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In the April 9 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers at St. Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto wrote that American ginseng's potential role in diabetes should be taken seriously and investigated further.
"Controlling after-meal blood sugar levels is recognized as a very important strategy in managing diabetes," says Dr. Vladimir Vuksan, associate director of the risk factor modification centre at St. Michael's Hospital and lead investigator for the study. "It may also be important in the prevention of diabetes in those who have not yet developed the disease."
BGs Reduced 20 Percent
Study participants, both type 1 and type 2, consumed capsules containing 3 grams of ground Ontario-grown American ginseng either 40 minutes before or during a glucose test meal. Among participants with type 2 diabetes, those who took the ginseng capsules experienced a 20 percent reduction in blood sugar levels compared to those who took placebo capsules.
Among nondiabetic participants, similar reductions were only seen when the ginseng capsules were taken before, not together with, the test meal, suggesting that the timing of administration may be important.
Larger Studies Needed
Vuksan cautions people not to use these findings as justification to start taking ginseng.
"This is an initial, short-term study that only indicates a need for more research," he says. "We don't know what the effects of long-term consumption of ginseng will be. Because of poor standardization in the herbal industry, we also don't know if these findings will hold true for all American ginseng products. Nor do we know whether taking different species of ginseng, such as Chinese or Japanese, will have the same outcome."
Ginseng is one of the most widely used herbs worldwide. There are several types, including American, Chinese, Japanese and Siberian.
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