Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

Ginseng Berry Shows Promise for Diabetes

By
WebMD Health News

May 24, 2002 -- An extract from the ginseng berry may one day help diabetics with their two greatest challenges: blood sugar control and weight control.

"Since this berry contains agents that are effective against both obesity and diabetes, the ginseng fruit has enormous promise as a source of new drugs," says study director Chun-Su Yuan, MD, PhD, of the University of Chicago's Tang Center for Herbal Medicine Research, in a news release.

For years, doctors have been looking for newer and better treatments for obesity and diabetes. Often, the two conditions occur together. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. Type 2 diabetes, characterized by an inability to use the hormone insulin effectively (a phenomenon called insulin resistance), is the most common form, affecting nearly 6% of the population. And those numbers are rising, possibly due to rising obesity in the U.S.

In recent years, scientists have identified a substance in the popular supplement made from ginseng root that can help stabilize blood sugar levels in diabetics. Now, doctors have found that an extract from the berry of the ginseng plant is even more potent -- at least in animals.

The study is published in the June issue of Diabetes, a journal from the American Diabetes Association.

In the study, diabetic mice that were injected daily with ginseng berry extract had complete normalization of blood sugar levels, improved sensitivity to insulin, and lowered cholesterol levels.

The treatment also prompted dramatic weight loss in the animals, which were also obese. The mice lost more than 10% of their body weight in 12 days, while the diabetic mice who didn't get ginseng berry extract gained 5% more weight. The treated mice ate 15% less food and were 35% more active than the mice not receiving the ginseng berry extract.

The extract had no detectable effect on normal mice.

"We were stunned by how different the berry is from the root and by how effective it is in correcting the multiple ... abnormalities associated with diabetes," says Yuan.

Yuan tells WebMD that a particular component of ginseng, known as ginsenoside Re, may be responsible for its potent antidiabetic effect. The substance is concentrated in the berry and is scarce in the root. He is also working to isolate an unidentified component of the extract that he believes is linked to the dramatic weight loss.

"What we can say at this point is that the research is promising," he tells WebMD. "But we don't yet know if this will work in humans. That is the next step."

Many diabetes treatments showing promise in animals have proven disappointing in humans, says ginseng researcher Vladimir Vuksan, PhD. He is associate director of the Risk Factor Modification Center at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.

In a study reported two years ago, Vuksan and colleagues found that diabetic patients who took a ginseng supplement made from American-grown root had moderate reductions in blood glucose following meals.

He is still studying ginseng, but he does not recommend that diabetics take currently available ginseng root supplements. That is because there is no way of knowing the composition of the ginseng from product to product, or where it was grown.

"Standardization from product to product is a huge problem, and manufacturers don't list where the ginseng comes from," he tells WebMD. "Ginseng is grown all over the world, but our studies showed this benefit [only with] American ginseng. Some of the ginsengs we have looked at actually raise blood sugar levels, and that would obviously not be good for a diabetic."

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Low
0-69
Normal
70-130
High
131+

Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Woman holding cake
Slideshow
feet
Slideshow
 
man organizing pills
Slideshow
Close up of eye
Slideshow
 

Woman serving fast food from window
Video
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Video
 
Middle aged person
Tool
are battery operated toothbrushes really better
Video
 

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Article
type 2 diabetes
Slideshow
 
food fitness planner
Tool
Are You at Risk for Dupuytrens Contracture
Article