New research suggests that commonly used herbs like rosemary and oregano have the potential to treat type 2 diabetes.
A number of recent studies have shown certain herbal extracts such as cinnamon, bitter melon and ginger to have various blood sugar-controlling properties, adding to evidence that they could be used as a powerful, natural tool to help tackle type 2 diabetes.
To investigate further, Elvira Gonzalez de Mejia, a professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois, USA, and colleagues investigated the properties of Greek oregano (Origanum vulgare), marjoram (Origanum majorana), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), and Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens).
Extracts of these plants (both greenhouse-grown and commercial, dried forms) were prepared and examined for their ability to stop a pair of enzymes called DPP-4 and PTP1B, which are targets of drug treatments for type 2 diabetes – for example, DPP-4 inhibitors such as metformin and sitagliptin.
After examining the herbs, Prof. de Mejia and colleagues found that herbs grown in a greenhouse contained more powerful antioxidants such as polyphenols and flavonoids than commercial, dried versions, and were the most effective at inhibiting DPP-IV. Extracts of commercially dried rosemary, Mexican oregano, and marjoram were the best at inhibiting PTP1B.
While the results are promising, the team said further clinical studies are needed to determine how effective these compounds can be in preventing and treating type 2 diabetes in humans.
The preliminary findings were published in June in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

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