For those with diabetes, it may seem as though the complications and lifestyle changes to make are unending. This is more with those fighting with both type 1 and 2 diabetes. Amongst other complications of type 1 and 2 diabetes, is the condition termed diabetic neuropathy is something you should watch for very carefully. In this guide, we list the best herbs for diabetic neuropathy.
But, what is this diabetics’ neuropathy or diabetes-related nerve pain?
What is Diabetic Neuropathy?
Diabetic neuropathy is a nerve damage that can occur in people with type 1 and 2 diabetes. This nerve damage is as a result of high blood sugar in the body.
The nerve damage is not spontaneous, it occurs slowly over a long period of time. In the condition of diabetic neuropathy, the damage is mostly to the nerves in the legs and feet.
This is a serious diabetes complication that affects up to 50% of those with diabetes.
There are various types of diabetic neuropathy that affects different parts of the body leading to varying symptoms.
Causes of Diabetic Neuropathy
- High blood sugar level, which accumulates and is sustained over time.
- High cholesterol levels cause damage to blood vessels.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome which causes mechanical injury.
- Smoking or excessive use of alcohol can also cause diabetic neuropathy.
- Low levels of Vitamin B12
What are the Symptoms of Diabetic Neuropathy?
Symptoms depend largely on the type of nerve damage you are affected by and the nerve that was affected.
There are 4 types of diabetic neuropathy, and each of them has its own distinguishing symptom.
The various types and their symptoms include below.:
1. Peripheral neuropathy
This may also be called distal symmetric peripheral neuropathy. The nerves mostly affected are to those of the legs and feet, and it is the most common type of diabetic neuropathy.
It’s symptoms include
- Inability to feel pain or numbness.
- A tingling sensation or burning sensation
- Piercing pains or sharp cramps
- High sensitivity to touch
- Ulcers, infections, bone and joint pain of the foot.
2. Autonomic neuropathy
This autonomic neuropathy can affect the nerves of the heart, bladder, stomach, intestines, sex organs, and eyes. These areas are being controlled by the autonomic nervous system. It can lead to symptoms such as
- Hypoglycemia unawareness
This is a condition where you won’t notice that your blood sugar is running low. Even when you have the hypoglycemic symptoms like sweating and heart palpitations, you won’t notice.
- Bladder or bowel complications
When this is the case, you will find it hard to completely empty your bladder.
Diabetic gastroparesis is a condition where your stomach content empties slowly, below the normal pace, leading to nausea, vomiting and invariably loss of appetite.
This case of delayed digestion makes it more difficult for the body to control blood glucose level. This will cause the blood level to keep alternating between high and low.
- Eye readjustment
This means that the way your eye adjusts to light and darkness will be affected.
- Inadequate or slow response to sexual activities
This may be due to erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness or difficulty reaching orgasm all caused by diabetic neuropathy.
3. Proximal neuropathy (diabetic polyradiculopathy)
This is also called diabetic amyotrophy.
The nerves affected are those of the thighs, hips, buttocks or legs. The chest and abdominal area might also be affected.
In this case, symptoms are usually felt just on one side of the body, although it may also extend to the other side of the body.
This condition may lead to symptoms like
- Deep pain in the hips or buttocks
- Your thigh muscles will get weak and start shrinking
- Inability to stand up swiftly from your sitting position
- Stomach pain
4. Mononeuropathy (focal neuropathy)
This is a condition the damage to a nerve is specific. Mononeuropathy are of two types, cranial (brain) and peripheral (extremities).
The symptoms are;
- Double or blurry vision
- There might be an aching feeling behind one eye.
- Bell’s palsy – this a paralysis affecting one side of the face
- Numbness in your hands or fingers except for the little finger
- You might not hold things properly due to weakness in hands.
Risk Factors of Diabetic Neuropathy
Anyone with diabetes can easily develop neuropathy. These risk factors can lead to nerve damage.
- Uncontrolled blood sugar can generally make you susceptible to all complications that come with diabetes, including nerve damage.
- The longer your diabetes, the more your chances of getting diabetic neuropathy.
- The kidneys can get damaged by diabetes. Once this happens, the kidney will send toxins to the blood, and this will in turn, lead to nerve damage.
- When you are overweight with a body mass index of 25 or more, then you can get diabetic neuropathy.
- When you smoke, your arteries will get hardened, thereby bringing about a reduction in the blood flow to your legs and feet.
When to See Your Doctor for Neuropathy?
According to the American diabetes association, people with type 2 diabetes should go for immediate screening once the diagnosis is confirmed. For those with type 1, they should endeavor to go for screening every five years following diagnosis.
Regardless, take a visit to the doctor if you notice any of the following
- A persistent cut or sore on your feet that is infected.
- When your daily activities get affected by burning, tingling, weakness or pain in the hand.
