
 Azadirachta indica
: (Neem)Hydroalcoholic extracts of this plant showed anti-hyperglycemic activity in streptozotocin treated rats and thiseffect is because of increase in glucose uptake and glycogendeposition in isolated rat hemidiaphragm [
]. Apart fromhaving anti-diabetic activity, this plant also has anti-bacterial,antimalarial, antifertility, hepatoprotective and antioxidanteffects [
Caesalpinia bonducellaCaesalpinia bonducella
is widely distributed throughoutthe coastal region of India and used ethnically by the tribalpeople of India for controlling blood sugar. Both the aqueousand ethanolic extracts showed potent hypoglycemic activityin chronic type II diabetic models. These extracts alsoincreased glycogenesis thereby increasing liver glycogencontent [
]. Two fractions BM 169 and BM 170 B could

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