The insulin plant, also known as Costus igneus or insulin bush, is a tropical plant native to India and Southeast Asia. It has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine to help treat diabetes. More recently, research has confirmed the blood sugar lowering effects of this plant. Eating insulin plant regularly may help manage blood sugar levels. Here is a guide on how to incorporate insulin plant into your diet.
What is Insulin Plant?
Insulin plant is a large, upright, shrubby plant that can grow up to 6 feet tall. It has reddish stems and long, pointed leaves that have red veins running through them. The flowers are red or orange-yellow. The plant is native to humid, tropical environments.
Insulin plant contains compounds called furostanol saponins that are structurally similar to the hormone insulin. These compounds are believed to be responsible for the blood glucose lowering effects. The insulin-like action may stimulate glucose uptake and metabolism by cells.
Benefits of Insulin Plant for Diabetes
Research has shown that extracts of insulin plant can reduce blood sugar levels in animal and laboratory studies. When consumed regularly, insulin plant may:
- Lower fasting blood glucose
- Improve glucose tolerance
- Increase insulin secretion and sensitivity
- Protect beta cells in the pancreas
- Reduce absorption of glucose in the gut
- Enhance metabolism of glucose
- Prevent diabetic complications
These effects make insulin plant a promising natural treatment for managing diabetes. More research is still needed to determine optimal dosing in humans. But current evidence suggests it can be a beneficial addition to an anti-diabetic diet.
How to Eat Insulin Plant
There are several ways to incorporate insulin plant into your meals and daily routine:
Drink as Tea
The most common way to consume insulin plant is as a tea. Add 1 teaspoon of dried insulin plant leaves or powder to 1 cup of hot water. Let it steep for 5-10 minutes then strain out the leaves. Drink 1-2 cups daily.
You can also cold brew the tea overnight in the fridge and drink it chilled. Sweeten with a natural low glycemic sweetener if desired.
Cook with the Leaves
Chop fresh insulin plant leaves finely and add them to soups, stews, curries, and other dishes. The leaves have a tender texture and impart a slightly sweet, nutty flavor. Use just like any other leafy green.
You can also stir fry or sauté the leaves in coconut oil or ghee with other veggies. Or stuff them into sandwiches, wraps, and tacos.
Juice the Leaves
Juice fresh insulin plant leaves with fruits/veggies like celery, cucumber, apples, spinach, etc. Drink a small glass of the juice daily.
Take Powdered Supplements
Dried, powdered insulin plant supplements are available. Take them according to package directions, usually 1-2 grams daily.
Chew the Leaves
You can simply chew a few tender insulin plant leaves daily to access the benefits. They have a sweet, slightly bitter taste.
When to Take Insulin Plant
For best results, take insulin plant supplements, tea, or leaves right before meals. This is when it will be most effective at controlling the blood sugar spike after eating.
You can also take it first thing in the morning and/or before bed to help keep fasting blood sugars in check.
People with diabetes may want to monitor blood glucose carefully when first using insulin plant to see how it impacts levels. Work with your healthcare provider to determine safe dosing.
Combining with Other Herbs and Foods
For enhancing the blood sugar lowering effects, use insulin plant alongside other antidiabetic herbs like cinnamon, fenugreek, aloe vera, ginseng, and bitter melon.
Combining insulin plant with a low glycemic diet and exercise provides multi-faceted benefits for diabetes management.
Possible Side Effects and Precautions
When used appropriately, insulin plant is considered safe for most people. However, a few precautions are warranted:
- Pregnant/nursing women should avoid insulin plant until more research is done on safety.
- Insulin plant may lower blood sugar too much if combined with diabetic medications. Monitor glucose closely and adjust meds under medical supervision.
- Stop using insulin plant 2 weeks before any scheduled surgery.
- Insulin plant may interact with other herbs, supplements, and medications. Speak with your healthcare provider about potential interactions.
- Avoid insulin plant if you have hypoglycemia or are using insulin or other diabetic drugs that can cause low blood sugar.
- Introduce insulin plant gradually and discontinue use if any worrisome side effects develop.
Growing Your Own Insulin Plant
- In tropical climates, insulin plant can be grown at home year round. It prefers hot, humid environments and drier conditions during winter. Provide well-draining yet moist soil and partial sun to light shade.
- Harvest leaves as needed once the plant is established. Propagate by stem cuttings.
- For those in cooler climates, insulin plant can be grown indoors near a sunny window. It does well in containers and makes an attractive houseplant.
- Having your own insulin plant enables you to access the fresh leaves easily. Grow your own to save money and customize your dosage.
Insulin plant is an effective therapeutic plant for managing blood sugar levels and diabetes symptoms when used properly. Introduce it into your diet gradually via teas, supplements, leaves, etc. Pair it with other anti-diabetic foods and lifestyle strategies. Monitor your glucose levels and work with a healthcare provider to determine safe use. Growing your own insulin plant can provide you with a convenient source of the blood sugar lowering leaves.