- When you notice changes in digestion, urination or sexual function.
- Dizziness and fainting.
Not minding all these complications that come with this disease condition, there are numerous ways to keep it under control and reduce the pain. One of those ways is through the use of herbs.
What are Herbs?
To different people, herbs could mean different things.
A botanist in the warm temperate region will define herb as a sebaceous plant that is not persistent with producing woody tissue and which in turn dies in winter, in other words, an herbaceous plant. Example of this herbaceous plant is banana. It does not have a woody stem but a fleshy pseudostem.
To the chef, it is all about flavor. A chef can simply define a herb as numerous aromatic or savory plants used to add flavor to foods.
To those who use herbs medicinally, it can be defined as a plant or part of a plant which helps promote health and healing whether it is taken internally or externally.
In all, none of these definitions by the different classes was able to define herbs, and it’s goodness in its entirety. Each defined based on its value to them. But in all, a herb can be defined as a nonwoody, culinary staple, garden ornamental, health-promoting plant. It encompasses usefulness as it has helped human enhance their lives.
Common Herbs for Diabetes Neuropathy and Their Functions
- Sage (saliva officinalis)
It helps to soothe the mucous membrane because of it’s antimicrobial properties and volatile oil which it contains.
It is also very useful for the treatment of sore throats, coughs and colds. It also helps in treating laryngitis, pharyngitis, tonsillitis, gingivitis, and mouth sores. It also functions to relax the stomach and ease indigestion and flatulence. It is also believed useful for memory enhancement.
- Rosemary (rosmarinus officinalis)
This is a bushy evergreen shrub with pale blue flowers and aromatic leaves that are middle shaped. It belongs to the lamiaceae, also known as the mint family.
Rosemary is widely known for it’s antiseptic and antibacterial properties. It also has antispasmodic, carminative (gas-relieving), antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
The herb has a primary function of treating poor digestion and appetite, joint pain and sluggish circulation. It also helps in increasing the blood flow of the heart. For older individuals with impaired circulations, and for adults with weak stamina, it is highly recommended. It has also been noted to have some liver-protective functions and anti-tumor properties amidst other functions.
- Mint (mentha spp)
This includes many species used for flavor, fragrance or medicinal properties. Peppermint and spearmint can be used in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders such as stomachaches, nausea and fatigue.
The fresh and dried leaves of the plants and its essential oil, generate an antispasmodic effect on the smooth muscle of the gastrointestinal tract. It also helps relieve gastrointestinal conditions such as flatulence, painful digestion, intestinal cramping, irritable bowel syndrome and nausea due to stomach upset, motion sickness or pregnancy.
- Oregano (origanum vulgare)
Its essential oil has strong antibiotic and antifungal properties.
Oregano functions to improve digestion, to kill intestinal worms and as an expectorant to treat inflamed bronchial membranes. Some practitioners use it in treating gastrointestinal and respiratory conditions.
- Basil (ocimum basilicum)
This is a good source of vitamins A and C.
The leaves are very useful in improving digestion, and helps in relaxation of intestinal spasms, bloating and nausea. It also helps to relieve gas. Basil also has antiseptic and antibacterial properties.
Basil shouldn’t be used at all when pregnant.
- Garlic (allium sativum)
This has been greatly used for health and healing. It has been noted to function effectively in cold prevention, bronchitis and other upper respiratory conditions.
Numerous Health Benefits of Herbs For Those With Diabetes
- Strengthen the immune system
- Help reduce blood sugar levels and cholesterol
- Helps in stopping toothache and bad breath
- Very useful in maintaining healthy skin and hair
- Helps in reducing the risk of cancer
- Helps in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease
- Helps in treating arthritis
- Helps in treating ulcerative colitis
How Can Herbs Help With Reversing Diabetic Neuropathy?
Generally, nerve damage can’t be repaired because the body cannot repair nerve tissues that can be damaged. Same applies to nerve damage caused by diabetic neuropathy. Nevertheless, researches are still working tirelessly to find ways to permanently treat this diabetic neuropathy.
Having established that it can’t be reversed, we can still try to maintain and manage them through some medical means and also through the use of herbs.
Best Herbs for Diabetic Neuropathy
Asides other medical treatment of diabetic neuropathy, herbs can also go a long way in the treatment of diabetes. In case if you decide to use a natural remedy, here are the lists of some herbs that can help in the treatment of diabetic neuropathy.
1. Cayenne pepper
This cayenne pepper is a herb which contains so many ingredients including capsaicin. Capsaicin is very effective in the management of nerve damage. This ingredient functions to stimulate the depletion of all the substances which are responsible for causing the nerve pain.
This herb is effective for treating diabetic neuropathy. This herb is very efficient in maintaining a healthy level of insulin and also in lowering the blood sugar level of the body. It is effective, especially for type 2 diabetes.
