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Local plants ameliorate complications of diabetes


Anacardium occidentale (Cashew Tree)

Nigerian researchers have identified and validated the efficacy of selected local plants in ameliorating the pathophysiological complications of diabetes, which include acute and chronic neuropathy (malfunctions of the nerves), nephropathy (kidney disease or damage), gastropathy (stomach disease), retinopathy (damage to the retina of the eyes, which may cause vision impairment), micro and macro cardiovascular disorders and erectile dysfunction.

The study was published in Journal of Medicinal Plants Research.

Top on the list of local medicinal plants validated to address complications of diabetes include: cashew, bitter leaf, turmeric, scent leaf, Moringa, neem, bitter melon, red cabbage, West African black pepper (Utazi in Ibo/Arokeke in Yoruba) and Aloe vera.

Researches indicate the commonest symptom of diabetes is thirst, and it is associated with excessive amount of urine as large amounts of glucose are excreted in the urine. Other symptoms of the disease include blurry vision from time to time, feeling tired most of the time, losing weight, very dry skin, sores that are slow to heal, getting more infections than usual, slowing of speech and thought, shaking, sweating, unsteadiness, aggressive behaviour, coma and finally unconsciousness.


Studies have shown that the major complication of diabetes is the damage to the heart and blood vessels, which can cause heart attacks, stroke, and poor circulation. These complications are associated not only with elevated blood glucose, but also elevated blood fat (cholesterol). Cholesterol at elevated concentrations tends to deposit on blood vessels, making them narrower, thereby decreasing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to tissue and increasing the chance of blood to clot. The effect of narrowing of the blood vessels is the increase of the risk of developing high blood pressure and erectile dysfunction.

According to medical researches, diabetic patients also have an increased risk of eyes disease and the damage to the retina associated with diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults under age 65. On the other hand, diabetic nephropathy is an important cause of morbidity and mortality, and is now among the most common causes of end-stage renal failure. About 30 per cent of patient with type 1 diabetes have developed diabetic nephropathy after 20 years, but the risk after this time falls to less than one per cent percent and from the outset, the risk is not equal in all patients.

Indeed, the incidence and prevalence of diabetes mellitus is fast becoming high in middle and low-income countries where about 80 per cent of people living in those countries depend on orthodox medicine.

Available literatures show that there are more than 400 plant species showing anti-diabetic activity with the possible use in the treatment of DM complications.

Several studies have shown that herbal formulation alone or in combination with oral hypoglycaemic agents sometimes produces good therapeutic responses in some resistant cases where modern medicines alone have failed.

Many herbal products have been prescribed for the management of diabetes mellitus in ancient and recent literature.
Anacardium occidentale (Cashew Tree)

The cashew tree is a tropical evergreen plant that grows as high as 14 m, but the dwarf cashew growing up to 6 m and many parts of the plants are used in the traditional medicine for the treatment of diseases. In some cases, the seeds are ground into poultice and used in the treatment of snakebites, the fruits, barks and leaves are used as antifungal, antipyretic and antidiarrheal agents.

Furthermore, Leonard et al. reported that cashew seed can reduce diabetes induced functional and histological alterations in the kidneys and the hypoglycaemic action of this plant is mostly seen in experimental type I diabetes. Streptozotocin induced diabetes in rats has been reported to be associated with functional and morphological changes in the kidney. Albino rats receiving graded doses of hexane extract of this plant (150 and 300 mg/kg/day) showed a significant reduction in blood glucose level, total protein excreted, glycosuria and urea in diabetic rats as reported by Leonard et al. Leonard et al. further observed that the histopathological study showed significant reduction in accumulation of mucopolysaccharides in the kidneys of diabetic animals. Phytochemical analysis of the cashew seed has revealed the presence of alkaloids, polyphenols and saponins.
Vernonia amygdalina (Bitter Leaf)


Vernonia amygdalina is among medicinal plants reported to be used in traditional settings for the management of ailments. Report by Atangwho et al. showed V. amygdalina to restore the damage previously done to the beta cells of the pancreas that is, protective ability of the extracts on the pancreas, as the probable mechanism of action in exerting anti-diabetic action.

Bitter leaf.

Iwara et al. investigated the effects of combined extracts of V. amygdalina (VA) and Moringa oleifera (MO) on streptozotocin induced kidney damage in experimental rat models. Significant increases were observed in potassium ion (K+), sodium ion (Na+), chlorine ion (Cl-) and urea concentration in groups treated with VA, MO, and MO/VA. This observation may be attributed to the reported presence of bioactive component that are present in these plants and consistent with findings of Musabayane and Mapanga et al., which shows that combined leaf extracts of V. amygdalina and M. oleifera which possess hypoglycemic effect, has the ability to excrete electrolyte in streptozotocin diabetes mellitus, suggesting that this plant may be beneficial in the management of renal dysfunction associated with diabetes mellitus. The result therefore suggests the synergistic effects of the plants in amelioration of nephrotoxicity associated with diabetes mellitus.
Azadirachta indica (Neem)

Neem leaves have been reputed to possess cardiovascular, antimicrobial, immune-modulatory, hypoglycemic and a number of other effects. A bitter principle, nimbi din, isolated from seeds of neem tree was reported to be effective in reducing fasting blood glucose at a dose of 200 mg/kg in alloxan diabetic rabbits. Aqueous extract of tender neem leaves was also reported to reduce blood glucose and this effect was due to its ability to block the actions of epinephrine on glycogenolysis and peripheral utilization of glucose. Eshrat and Hussain carried out a study to investigate the effect of oral feeding of aqueous extract of fresh leaves of Azadirachta indica in streptozotocin induced diabetes and its associated retinopathy in rats. The streptozotocin injected rats developed not only diabetes as indicated by increased fasting blood glucose values, but also showed external signs of retinopathy by 10 days.

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