Licorice root found to contain anti-diabetic substance

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Licorice root found to contain anti-diabetic substance

It provides the raw material for liquorice candy, calms the stomach and alleviates diseases of the airways: liquorice root. The root has been treasured in traditional healing since ancient times.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin have now discovered that liquorice root also contains substances with an anti-diabetic effect. These amorfrutins not only reduce blood sugar, they are also anti-inflammatory and are very well tolerated. Thus, they may be suitable for use in the treatment of complex metabolic disorders.

Natural substances have a surprising and often largely unexploited potential in the prevention and treatment of common diseases. For example, liquorice root Glycyrrhiza contains different substances that help to alleviate disorders of the airways and digestive system. It has been used for millennia in traditional healing and is mainly administered in the form of tea. A team of researchers working with Sascha Sauer from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin has now discovered that the plant from the papilionaceae or leguminous family might also be effective in the treatment of adult (type 2) diabetes. The scientists identified a group of natural substances with an anti-diabetic effect, the amorfrutins, in the plant’s edible root.

The substances, which have a simple chemical structure, are not only found in liquorice root, but are also in the fruit of the Amorpha fruticosa bush. The new anti-diabetic agents were named after this plant, which is native to the US, Canada and Mexico. As the researchers demonstrated using diabetic mice, the amorfrutins not only have characteristics that reduce blood sugar, they are also anti-inflammatory in their effect. Moreover, they also prevent fatty liver—a common disease caused by excessively fat-rich nutrition.


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Thank you for this imformation! I have been taking Mulberry Extract for a year now and have a tremendous benefit from it in my sugar levels. It comes in capsule form. Thank you again!

Hi Emily,

I read that licorice root can increase blood pressure.

That is something anyone considering taking the stuff might consider if hypertension is an issue.

I discovered that while researching hibiscus leaves for blood pressure. This is a topic on my mind lately, because I think the hibiscus tea I've been taking for hypertension is lowering my blood sugar readings a tad.

Yes, taking Gan Cao (licorice root) at high doses for long periods of time can cause hypertension and/or edema.

Gan Cao (licorice root) is often used in Chinese Medicine at low doses to harmonise all the herbs in the formula. It influences all the channels and meridians. Gan Cao (licorice root) is sweet in nature, used to relieve emergencies, tonifies Qi of whole body, yet specifically Spleen, Heart, Lung, and Stomach, most specifically Spleen Qi, it is beneficial for shortness of breath, fatique, loose stool, irregular pulse, palpitations, moisten the lung to stop cough, good to clear heat and toxic fire - used for carbuncles or poisoning, also alleviates pain and stops spasms of legs or stomach.

Other Chinese herbs beneficial for diabetes due to deficiency of spleen qi, specific to type 2 diabetes, yet also occasionally seen in type 1, for the pattern of spleen qi deficiency are Shan Yao and Bai Zhu.

Shan Yao is Chinese Yam, another food, like licorice root... can buy at the Chinese Market, or many health food stores. Shan Yao is delicious, it is good for sweating, regulate appetite, used for fatigue, diarrhea, also benefits Lung qi and yin deficiency - for chronic cough and wheezing, it is good for Kidney deficiency marked by leukorrhea, or emissions and frequent urination. Excellent food/herb for diabetes! Diabetics can take up to 250g a day! Will increase strength and vitality and help regulate blood sugars.

Bai Zhu (Atractylodes (White) Rhizome) is also Spleen Qi Tonic, good for diabetes. #1 herb in Chinese Medicine to help the transformation and transportation function of the Spleen. This aids in metabolism. Bai Zhu is good at drying dampness, helps with weight loss, reduce food cravings, good for water retention and bloating, also used for excessive sweating due to spleen qi deficiency.

I wonder if Bai Zhu is an herb that contains or promotes production of amylase, an enzyme that aids in the chemical process of digestion, it is found in saliva and the pancreas makes amylase too. Dr. Bernstein is injecting overweight diabetic patients with amylase (heard this on a utube video interview with him). Maybe patients would like to have some bai zhu instead. There may be some research studies on this. It is interesting that research is showing what Chinese Medicine has known for years. There is always, new ways to say, or prove the same thing.

Anyway, Gan Cao (licorice root) improves the appetite, increases the appetite, I like to chew on a little bit of honey stir fried gan cao, to wake up my spleen, and give me an appetite. I am a thin, type 1 diabetic for almost 30 years. Many herbs have regulation effect, this one may curb appetite, or stimulate appetite, it has a harmonising effect.

