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Mucuna pruriens and diabetes.

Bhaskar A, Vidhya V, Ramya M. 2008. Hypoglycemic effect of Mucuna pruriens seed extract on normal and streptozotocin-diabetic rats. Fitoterapia 79;539-43.

Diabetes mellitus is, at present, the most common endocrine disorder, and the figures are rising steadily. By 2025 it is predicted that over 300 million people will suffer from this condition worldwide. While there are many oral hypoglycemic pharmaceutical products available, this condition may also be treated with more natural alternatives. Many traditional medical plants from India and China may be used. Among these is Mucuna pruriens, also known as cowitch, poonaikalli or velvet bean.

Researchers at the Bishop Heber College in Tamil Nadu recently undertook a study into this plant and its effects on the blood sugar levels of both normal and streptozotocin (STZ) induced diabetic rats. The wildcrafted seeds were made into an aqueous extract (20.5% w/w) and dispensed to the rats. Normal rats, having undergone overnight fasting, received a single dose of 100 mg/kg or 200 mg/kg, while control groups received a placebo or tolbutamide 250 mg/kg. Thirty minutes later they were administered oral glucose (10 g/kg). In the STZ diabetic rats, groups of rats received the same levels of active substance as above but were dosed once per day for three weeks.

Blood samples taken from the rats at 1, 2, 4 and 6 h after extract administration showed M. pruriens to have a significant impact upon blood sugar levels. After 6 hours, the normal rats experienced noteworthy falls in blood sugar levels, both at 100 mg/kg and 200 mg/kg. At the higher level, the drop was comparable (slightly larger) than that produced by tolbutamide (40.7% vs 37.9%).

The STZ rats on 100 mg/kg and 200 mg/kg of M.pruriens also experienced considerable reductions in blood sugar after 6 hours of 12% and 19% respectively. After three weeks of administration, falls in blood glucose measured 55% and 62% in the same groups.

It is posited by the authors that part of the hypoglycemic action of the plant may be extrapancreatic, due to its rich supply of soluble fibre, which may delay glucose absorption. However cowitch also contains a large number of essential minerals, which may affect the release, production or action of insulin and/or glucose tolerance factor. More in depth research is required to elucidate an exact mechanism of action.

Tessa Finney-Brown MNHAA
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Author:Finney-Brown, Tessa
Publication:Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Mar 22, 2009
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