Natural Health Products and Diabetes: A Practical Review

Can J Diabetes. 2017 Dec;41(6):642-647. doi: 10.1016/j.jcjd.2017.06.014. Epub 2017 Aug 18.


The prevalence of natural health product (NHP) use in Canada is extensive. Patients with chronic diseases, including diabetes, use NHPs at a higher rate than the general population. Many NHPs exert hypoglycemic effects, among other effects relevant to diabetes management. To provide a practical, clinical review of NHPs with such effects targeted to pharmacists, a literature search was performed to collect data on the efficacy and safety profiles of 10 commonly used NHPs that exert antidiabetic properties. The following NHPs are included in this clinical review: alpha-lipoic acid, chromium, magnesium, bitter melon, cinnamon, fenugreek, gymnema, milk thistle, Reishi mushroom and white mulberry. Given the potential of NHPs to additively cause hypoglycemia when used concurrently with conventional medications, pharmacists should be up to date with current evidence around NHPs that may affect diabetes care to prevent adverse reactions and interactions. In addition, effective and respectful communication with patients around NHP use and collaboration with various health-care providers are essential in the patient care process.

Keywords: Complementary and alternative medicine; Herbes; Herbs; Nutrients; Nutriments; diabetes management; efficacité; efficacy; innocuité; médecine douce; natural health products; prise en charge du diabète; produits de santé naturels; safety.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Products / adverse effects
  • Biological Products / therapeutic use*
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia / blood
  • Hypoglycemia / chemically induced
  • Hypoglycemia / diagnosis


  • Biological Products