Diabetes need not be a drag on your lifestyle as long as you carefully monitor your blood sugar levels and practice healthy eating. Although conventional treatments often include diabetic medications, insulin shots, or a mix of both, these aren’t your only options. In fact, Mother Nature has provided us with several antidiabetic remedies, of which Moringa is one of them. But is Moringa just time-honored folklore, or is it truly effective as part of a diabetic treatment plan?
We’ll dive deep into the scientific literature to show you how the bioactive components in Moringa extracts bring down high blood sugar levels. You will also learn how this herbal plant can help protect you from secondary diseases commonly associated with diabetes. We promise that you will be keen to stock your pantry with Moringa leaf powder before you reach the end of this article.
Moringa as an Herbal Supplement
Moringa, or Moringa oleifera, is native to the Himalayas but widely cultivated worldwide for its medicinal properties. Its fruits resemble drumsticks, which is why the plant is affectionately known as the drumstick tree.
From the leaves to the roots, Moringa is used in traditional medicine for various health issues, such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on the benefits of Moringa leaves relative to your blood sugar levels.
Understanding the Nutritional Composition of Moringa
The nutritional composition of Moringa is what makes it so formidable in regulating blood sugar levels. In terms of essential vitamins and minerals, this medicinal herb possesses:
- Vitamin A (25x more than carrots)
- Iron (3x more than spinach)
- Potassium (3x more than bananas)
- Vitamin C (7x more than oranges)
- Protein (2x more than yogurt)
- Calcium (4x more than milk)
While these micronutrients give enough incentive to add Moringa to your daily diet, science shows that the plant contains key antioxidants that are specifically beneficial to diabetic patients:
- Quercetin: This flavonoid prompts your muscles to take in more glucose and signals the liver to rein in glucose production. These two mechanisms then stop your blood glucose levels from rising excessively. Quercetin is also known for lowering blood pressure, which may reduce your risk of coronary heart disease, a metabolic condition closely associated with diabetes.
- Chlorogenic acid: This phenolic acid (incidentally present in brewed coffee) stops your intestine from absorbing glucose after a meal. Rat models show that chlorogenic acid downplayed blood glucose levels, and may be a prevention treatment for type 2 diabetes.
- Isothiocyanates: One study suggests that isothiocyanates are the “main anti-obesity and anti-diabetic bioactives” of Moringa. This means that they may help prevent and treat type 2 diabetes and obesity, two health issues that often go hand in hand. Besides that, isothiocyanates are known as the primary anti-inflammatory compounds in Moringa leaves.
- Kaempferol: This flavonoid is another antidiabetic compound proven to enhance glucose uptake in skeletal muscle cells, improve insulin sensitivity, and inhibit glucose production.
Although many of these bioactive compounds are hard to pronounce, keep them in mind as we discuss how they tackle a high blood glucose count in the next section.
2 Key Benefits of Moringa for Diabetes
The two primary benefits of Moringa for diabetes include:
- Lowering your blood sugar levels, and
- Indirectly defending you from other diabetic-related metabolic diseases
1. Reduce High Blood Sugar Levels
We’ve previously mentioned several bioactives in Moringa which play important roles in blood glucose regulation. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of Molecules outlined the exact mechanisms:
- Quercetin and kaempferol in Moringa extracts bind to α-amylase and α-glucosidase to stop these enzymes from breaking down complex carbohydrates into simple glucose molecules.
- Quercetin, kaempferol, and chlorogenic acid join forces to curtail intestinal absorption of glucose. This helps prevent a steep rise in the circulating blood sugar levels of diabetic individuals after a meal.
- The significant dietary fiber content in Moringa (roughly 20-28%) may potentially lessen intestinal glucose uptake, thereby preventing post-meal hyperglycemia.
- Moringa upregulates insulin secretion in the liver and muscles. This, in turn, enhances the liver’s insulin sensitivity and prevents it from synthesizing new glucose. At the same time, the muscle cells take in more glucose than usual, reducing the amount of blood sugar in circulation.
To see how these mechanisms occur in real life to regulate blood glucose levels, we will look at two specific studies.
First up, the Journal of Food Science and Technology analyzed the effects of Moringa leaf powder on the blood sugar levels of 90 postmenopausal women:
- Group I: No herbal supplementation.
