How well the public knows herbal medicine has a lot to do with PR (which some people equate with another two-letter abbreviation for the output of a cow). The African herb hoodia, for instance, has hardly been researched at all, but manufacturers "have" to put it in natural weight loss formulas, and it's been the subject of multiple news reports from 60 Minutes in the USA to local news programs all over the world.
Another African herb, the dikanut, has been well researched in clinical trials going back to the 1980's and hardly anyone has ever heard of it. Also known as Irvingia gambonensis or inland mango, this herb is the one to take if you are type 2 and struggling to control blood sugar levels while you lose weight. Here's why.
Back in the mid-1980's, researchers at the University of Benin experiment with the dikanut as a supplement for type 2 diabetics. Because they actually knew what they were doing, they reported the scientifically more interesting finding, "Erythrocyte membrane ATPases in diabetes: effect of dikanut (Irvingia gabonensis)."
Very few reporters on diabetes developments (well, other than diabetes detectives, obviously) are going to recognize that the African scientists made a profound discovery. The dikanut did something that changed the way the lining of cells responded to sodium and magnesium.
That makes a difference to diabetics because insulin works with the help of sodium. Every time insulin transports one molecule of glucose into a cell, three ions of sodium tag along for the ride. These sodium ions (ions being positively charged particles, in this case) accumulate in the cell unless another set of enzymes, which involve magnesium, shoo them away. Without magnesium, the cell gets so full of sodium it literally gets waterlogged. So changing these enzyme systems has a profound effect on how the cell reacts to insulin and how much sugar it takes out of the bloodstream.
However, the article essentially said, "Oh, and incidentally, the diabetics in our study all got better. Every type 2 in our trial achieved normal blood sugar levels in four weeks." Since a casual reader (or casual reporter) couldn't get this from the headline, the world press didn't notice.
Four years later the same scientists in Benin published still more research. "Dikanut improves enzyme function in diabetics!" was their message. And, coincidentally, this time the diabetics all got better triglycerides and cholesterol, too.
In another article, we'll discuss how dikanut works exactly the opposite way from Actos and Avandia. But getting to know this West African herb extract better is a good idea for most type 2 diabetics.
Adamson I, Okafor C, Abu-Bakare A.Erythrocyte membrane ATPases in diabetes: effect of dikanut (Irvingia gabonensis). Enzyme. 1986;36(3):212-5.
Adamson I, Okafor C, Abu-Bakare A. A supplement of Dikanut (Irvingia gabonesis) improves treatment of type II diabetics. West Afr J Med. 1990 Apr-Jun;9(2):108-15.