The diabetes breakthrough 2,000 years in the making

 The diabetes breakthrough 2,000 years in the making

I don’t know why it took 2,000 years to notice the berries on the ginseng plant, but until recently, all of the focus has been on ginseng root. “Previously, there had been no study of the ginseng berry’s biological activity,” says Dr. Chun-Su Yuan, a researcher at the University of Chicago’s Tang Center for Herbal Medicine Research. That’s just how science goes I guess. Maybe, like the tomato (until the 18th century), people thought they were poisonous. Or maybe the berries taste so terrible that it kept the Mesopotamians, the anthropological guinea pigs who taught us much of what we know today about the healing properties of herbs, refused to eat them. Whatever the reason behind ignoring ginseng berries for so long, the good news is they’re finally getting their day in the sun-especially when it comes to their role in the new disease epidemics: obesity and diabetes.

The ginseng berry contains a substance known as ginsenoside that aids in the control of these problems.

“We were stunned by how different the berry is from the root in terms of its chemical profile and by how effective it is in correcting the multiple metabolic abnormalities associated with diabetes,” Dr. Yuan reported to MSNBC. In fact, the berry has been found to be more effective than the root in multiple ways.

  • Obese mice given the extract ate less and exercised more, which sounds a lot like the action of two hormones I reported to you in a recent issue of RHB-leptin and ghrelin.
  • MSNBC summarized the researchers findings:
  • Daily injections of ginseng berry extract restored normal blood sugar in mice that had suffered “quite high” levels.
  • Treated mice also had better scores on a glucose tolerance test, which measures how quickly the mice could remove excess sugar from the blood.
  • The obese diabetic mice shed more than 10 percent of their bodyweight, while untreated mice gained 5 percent of their weight. The reason: The treated mice ate 15 percent less and were 35 percent more active than untreated mice, Yuan says. Once the injections stopped, weight gain gradually resumed.
  • The extract improved insulin sensitivity, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, in mice with diabetes.
  • Cholesterol levels dropped 30 percent in the treated mice, while the extract had no detectable effect on normal mice.

Do you get the feeling that we have barely scratched the surface on the natural treatment of diabetes-and disease in general? When I upset the medical community of Sarasota, Florida, back in the early 70s by “going natural,” I was called a quack and was bounced out of the medical society. I wonder what they think now.

Actions to take:

Anyway, getting your hands on ginseng berry extract isn’t as simple as going to your corner drug store or even your town health food store. In fact, it doesn’t appear to be commercially available. However, if you’re interested in pursuing it, you may be able to work with an herbalist who can help you track down a source or at least keep you updated on its availability status.

To find an herbalist near you, try contacting the American Association of Environmental Medicine at (316)684-5500 or Look for a member of the American Herbalist Guild (they should have the letters AHG after their name), or a member of the British National Institute of Medical Herbalists (the abbreviation NIMH should follow his or her name).

Keep in mind also that this research is fairly new-and has only been done in mice so far. As much as scientists want to believe it, mice aren’t people, so ginseng berries may still have some surprises up their sleeve for us humans. I think they may eventually be a great additional weapon against the growing obesity and diabetes epidemics. But don’t forget that any “outside” help against these killers always works better when combined with a healthy diet full of animal fat and protein-and no sugar and carbs.


“Antidiabetic effects of Panax ginseng berry extract and the identification of an effective component.” Diabetes 2002; 51(6): 1,851-1,858

“Ginseng berry extract shows promise for diabetes, obesity,” University of Chicago Hospitals, press release (, 5/24/02