Herbal and food supplements

Many people rely on traditional herbal and complementary remedies, which are said to help with blood glucose control. These remedies can be homemade or bought from local shops, and while they may have benefits, they should not be a substitute for your medications. 

                                                                                                   

Positive effects on autoimmune conditions

There continues to be research into a range of micronutrients, supplements and functional foods and their effect on diabetes management and their link with causing diabetes. This includes, for example, vitamin B3, chromium, magnesium, anti-oxidants, vitamin D, zinc, caffeine, cinnamon, chilli, karela and methi. There's no evidence that any of these can prevent or cause diabetes.

Many herbal and complementary therapies sold in shops have not been tested and they are not regulated in the same way as prescribed medications.

If you are taking any herbal or complementary remedies, it’s important that you speak to your healthcare team and continue to take your diabetes medication. There may be risks associated with taking supplements, because they affect the way your diabetes medications work, and make diabetes complications (eg kidney disease) worse.

Supplements

Vitamin and mineral supplements are becoming increasingly popular, but they have no clear benefits for people with diabetes, unless you have a deficiency or your doctor prescribes them. An exception is pregnant women and those planning to have a baby.

Most people should aim to get all their nutrients from a varied and balanced diet. If you are concerned that you may be at risk of lacking a particular nutrient, discuss this with your healthcare team.

Staying safe

Currently there is no known cure for diabetes, so any claims that herbal remedies can cure the condition are not supported.

Remember that phrases such as ‘natural’, ‘herbal’ and ‘derived from plant’ do not necessarily mean ‘safe’.

As with all medicine, keep herbal remedies out of sight and reach of children.

Diabetes UK does not recommend the use of herbal remedies and supplements as there is not enough evidence that they are safe and effective for people with diabetes to use.