- Group II: Daily supplementation of seven grams of Moringa leaf powder.
- Group III: Daily supplementation of seven grams of amaranth leaf powder.
The results showed that group II had the greatest decline in fasting blood glucose levels at 13.5%. Meanwhile, group III only reduced blood sugar levels by 10.4%. A side benefit of Moringa supplementation is that it significantly raises the levels of specific antioxidants (retinol, ascorbic acid, glutathione peroxidase, and superoxide dismutase) while reducing oxidative stress (malondialdehyde).
Second, a 2009 study pitted Moringa against bitter gourd and curry leaves in diabetic patients. The results showed that Moringa leaves exhibited the largest decrease in post-meal blood sugar hike by 21%. This portrays Moringa as the superior antidiabetic agent compared to other vegetable herbs. Interestingly, the study noted that this effect isn’t due to insulin secretion, suggesting that another mechanism is at play. More research is needed to deduce the exact processes that took place behind the scenes.
2. May Lower the Risk of Diabetic-Related Metabolic Diseases
Aside from the direct benefit of regulating your blood glucose levels, Moringa also provides an indirect benefit of minimizing your risk of chronic health issues closely associated with diabetes. Some common examples include heart disease, high cholesterol levels, and obesity.
As you may have heard, the root of many chronic illnesses is traced to chronic inflammation in the body. While inflammation in moderation is needed for your body’s repair mechanism, too much inflammation over prolonged periods is detrimental to your overall health and wellness. But, how does Moringa come into play to keep your inflammation levels in check?
As we’ve mentioned, Moringa is chock full of flavonoids and phenolic compounds that are anti-inflammatory in nature. These powerful bioactives tackle excess reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the body. Given that too much ROS and too few antioxidants incite oxidative stress, supplementing with antioxidant-rich Moringa helps rebalance the scales. The herb basically reduces oxidative stress to relieve inflammation, shoring up your defenses against other chronic illnesses.
If you need more proof, here are two studies showcasing this indirect benefit of Moringa:
- Scientific evidence suggests that Moringa may possess lipid-lowering properties. In one study, rats that received Moringa seed extract increased the expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPAR). These receptors play a role in fat metabolism and glucose regulation. In other words, Moringa may help diminish your risk of diabetes mellitus and atherosclerosis (the buildup of plaque inside the arteries).
- A 2008 study using rabbit models found that 12 weeks of Moringa leaf extract significantly “lowered the cholesterol levels and reduced the atherosclerotic plaque formation to about 50 and 86%, respectively.” These results mimic the effects of the commonly used cholesterol-reducing drug, simvastatin. As a result, Moringa is potentially touted as a natural preventative measure for cardiovascular diseases.
These two animal studies confirm what we already know about the extensive benefits of Moringa beyond blood glucose regulation. It also suggests that these results may be replicated to a similar extent in human diabetic patients.
How To Choose Moringa for Diabetes
At this point, you probably can’t wait to experience the benefits of Moringa for yourself. Follow these tips to get the most out of this antidiabetic herbal plant:
- Opt for Moringa leaves: We’ve previously said that the Moringa plant can be used in its entirety to optimize one’s health. But, which plant part should you go for? A 2015 study hinted that Moringa leaves have the highest levels of antioxidant activity.
- Be careful with the dosage: Daily Moringa supplementation is safe, so long as you don’t exceed 70 grams per day. If you are trying Moringa for the first time, note that it has a mild laxative effect. Start with half a teaspoon per day and see how your body reacts.
- Sun- and shade-dried: We recommend Moringa leaves that have been dried by the sun and shade compared to those that are freeze- or heat-dried. The reason being, sun- and shade-dried leaves are more likely to retain all of their nutrients and freshness.
You can buy fresh Moringa leaves from nearby farmers’ markets and grind them into a fine powder with a food blender. Or you can skip the grueling work and go with a ready-to-use Moringa powder supplement.
Case in point: Zen Principle Organic Moringa Leaf Powder. It checks off all of the above criteria to help you get your blood sugar levels back under control. All you need to do is add a spoonful of our Moringa leaf powder to your morning or afternoon cuppa. Check out our in-depth guide on “How to use Moringa powder” for more recipe ideas.