The 10 Best Spices For Treating Diabetes

The 10 Best Spices For Treating Diabetes

Here are 10 scientifically proven spices with antidiabetic properties. Many of them can also be consumed in other forms, such as teas, leaves, supplements, and so on. Nevertheless, they work well as spices, too.

1. Basil

Basil and its close relative, holy basil, are antidiabetic in humans and animals.1, 2

Holy basil is also known as Tulsi.

Studies in type 2 diabetics found that consumption of holy basil leaves reduced blood sugar by 18% and increased carbohydrate tolerance, compared to consumption of placebo leaves.1

Basil can be consumed as fresh leaves, dried (as a spice), or as a tea. There are premade holy basil teas available for purchase. Asking for ”tulsi” in a health food store, or searching for it online, may also be rewarding.

Judging by animal research, ordinary basil is antidiabetic, too, in case you can’t find holy basil.

2. Bay leaves

A study on type 2 diabetics found that 1 to 3 grams of ground bay leaves per day, given as capsules after breakfast and dinner, for 30 days, reduced fasting blood sugar by 21 to 26 percent, while no changes were seen in the placebo group.3

Cholesterol and blood fats (triglycerides) also fell, while the ’good’ HDL cholesterol increased,3 indicating a reduced risk of heart disease.

Notably, there was no change in results between doses, so 1 gram per day appears sufficient.

Interestingly, most of the changes persisted 10 days after stopping the bay leaf consumption, indicating that you don’t have to eat bay leaves every day to get the positive effects.

If you can’t find ground bay leaves, you can crush or grind them yourself and add them to your cooking. Even though bay leaves are usually not eaten, they are edible if crushed/ground.

3. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is not just a delicious spice, it can actually improve blood sugar control.

A 2013 meta-analysis reviewed 10 studies on over 500 type 2 diabetics, comparing cinnamon to placebo, and found that cinnamon reduces fasting blood sugar, cholesterol, the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, and increases the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.4

There are various kinds of cinnamon, and the most studied type in humans is Cinnamon cassia (also known as Cinnamon aromaticum).4

Most human studies used 1 to 6 grams per day, or ½ to 2½ level teaspoons.

4. Fenugreek spice

Fenugreek is a plant whose seeds are antidiabetic. Fenugreek seeds can be consumed powdered as a spice, as a beverage (powder mixed with hot water), as whole seeds, or as supplements.

Studies in type 1 and type 2 diabetics have found that fenugreek seed powder reduces blood sugar, insulin resistance and HbA1c, and increases carbohydrate tolerance.5-9

For example, in type 2 diabetics, 10 grams per day of fenugreek powder mixed with hot water led to a 25% reduction of fasting blood sugar in 8 weeks.5

The optimal amount per day is unknown, but a few grams per day seems adequate based on the science. I’d personally stay in the 1 to 10 gram per day range.

Because fenugreek is more commonly consumed in Asia, you can look for it in an Asian grocery store. You can also purchase it online.

5. Ginger

gingerGinger is another spice with antidiabetic properties.

Studies on type 2 diabetics have shown that ginger powder can reduce blood sugar, HbA1c, insulin resistance, cholesterol, blood fats, and inflammation.10-13

The doses used were typically 1.5 to 3 grams of ginger powder per day. This equals about 8 to 15 grams of fresh ginger.

Ginger can easily be a tasty and healthy addition to your cooking. It can also be consumed as supplements, typically in capsules.

Whether ginger tea would be helpful is uncertain; I have seen no studies on that.

6. Marjoram

Marjoram tea is beneficial for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disease which, just like diabetes, is characterized by insulin resistance.

In a recent study, women with PCOS were assigned to consume a cup of marjoram tea or placebo tea twice daily for 1 month. By the end of the study, insulin resistance was significantly lower in the marjoram tea group.14

Marjoram tea can be purchased as tea bags, or you can brew your own with marjoram spice and boiling water.

Would marjoram spice itself benefit diabetics, without making a tea? We can’t be 100% sure of that, since no studies have been conducted (that I’m aware of anyway), but my guess is that marjoram spice would also fight diabetes.

