Nigerian researchers and their foreign counterparts have identified local plants such as guava, bitter leaf, Egusi melon and figs that will not only reduce blood sugar levels and improve the function of the insulin but protect the body against common complications of diabetes such as kidney failure and heart attack. CHUKWUMA MUANYA writes.
DIABETES mellitus (DM) is a group of metabolic diseases characterized by hyperglycemia (high blood glucose level), which results from defects in insulin secretion, insulin action or both.
The chronic hyperglycaemia of DM is associated with long-term damage, dysfunction and failure of various body structures and organs especially the eyes, nerves, heart, blood vessels and also the kidney.
Existing therapy for DM are known to provide good glycaemic control, but are believed to do little in regards to the complications to various organs. Besides, these anti diabetic drugs are associated with mild to moderate side effects.
However, Nigerian researchers from the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State, have identified four local plants that could be used as alternative therapy in ameliorating diabetic-associated disorders of the kidney.
The plants include: Bitter leaf (Veronia amygdalina), shaft of ‘Egusi’ melon seed (Citrullus colocynthis), leaves of guava (Psidium guajava), and leaves of figs (Ficus mucuso).
The study published in Cytology & Histology investigated the effect of four herbal extract and their efficacy on the histomorphometry of the kidney in Streptozotocin (STZ) induced diabetic rats with a view to understanding their anti-diabetic properties.
Streptozotocin (Streptozocin, STZ, Zanosar) is a naturally occurring chemical that is particularly toxic to the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas in mammals. It is used in medicine for treating certain cancers of the Islets of Langerhans and used in medical research to produce an animal model for Type 1 diabetes in large dose as well as Type 2 diabetes with multiple low doses.
Veronia amygdalina (VA) commonly called bitter leaf belongs to the family Asteraceae. It has petiolate leaves of about six millimetre (mm) diameter and elliptic shape. The leaves are green with a characteristic odour and a bitter taste. Bitter leaf is called Ewuro by the Yorubas and Onugbu by the Igbos. The leaves have been used in traditional folk medicine as anthelmintics, anti-malarial, antimicrobial anticancer and as a laxative herb. Phytochemical substances in VA include oxalates, phylates and tannins, and also flavonoids.
Researchers from University of Mississippi’s School of Pharmacy have conducted an extensive analysis of medicinal plants and proved once again that herbs can replace medications – now diabetes medications. They found that a number of herbs safely modulate cellular PPAR receptors – which means they help regulate glucose, insulin and fat metabolism.