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Living up to its name: Can self-heal reduce diabetes complications?

People with diabetes are at risk of diabetic nephropathy, better known as diabetic kidney disease. It is the most common complication and the leading cause of death associated with diabetes. Fortunately, a team of researchers from Wonkwang University in South Korea found an herbal medicine that can improve the symptoms of people who already suffer from diabetic nephropathy.

In their study, the research team found that self-heal herb (Prunella vulgaris) may be used as a potential treatment for kidney diseases, such as diabetic nephropathy. This plant is popular in traditional medicine, where it’s used to treat abscess, scrofula, hypertension, and urinary diseases.

The research team looked at the effect of self-heal herb on improving the symptoms of diabetic nephropathy. To do so, they used an aqueous extract of the self-heal herb to test whether it can inhibit kidney inflammation and fibrosis in cell and animal models.

Pretreatment with self-heal herb inhibited inflammatory cytokines and significantly decreased fibrosis markers such as connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) and collagen IV. It also suppressed inflammatory factors such as intracellular cell adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1). In addition, it inhibited the activation and translocation of nuclear factor kappa-B (NF-?B) and significantly improved reactive oxygen species in a dose-dependent manner.

In diabetic rat models, treatment with self-heal aqueous extract significantly reduced blood sugar, blood urea nitrogen, and plasma creatinine levels. It also inhibited fibrosis-related proteins such as collagen IV and TGF-Beta1. The results of both experiments indicated that aqueous self-heal herb extract exhibits a potent protective effect against diabetic nephropathy symptoms such as inflammation and fibrosis.

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Overall, the research team concluded that self-heal herb might be used as a potential treatment for kidney diseases, such as diabetic nephropathy. They published their findings in The American Journal of Chinese Medicine. (Related: Diabetic? Regular exercise can reduce your risk of kidney disease.)

Other health benefits of the self-heal herb

In addition to treating diabetic nephropathy, self-heal herb offers many other health benefits, according to some preliminary research. Here are some of them:

  • Diabetes – Self-heal herb is generally beneficial to people with diabetes. One mice study, which was published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggested that the herb can increase the insulin sensitivity of diabetic mice. It can also help prevent the development of atherosclerosis or the hardening of the arteries, which is common among people with diabetes, according to a study published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine.
  • Herpes – A study published in the journal Antiviral Research suggested that self-heal herb may help fight herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1), which is the virus that causes cold sores, and HSV-2, which causes genital herpes. The study, which was conducted on cells in culture, found that the herb contains carbohydrates that may help stop these viruses from penetrating host cells.
  • Cancer – Several studies on human cells suggested that self-heal herb may help induce apoptosis, which is a type of programmed cell death needed for inhibiting the proliferation of cancer cells. However, more studies are required to support the claim that the herb can treat or prevent cancer in humans.

The self-heal herb also contains several anti-inflammatory compounds and vitamins, such as vitamin C. It is also said to stimulate the immune system. In alternative medicine, it is also used to help treat or prevent allergies, colic, headache, and sore throat.

Learn more about other medicinal plants like self-heal herb at

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