7. Saffron

The effects of saffron on blood sugar was investigated in humans. Researchers tested if saffron can prevent the rise of blood sugar caused by olanzapine, a drug used to treat schizophrenia. The results were as follows.15

27% of patients given olanzapine + placebo developed metabolic syndrome.

No (0%) patients given olanzapine + saffron supplement developed metabolic syndrome.

In other words, saffron prevented the increased blood sugar and metablic syndrome caused by the drug.

Studies on diabetic rats found that a diet containing saffron cut their blood sugar in half.16

The optimal dose of saffron is unknown, but 30 milligrams per day was used in the human study – a very small amount. In other words, 1 gram should last about 1 month. One way to achieve this is by making a batch of bread (or another food) with 1 gram of saffron, divide it into 30 equal servings, and eat 1 serving per day

You can also use small amounts to spice your food.

8. Salvia

Salvia is also known as sage or common sage. It can be eaten fresh or dried as a spice. Studies showed that Salvia can improve blood sugar and blood fats in humans.

In a study on type 2 diabetics,17 1.5 grams of a salvia supplement per day, divided in 3 doses, caused the following effects after 3 months:

  • Blood sugar (-26%)
  • HbA1c (-14%)
  • Cholesterol (-18%)
  • The ’bad’ LDL cholesterol (-19%)
  • The ’good’ HDL cholesterol (+35%)

All these changes were significantly better than placebo treatment.

Salvia tea should also be effective – demonstrated by studies showing its healthful effects in humans.18

9. Sumac spice

Sumac is a spice that is common in the Middle East. Apparently, it’s a diabetes-fighter.

In a study on type 2 diabetics, 3 grams of sumac powder per day for 3 months resulted in lower blood sugar, HbA1c, insulin resistance and inflammation, compared to placebo.19, 20

If you can’t find sumac spice in a grocery store, you can always buy it on or 

10. Turmeric

Turmeric is similar to ginger, which also counteracts diabetes. turmeric

In type 2 diabetics, turmeric supplements significantly lowered fasting blood sugar and HbA1c, as well as inflammation and blood fats.21

In type 2 diabetics with diabetic kidney disease, turmeric improved markers of kidney disease, indicating a reduced risk of kidney failure.22

One of the healthy components of turmeric is the plant compound curcumin. A study on type 2 diabetics showed that curcumin reduced body fat, insulin resistance, blood fats, and improved other health markers, too.23

Turmeric can be consumed as a spice, supplement, tea, or whole food (raw or cooked) like ginger. It is one of the main components in most curry powders.