This has been noted to be a great pain killer. In addition to that, it helps to curb further worsening of the condition. Hence it is also a great treatment for diabetic neuropathy.
4. Bitter melon
Bitter melon has always been known as an anti-diabetic herb which functions to reduce the negative effects of high blood sugar level in the body. It further helps to bring down the oxidation level, thereby protecting the nerves from further damage. In fact, bitter melon is considered as one of the top herbal remedies for diabetic neuropathy.
One of the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy is numbness or tingling sensation in the hands and fingers. Flaxseed helps in reducing this numbness. It can also serve as an oil.
6. Commiphora mukul
It is a great herb for managing this nerve damage caused by diabetic neuropathy. It is also known as Guggul extract.
The active ingredient in this herb is guggulipid. Guggulipid functions to bring a massive reduction in neuropathic pain. Commiphora mukul also serves for various health purposes.
7. Tinospora cordifolia
This herb is also wonderful in the treatment of diabetic neuropathy. It is also known as Guduchi or Giloy. It functions to reduce blood sugar level and manage further damaging effects.
8. Indian gooseberry
This is an Indian gooseberry, and it is also commonly known as Amla.
It is very helpful to diabetic patients because of its strong antibiotics oxidant property. Anyone can actually take Amla fruit as a whole for their good health in general.
This prevents the damage caused by diabetes by working against the oxidative process. It is very effective in serving as a remedy for diabetic neuropathy.
This functions to reduce the blood sugar level in the body. It acts as an inhibitor to enzymes responsible for breaking down starch into sugars in saliva, pancreas and intestines as well.
This is a cooking herb. It stands out for it’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and analgesic properties.
It will help in relieving numbness and tingling in your hands and feet. Research shows that curcumin can be very helpful during the early stages of neuropathy. If taken at an early stage, it can go a long way in preventing chronic neuropathic pain.
12. Acorus calamus
It is known to treat gastrointestinal problems including ulcer, inflammation of the stomach, flatulence etc.
13. Crocus sativus
It has antitussive, antidepressant, antioxidant, anticancer and antinociceptive.
14. Rubia cordifolia
They have antibacterial actions.
15. Ginko biloba
They are used to treat many health conditions.
Other Treatments for Diabetic Neuropathy
Till this point, we have already established that there is no definite cure for diabetic neuropathy. All we can do is to slow its progression. The best thing you can do is to keep your blood sugar level at a very healthy range, in this way you can drastically reduce the risk of diabetic neuropathy or better still slow its progression.
You can engage in regular exercises as this will serve as a very comprehensive treatment plan.
Pain is very normal once you have diabetic neuropathy. All you have to do is talk to your doctor to help make recommendations of medication that can help in pain management.
Also, medications can be prescribed based on the complications you have and the particular type of diabetic neuropathy you are suffering from. For example, people with digestion problems can be advised to start taking smaller meals and cut down on the quantity of fibers and fats consumed.
For those with vaginal dryness, lubricants can be recommended.
In the case of peripheral neuropathy which commonly affects the feet, constant care of your feet can help. Seek for medication once you notice any injury or sore.
General Prevention of Diabetic Neuropathy
Knowing that diabetic neuropathy doesn’t have a definitive cure, early prevention can go a long way in keeping us from pain.
- Managing your blood sugar
It is very appropriate to go for A1C test twice a year as recommended by the American Diabetes Association. This will help in giving a proper estimate of your blood sugar level for the past 2 to 3 months.
When you check and your blood sugar is higher than expected, then you can change your daily management by adding or making adjustments to your medications. And also by changing your diet.
- Good care
The most common complications of diabetic neuropathy include persistent sores, foot ulcer or worse still, amputation. You can prevent these complications by ensuring that you make a complete and thorough foot examination by a podiatrist at least once every year.
To protect your foot, you have to do the following
- Have a daily examination of your feet at home
Always be on the lookout for blisters, cuts, bruises, peeling and cracked skin, swelling, discoloration and other complications.
- Maintain clean feet always
Ensure that you constantly wash your feet with soap and warm water, preferably lukewarm. Avoid the temptation of soaking your feet. Just wash and dry with a clean towel.
- Keep your feet constantly moisturized
By moisturizing your feet, you prevent it from cracking. While moisturizing, ensure that the lotion doesn’t get in between your toes as it might encourage fungal growths.
- Keep your toenails trimmed and clean
Ensure that you trim it always and also about sharp edges.
- Always put on clean, dry socks
It is preferable to wear socks made of cotton. Or, wear socks with moisture-sticking fibres which have high tight bands or thick seams.
- Wear well-fitted shoes
It is very important to buy shoes that properly fit into your leg and shoes that can actually allow your toes to move.
Tip: Nano Socks can help you manage nerve pain well too.