The Insulin Plant
Currently, an estimated 537 million adults ages 20-79 years old suffer from diabetes according to the International Diabetes Federation. While many of these individuals seek out western medicine practices, others prefer a more holistic approach, one of which is using the Indian plant, Costus Igneus, as an herbal remedy. Called many names, including step ladder, spiral flag, fiery costus, and the insulin plant, it is this last nickname that gives the Costus Igneus its star value. Belonging to the family of Costaceae, which consists of nearly 150 species, what sets Costus Igneus apart from the rest of its family members is its powerful medicinal properties in regulating insulin in the human body.
While many parts of the insulin plant provide health benefits, it’s the leaves, specifically, that host its most impressive quality. Rich in Phyto-compound nutrients that simulate the metabolic action of insulin upon ingestion, consuming insulin plant leaves has the ability to lower blood sugar levels in individuals with diabetes.
The diabetic marvels of the insulin plant continue to come to light as the findings from clinical studies grow momentum. At this time, more than 15 clinical studies have proven the benefits of consuming various forms of Costus Igneus on a daily basis. One study in particular published by the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research discovered the following significant findings when consuming the insulin plant daily:
-All patients saw a statistically significant improvement in blood sugar levels
-All patients were able to reduce their insulin dose by half
-Even patients that failed to control their blood sugar using oral hypoglycemic drugs and non-allopathic medications were able to control their glucose levels using Costus Igneus
In addition to its diabetes management benefits, the insulin plant leaves are also rich in iron and several antioxidant components, like B-carotene and a-tocopherol. These nutrients, among others, that are found in the insulin plant leaves have been shown to help boost immunity, aid sore throats, improve skin health, maintain kidney and bladder health, and reduce high cholesterol and blood pressure.
Where to Find The Insulin Plant
Thriving best in tropical climates, the insulin plant is native to south and central America. However, it is popularly cultivated in gardens of Southern India, specifically Kashmir and the Himalayan regions. The insulin plant stands 2-3 feet from the ground with a reddish-brown stalk. It displays wide leaves, which are 4-8 inches long, and range in color from a very dark green hue to lime green. Blooming among the leaves are vibrant orangish-red flowers that are packed with nutrients and are described as sweet in flavor.
If you are looking to buy the beneficial insulin plant to grow at home yourself, you may be able to find them at local nurseries and plant sellers that provide the full plant or the seeds. Many Ayurveda stores sell insulin plants, as well. If you’re unable to find a local seller that supplies insulin plants, you can purchase them through online stores.
How to Grow It At Home
When grown outside, the insulin plant is versatile and low maintenance. Due to its love of warmer, tropical-like climates, it grows best in 9b through 11 growing zones. For the United States, these zones typically encompass California, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and other southern areas. Insulin plants are best planted in the early spring and typically blossom in temperatures ranging from 35 to 45 degrees.
- Choose a Planting Location: The insulin plant can adjust to growing in various textures and qualities of soil but prefers rich and well-draining soil. It can grow in full sun in milder climates or partial shade in hotter climates. The insulin plant enjoys moisture from soil and air and is often planted near water.
- Dig a Planting Hole: Insulin plants do not require deep planting. Dig beds 2 to 3 inches deep, and 2 to 3 feet apart from one another to allow room for growth.
- Add Compost for Optimum Foliage: This will improve drainage of the soil.
- Add Fertilizer: Use a general-purpose fertilizer in the spring to double the potency of the soil, and then monthly during the summer months.
- Use Organic Mulch: Scatter woodchips and other forms of organic mulch around the herb, especially to help insulate the plant during the winter months. Mulch should not be in contact with the plant stem. Refrain from over-watering the plant in the winter months.
For growing indoors, the following things should be considered:
- The insulin plant grows as a container plant.
- Mulch of the plant should be removed at the time of fertilizing but should be replaced immediately after that.
- The insulin plant grows best when placed in an area that gets both sun and shade. It needs at least 3 to 4 hours of sunlight.
- It is best suited in fertile and moist soil. There should not be water logging and the soil should be well-drained.
- The soil of this plant should be kept moist but not soggy. Avoid overwatering.
The home remedies using the insulin plant are typically derived from the plant’s leaves. The fructose that is present in the leaves has been found to help regulate increased blood sugar levels and effectively treat diabetes. The beneficial properties of the insulin plant leaves can be extracted and used for medicinal purposes in the following three ways:
- Chew on a raw leaf of the plant.
- Dry the leaves and grind them into a powder, then combine the powder with water and drink.
- Create a decoction by boiling a few leaves for 10 minutes, straining the mixture, and then drinking the water.
While some sources indicate specific dosage recommendations (i.e., consuming one raw leaf per day, or consuming one tablespoon of powder per day), the appropriate dose of the insulin plant depends on several factors such as the user’s age, state of health, and several other conditions. At this time, there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for the insulin plant. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages are important.
Precautions and warnings
Certain herbal medicines can interact with other medications that you are using. This may increase the risk of toxicity and/or drug reactions. Before taking herbal medication, always discuss it with your doctor. In addition, certain populations may be at greater risk of negative side effects from using the insulin plant as an herbal medication.
It is important to check with your healthcare provider before taking insulin plant remedies if you fall into any of the following categories:
-Individuals that use hypoglycemic agents or insulin for diabetes management
-Have any known allergies to medications, foods, and/or substances
-Have any known health problems, such as liver or kidney damage
-Are pregnant or breastfeeding
-Have an allergy to ragweed and related plants: C. igneus may cause an allergic reaction in individuals that are allergic to the Asteraceae/Compositae plant family, which include ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, daisies, and many other plants.
Aristolochic Acid Warning
Insulin plant oil, root powder, raw leaf, leaf powder, or tincture is likely safe for most people when taken by mouth in amounts found in foods. However, insulin plant often contains aristolochic acid, a contaminant that can cause damage to the kidneys. Insulin plant products that contain aristolochic acid are UNSAFE. Under the law, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can confiscate any plant product that is believed to contain aristolochic acid.
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