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3.         Khan A, Zaman G, Anderson RA. Bay leaves improve glucose and lipid profile of people with type 2 diabetes. J Clin Biochem Nutr. Jan 2009;44(1):52-56.
4.         Allen RW, Schwartzman E, Baker WL, Coleman CI, Phung OJ. Cinnamon use in type 2 diabetes: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Fam Med. Sep-Oct;11(5):452-459.
5.         Kassaian N, Azadbakht L, Forghani B, Amini M. Effect of fenugreek seeds on blood glucose and lipid profiles in type 2 diabetic patients. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. Jan 2009;79(1):34-39.
6.         Sharma RD, Raghuram TC, Rao NS. Effect of fenugreek seeds on blood glucose and serum lipids in type I diabetes. Eur J Clin Nutr. Apr 1990;44(4):301-306.
7.         Haber SL, Keonavong J. Fenugreek use in patients with diabetes mellitus. Am J Health Syst Pharm. Jul 15;70(14):1196, 1198, 1200, 1202-1193.
8.         Gupta A, Gupta R, Lal B. Effect of Trigonella foenum-graecum (fenugreek) seeds on glycaemic control and insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes mellitus: a double blind placebo controlled study. J Assoc Physicians India. Nov 2001;49:1057-1061.
9.         Suksomboon N, Poolsup N, Boonkaew S, Suthisisang CC. Meta-analysis of the effect of herbal supplement on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes. J Ethnopharmacol. Oct 11;137(3):1328-1333.
10.       Mozaffari-Khosravi H, Talaei B, Jalali BA, Najarzadeh A, Mozayan MR. The effect of ginger powder supplementation on insulin resistance and glycemic indices in patients with type 2 diabetes: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Complement Ther Med. Feb;22(1):9-16.
11.       Arablou T, Aryaeian N, Valizadeh M, Sharifi F, Hosseini A, Djalali M. The effect of ginger consumption on glycemic status, lipid profile and some inflammatory markers in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Int J Food Sci Nutr. Feb 4.
12.       Mahluji S, Ostadrahimi A, Mobasseri M, Ebrahimzade Attari V, Payahoo L. Anti-inflammatory effects of zingiber officinale in type 2 diabetic patients. Adv Pharm Bull.3(2):273-276.
13.       Mahluji S, Attari VE, Mobasseri M, Payahoo L, Ostadrahimi A, Golzari SE. Effects of ginger (Zingiber officinale) on plasma glucose level, HbA1c and insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetic patients. Int J Food Sci Nutr. Sep;64(6):682-686.
14.       Haj-Husein I, Tukan S, Alkazaleh F. The effect of marjoram (Origanum majorana) tea on the hormonal profile of women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomised controlled pilot study. J Hum Nutr Diet. Feb 9.
15.       Fadai F, Mousavi B, Ashtari Z, et al. Saffron aqueous extract prevents metabolic syndrome in patients with schizophrenia on olanzapine treatment: a randomized triple blind placebo controlled study. Pharmacopsychiatry. Jul;47(4-5):156-161.
16.       Bajerska J, Mildner-Szkudlarz S, Podgorski T, Oszmatek-Pruszynska E. Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) powder as an ingredient of rye bread: an anti-diabetic evaluation. J Med Food. Sep;16(9):847-856.
17.       Kianbakht S, Dabaghian FH. Improved glycemic control and lipid profile in hyperlipidemic type 2 diabetic patients consuming Salvia officinalis L. leaf extract: a randomized placebo. Controlled clinical trial. Complement Ther Med. Oct;21(5):441-446.
18.       Sa CM, Ramos AA, Azevedo MF, Lima CF, Fernandes-Ferreira M, Pereira-Wilson C. Sage tea drinking improves lipid profile and antioxidant defences in humans. Int J Mol Sci. Sep 2009;10(9):3937-3950.
19.       Shidfar F, Rahideh ST, Rajab A, et al. The Effect of Sumac (Rhus coriaria L.)Powder on Serum Glycemic Status, ApoB, ApoA-I and Total Antioxidant Capacity in Type 2 Diabetic Patients. Iran J Pharm Res. Fall;13(4):1249-1255.
20.       Rahideh ST, Shidfar F, Khandozi N, Rajab A, Hosseini SP, Mirtaher SM. The effect of sumac (Rhus coriaria L.) powder on insulin resistance, malondialdehyde, high sensitive C-reactive protein and paraoxonase 1 activity in type 2 diabetic patients. J Res Med Sci. Oct;19(10):933-938.
21.       Maithili Karpaga Selvi N, Sridhar MG, Swaminathan RP, Sripradha R. Efficacy of Turmeric as Adjuvant Therapy in Type 2 Diabetic Patients. Indian J Clin Biochem. Apr;30(2):180-186.
22.       Khajehdehi P, Pakfetrat M, Javidnia K, et al. Oral supplementation of turmeric attenuates proteinuria, transforming growth factor-beta and interleukin-8 levels in patients with overt type 2 diabetic nephropathy: a randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled study. Scand J Urol Nephrol. Nov;45(5):365-370.
23.       Chuengsamarn S, Rattanamongkolgul S, Phonrat B, Tungtrongchitr R, Jirawatnotai S. Reduction of atherogenic risk in patients with type 2 diabetes by curcuminoid extract: a randomized controlled trial. J Nutr Biochem. Feb;25(2):144-150.