Grasping the nettle: Iranian plants have anti-diabetes potential, say researchers

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

Alterantive sources of treatment for diabetes are required, say researchers. ©iStock
Alterantive sources of treatment for diabetes are required, say researchers. ©iStock

Related tags Alternative medicine Pharmacology

Several species of medicinal plants can be used in developing anti-diabetes drugs with limited side effects, according to Iranian researchers.

Some diabetics have noted side effects from medication diagnosed for their condition, and this has led them to explore alternative treatments in the form of medicinal plants, despite advances in the development of chemical drugs.

In light of this, researchers from Iran’s Shahrekord University of Medical Sciences conducted a review of ethnobotanical studies detailing medicinal plants and their traditional uses in preventing and treating diabetes in different regions of the country.

Popular plants 

They found that across different cultures and regions in Iran, people used “49 species of medicinal plants from 25 families, based on traditional medicine, to specifically treat blood sugar”​.

Most of the plants were from the Apiaceae​, Asteraceae​ and Lamiaceae​ family: six each from the former two and eight from the latter.

Some of the plant species were noticeably more popular for anti-diabetes purposes.

Urtica diocia L.​, commonly known as nettle, was shown to be used in eight regions, while Teucrium polium L.​ or poleigamandar was used in five regions. Other species, such as Citrullus colocynthis (L.) Schrad​, Juglans regia L. ​and Trigonella foenum graecum L.​, were used in four regions.

Avoiding complications

The review said managing glycaemia using only chemical drugs while avoiding complications caused by such drugs was an ongoing concern, and that alternative methods might be necessary in this case.

It stated: “Traditional medicine and (the) use of medicinal plants is a supplementary and auxiliary method which has offered an effective approach to prevent and treat diseases.”

It added that oxidative stress leads to vascular complications in diabetics, and that the already proven anti-diabetic effects of the phenolic compounds found in high concentration in the aforementioned plant families may inhibit starch digestion and have antioxidant properties.

These qualities contribute to the plants’ ability to protect against hyperglycaemia-induced chronic diseases.

The review further said that “co-application of phenolic compounds and synthetic enzyme inhibitors may decrease the effective dose of synthetic enzyme inhibitors that are needed to control postprandial glycaemia”​.

Fewer side effects

The researchers said the plants mentioned in the review could be further researched in order to produce new solutions with limited side effects

They concluded: “The findings of this study can be a comprehensive guideline, based on (the) ethnobotany of different regions of Iran, to prevent and treat diabetes.”


Source: Journal of Nephropathology

“Traditional uses of medicinal plants to prevent and treat diabetes; an updated review of ethnobotanical studies in Iran”

Authors: Majid Asadi-Samani, et al.

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