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New Study: Chamomile Tea Benefits Diabetes, Hyperglycemia (and Therefore Everyone Else)

September 8th, 2008

Chamomile may help diabetics and hyperglycemics.

Chamomile may help diabetics and hyperglycemics.

Most people are familiar with diabetes and hyperglycemia.  After all, both are extremely common. But when you ask most people what diabetes and hyperglycemia really are – even persons who have diabetes or hyperglycemia –  it’s clear most people don’t understand either condition.

The answer you’ll usually get is “high blood sugar”. But that’s not really correct. High blood sugar is only the result, not the cause, of what underlies both diabetes and hyperglycemia. In both diabetes and hyperglycemia, the problem isn’t where the blood sugar is, it’s where the blood sugar isn’t.

You see, diabetes and hyperglycemia are both manifestations of the body losing its ability to get nutrients from the bloodstream into the cells.  All cells in your body need those nutrients for energy, growth and maintenance.  High blood sugar is a sign that nutrients aren’t getting into cells where they’re needed. When cells can’t get the nutrients they need, their health and function suffers.

That brings us to insulin. Insulin is a hormone that signals cells to “uptake” nutrients from the bloodstream when those nutrients are present in high amounts.  Then, insulin helps cells to physically ingest the nutrients, notably amino acids for growth and repair and sugar for energy.

The root cause of diabetes or hyperglycemia is either insufficient production of insulin, or cellular resistance to insulin’s signal to uptake nutrients.  One or both conditions may be present, but in either case the result is that sugar “piles up” in the blood since cells aren’t ingesting it fast enough.

Since nearly all cells throughout the body depend on insulin in this way, diabetes and hyperglycemia are potentially very complex disorders that, unless corrected, will become even more complex and difficult to treat over time.   This is one reason why there probably will never be a “Silver Bullet” treatment for either condition, one capable of quickly and safely curing either disease completely.

Insulin is not a cure for diabetes.

Insulin is not a cure for diabetes.

Instead, both doctors and patients have to attack these conditions as from many different angles as possible  – dietary, pharmacological, lifestyle, psychological – to have the best chance of successful treatment.  So, literally, every little thing that the diabetic or hyperglycemic can do to promote stable blood sugar and insulin levels is worth doing.  Cleaning up the diet, taking medications consistently, taking the stairs instead of the escalator, switching to green tea or water instead of sugary soft drinks, eating smaller more frequent meals, taking a multivitamin, extra chromium, regular exercise, eating more slowly, all of these things can help.

To that list we can now add chamomile tea.  An animal study by the Department of Hospital Pharmacy, University of Toyama, Japan was just published in the September 10, 2008 Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. It reached the very promising conclusion that “…results clearly suggested that daily consumption of chamomile tea with meals could contribute to the prevention of the progress of hyperglycemia and diabetic complications.”
Chamomile tea has a  pleasant mild taste and is very inexpensive. It’s been used as a medicinal herb for centuries, usually for its calming effects or its ability to soothe an upset stomach.  It’s not clear whether the benefits of chamomile tea are true for chamomile extracts or supplements but it’s likely that they are, at least to an extent.

It’s not entirely surprising that this study took place in Japan, either.  Japan has been responsible for other discoveries based on traditional medicines such as the immune super-nutrient AHCC. Medicinal herbs and mushrooms are taken much more seriously there than in the West.  Herbs and mushrooms are entrenched parts of all traditional Asian medical systems.

Importantly, you don’t have to be a diabetic or hyperglycemic to be concerned about blood sugar and insulin levels.  Bodybuilders, fitness and figure models, athletes of every type understand how central insulin and blood sugar levels are to a robust metabolism. In fact, whether we’re athletic or not, if we want to be lean, healthy and energetic, we should all be striving to do what diabetics have to do, which is lower and stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels.  For most people, this is the direction in which they’ll want to push their metabolism since its opposite –  high and/or unstable blood sugar – is the very hallmark of diabetes and hyperglycemia. In that sense, we’re all “diabetics” and as part of maintaining our health, we should be mindful of all the different things that can affect blood sugar and insulin levels and how they do so.

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