Glad to see posts on herbals, and foods that are herbs, especially Chinese herbs. Thank you :)

PS, in Chinese Medicine, there is not a 'pancreas' there is Spleen, which often takes the function of what Western understanding of pancreas says. In TCM, Traditional Chinese Medicine,,, regulating blood sugar is not limited to Spleen, many zang/fu organs are involved. Identifying one specific herb and calling it, the "Diabetic" herb would be impossible. TCM Pattern identification would be important to say if an herb or combo of herbs would benefit diabetes, ie, regulate blood sugar. If the type of diabetes did not meet the TCM pattern identification... the herb would not work for that patient. I think the same goes for supplements, and western herbs,,, "this or that benefits Diabetes, lowers blood sugar, ect." Like Chromium for example, good for those who produce insulin, yet are not utilising insulin properly, or possibly good for those with insulin resistance, however; not so great for Type 1 diabetics who are not producing any, or very little insulin. Also, cinnamon, that study made me laugh. One the research study was only like 60 people, and it lowered bg by only a few points,,, then it was all over the media, Cinnamon is beneficial for diabetes! And the caution for diabetics, careful if you take cinnamon and also insulin or oral meds - it may drop your bg too low! Walking a flight of stairs lowers my blood sugar more than that!

Teld, how much do you figure hibiscus leaves are lowering your bg? Enough to reduce your insulin or oral meds? I have a friend who swears by hibiscus leaves, he is almost completely off his blood pressure meds.

I'm prediabetic and don't take meds for blood sugar or hypertension - the latter because I'm without health insurance. It varies, but lately I've noticed about a 15-20 mg/dl difference in my fasting blood sugar, which had stubbornly not reduced much despite my going low carb over the last couple of months. My post-prandial has reduced maybe 20-30 mg/dl?

Where it had been trending at 145-150/85-90, my blood pressure now has been lowered about 15 for systolic and 10 for diastolic. What I love about the tea is that if my blood pressure goes high, I take less - if it goes low, I take more. My dosage now is about 1 tablespoon hibiscus leaves steeped for 15-20 minutes in water that came to a boil. I drink it throughout the day to spread out the effect. I might take a little more if my blood pressure goes high, or a little less if I'm having to take an NSAID that lowers my blood pressure. However, if I should ever take it into my head to get pregnant again, I need to get off the hibiscus, as like other ACE inhibitors, it is not pregnancy- or lactation-friendly.

Edit: I should also say that I'm judging my blood sugar based on my home testing. But again, if the tea turns out to have too much vitamin c in it, it's possible it might actually be raising my blood sugar and fooling with the chemistry of the test strips (which is what happens with too much vitamin C supplementation according to Bernstein.)

Oh, very interesting,,, vit.C fools with chemistry of test strips, that is so interesting... I am new to Bernstein, only heard of him just a few days, maybe a week ago, have been watching Utube vids and interviews ever since.

What does Bernstein say about Chinese herbal formulas or acupuncture?

There are formulas to lower blood pressure, that work the same general way as ACE inhibitors or diuretics. Many of which are safe to take in pregnancy or with nursing. Some are not. Also, certain acupuncture points are forbidden during pregnancy.

As well as being type 1 diabetic, I am also a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbologist. I am interested in all things Diabetic, all types of diabetes, and any and all treatments for Diabetes and accompanying conditions, and long-term complications, and prevention of, due to Diabetes.

You are pre-diabetic, were you termed gestational diabetic with previous pregnancy? I am mother of three sons, yet knew nothing of alternative treatments at time of my pregnancies. My blood sugars during pregnancy were very good, I was so careful, tested often, and had healthy, normal weight children, each born 1-2 weeks of due date.

Very interesting that hibiscus is lowering your bg as well, given meter readings are accurate. I am curious now, the relation between the general diagnosis in TCM for high blood pressure, and the diagnosis of diabetes in TCM. To my understanding, it is generally Liver Fire, or Liver Yang Rising with Kidney Yin deficiency. If treating that for a patient with high blood pressure, may indeed lower blood sugar as well, especially in a pre-diabetic diagnosis. Without knowing your TCM diagnosis, it is hard to say,,, yet, My guess is that your strategy using hibiscus leaves is tonifying your kidney yin, lowering the rising of liver yang, and regulating your blood sugar and blood pressure,,, also such nourishment of kidney yin is going to increase likey-hood of conception --- even if you need to stop using it during pregnancy and nursing. If it is in your heart and mind, to have a baby,,, I wish you Much Luck!

Thank you so much, everyday, I am learning new things. :)

Yes, I had gestational diabetes via the oral glucose tolerance test but blood sugars were fine, if I recall - I was not doing low carb, or very much self-testing but was in the hospital during that time and monitored pretty closely. I also did everything I could to "fight" the diabetic menu they put me on, which was trying to push me toward too many low fat and high carb foods. Ate tons of cheese snacks, got double meals for extra protein, double salads, etc.

That is interesting about conception if it is so...ironic, too.

It took me a while to figure out that the hibiscus was acting on my blood sugar, but it really seems so...especially when taken near mealtimes.

I wonder about Passion tea, which has licorice root as an ingredient along with hibiscus. Some people take it for lowering blood pressure, but that seems somewhat counterproductive if the licorice root has a hypertensive action.

@Turtle_Dove, It’s wonderful to learn about your perspective on diabetes, herbs…etc as a TCM practioner!