Rediscovering Ancient Remedies for Managing Diabetes

Rediscovering Ancient Remedies for Managing Diabetes

Diabetes, a condition that affects millions worldwide, is often viewed through the lens of modern medicine. However, its roots stretch far back into history. In this blog, we delve into the ancient treatment for diabetes. From the early days of its discovery to the fascinating treatments employed, we’ll explore the evolution of diabetes management before the era of insulin and advanced pharmacology.

How Was Diabetes Treated In Ancient Times?

How Was Diabetes Treated In Ancient Times?The treatment of diabetes in ancient times, before the discovery of insulin and modern pharmaceuticals, was largely based on diet, exercise, and the use of various herbal remedies. Different cultures had their unique approaches:

  • Ayurvedic Medicine (India)

In ancient India, diabetes (referred to as “Prameha”) was treated with a mixture of dietary changes, exercise, and herbal treatments. The Charaka Samhita, an ancient Ayurvedic text, describes a variety of plant-based treatments. Also, it emphasizes the importance of physical activity and dietary regulation.

  • Traditional Chinese Medicine

In China, diabetes (known as “Xiao Ke” or “wasting and thirsting syndrome”) was treated with a combination of acupuncture, exercise (like Tai Chi), and herbal medicines. Herbal remedies often include a mix of natural ingredients believed to restore the balance of yin and yang in the body.

  • Ancient Greece and Rome

The famous Greek physician Aretaeus of Cappadocia is credited with naming the condition “diabetes” (meaning “siphon” in Greek, referring to frequent urination). Treatment in these cultures focused on dietary modifications, particularly reducing sugar intake, and increasing physical activity. The Romans also used bleeding and purging, though these were not particularly effective.

  • Islamic Medicine

During the Islamic Golden Age, physicians like Avicenna (Ibn Sina) wrote extensively about diabetes in texts such as “The Canon of Medicine”. They recommended dietary changes (like reducing carbohydrate intake) and used complex herbal mixtures.

Overall, ancient treatment for diabetes revolved mainly around dietary management and herbal remedies, with a strong emphasis on lifestyle changes. These approaches were based on the limited understanding of the disease at the time and the absence of insulin or other modern treatments.

What Was The Ancient Remedy For Diabetes?

In ancient times, several remedies were used to treat diabetes, often based on the limited understanding of the disease and the medical theories of the time. These remedies varied across different cultures:

Dietary Changes

The cornerstone of diabetes treatment in ancient times across various cultures was dietary management. In ancient Egypt, documents like the Ebers Papyrus recommend a diet rich in wheat grains and fruits. Possibly to stabilize the body’s energy levels. In ancient Greece and Rome, physicians like Aretaeus and Galen emphasized the reduction of foods rich in sugar and fats, recognizing the link between diet and the exacerbation of diabetes symptoms. The idea was to control the symptoms by controlling what was believed to cause them – an excess of certain types of food.

Herbal Treatments

Herbal TreatmentsHerbal medicine was a common approach in many ancient cultures. In Ayurvedic medicine, a range of plants like Turmeric (known for its anti-inflammatory properties) and Neem (thought to have blood sugar-lowering effects) were prescribed. These were often part of a broader treatment plan that included lifestyle and dietary changes. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) took a holistic approach as well, using herbs such as Ginseng and Astragalus. These herbs were believed to help balance the body’s energy (Qi) and to treat the specific symptoms of ‘Xiao Ke’ – the traditional Chinese name for diabetes, which translates to “wasting and thirsting disorder.”


Physical activity was recognized as beneficial for what we now know as diabetes management. In ancient India, this often took the form of yoga and other exercises. These were thought to enhance the body’s metabolism and overall balance. The concept was not just physical fitness but also the harmonization of mind and body, which was a key principle in Ayurvedic medicine.


In Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture was employed as a method to rebalance the flow of energy (Qi) in the body. For diabetes, specific acupuncture points would be targeted to alleviate symptoms and restore balance. This practice was based on the TCM theory that diseases like diabetes were caused by disruptions in the natural flow of energy through the body.

Bloodletting and Purging

In ancient Greece and Rome, more invasive methods like bloodletting and purging were sometimes used. These practices were based on the humoral theory of medicine, which posited that diseases were caused by imbalances in the body’s four humors: blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile. Bloodletting was thought to remove excess of particular humor (in this case, presumably blood or black bile). But these methods were not only ineffective for treating diabetes, they could also be quite harmful.

Overall, these ancient remedies reflect the medical understanding of their respective times. While not effective in treating diabetes by modern standards, they represent early human efforts to understand and manage this complex disease.

Benefits And Risks Of Ancient Treatment For Diabetes

Benefits And Risks Of Ancient Treatment For DiabetesThe ancient treatment for diabetes presents a mix of potential benefits and risks, especially when viewed from the lens of modern medicine.


  • Holistic Approach: Many ancient treatments, especially in Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, took a holistic view of health, considering the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of a person. This approach can be beneficial in managing lifestyle factors that affect diabetes.
  • Emphasis on Diet and Exercise: The focus on dietary changes and physical activity in ancient treatments aligns well with modern recommendations for diabetes management. A balanced diet and regular exercise are still key components in controlling blood sugar levels and maintaining overall health.
  • Use of Herbal Medicines: Some herbs used in ancient times have been found to have beneficial properties. For example, turmeric (used in Ayurveda) has anti-inflammatory effects. And recent studies suggest it may help in managing blood sugar levels.
  • Stress Reduction: Practices like yoga and meditation, often recommended in ancient Indian medicine, are known to reduce stress. This is an important factor in managing diabetes.


  • Lack of Efficacy in Controlling Blood Sugar: Ancient treatments were not effective in directly controlling blood sugar levels. Without this control, diabetes can lead to serious complications like kidney failure, heart disease, and vision loss.
  • Potential Toxicity of Some Herbal Remedies: Not all herbs and plant-based treatments used in ancient times are safe. Some might be toxic or have harmful interactions with other medications.
  • Absence of Scientific Validation: Many ancient remedies have not been scientifically tested for their efficacy and safety in treating diabetes. This means their effects are not predictable or consistent.
  • Invasive Practices: Techniques like bloodletting, popular in ancient Greek and Roman medicine, were not only ineffective but also potentially dangerous. Ultimately, leading to infections and other complications.
  • Delayed Access to Effective Modern Treatments: Relying solely on ancient treatments could delay access to modern medical interventions like insulin therapy. These are essential for managing diabetes effectively.

Overall, there are aspects of ancient diabetes treatments that align with modern holistic approaches to health and wellness. Still, they lack efficacy in controlling diabetes itself and present various risks. Thus, modern medicine offers more effective and safer options for managing diabetes.


In conclusion, ancient treatments for diabetes reveal a fascinating blend of holistic approaches, dietary recommendations, and herbal remedies. While these methods offered some benefits, they were not effective in directly managing blood sugar levels. Thus, these treatments came with significant risks, including the potential toxicity of some herbs and the danger of invasive practices like bloodletting.

Today, we appreciate these historical approaches for their contribution to our understanding of diabetes management. Ultimately, it will help to ensure the health and well-being of individuals living with diabetes. Do you want to get rid of diabetes? Join our online diabetes treatment program and reverse Diabetes naturally through lifestyle changes such as a Personalized Diet plan, Exercise, Yoga, dieticians, and health coaches.