Managing diabetes with nutmeg seeds

It may soon be possible to manage the serious condition of diabetes naturally using nutmeg seeds (Myristica fragrans) according to new research presented today at the British Pharmaceutical Conference in Manchester.

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that is estimated by the Department of Health to affect 2.35 million people in England alone. This figure is expected to rise to 2.5m by 2010. Diabetes is a serious condition by which the body is unable to break down sugar (glucose) in the blood due to a deficiency of insulin. People with diabetes often have raised fat (lipid) levels in the blood, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Nutmeg has been used across the world as a ground spice in cooking for centuries. In the tribal areas of India, where there is a lack of access to conventional medicine, nutmeg is also used for treating diabetes, as well as other ailments such as diarrhoea, mouth sores, and insomnia. But, to date, there was no scientific data to support its anti-diabetic activity.

Knowledge of nutmeg's traditional use led pharmacists in Pune and Sagar, India, to study nutmeg scientifically. Their controlled tests on rats showed that extracts of the spice:

  • significantly decreases blood glucose levels
  • improves the lipid profile in the blood
  • stimulate the beta-cells of the pancreas to release insulin
  • improves body and organ (liver and pancreas) weight

Rahul Somani, Assistant Professor, Sinhgad College of Pharmacy, Pune, India, who led the research, says that the research results are an important finding in the management and treatment of diabetes. "Diabetes affects thousands of people all around the world," he says. "This research suggests that nutmeg has a significant anti-diabetic effect and may offer a user-friendly, non-invasive way to manage the disease."

Somani, says that the research team now want to carry out some advanced studies to see how nutmeg can be used in the treatment of this common disease, possibly with an international partner.

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