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Su Bristow

There’s an interesting new piece of research just out.

This one was carried out on humans – only 24 of them, but human studies are relatively rare and precious – and it was testing the effect of black tea on blood sugar.

The volunteers had a sugary drink, and then were given one of three beverages: a placebo, tea containing a high level of polyphenols, or tea containing a low level. Their blood sugar was measured at intervals afterwards, and the study was repeated several times.

The findings showed that those who had the placebo drink had a surge in blood sugar, as you would expect. But the tea-drinkers did not. It’s known that polyphenols can block sugar from entering the bloodstream, and it seems that the level doesn’t matter.

That’s an effect you often see with herbal medicine: the dosage may only need to be very small to have an effect. But what has really excited the researchers is the implication for treatment of type 2 diabetes. If tea can help your blood sugar to stay even, it could play a useful role in helping your pancreas to stay active and continue to secrete insulin.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that drinking tea cancels out eating cake and biscuits! It might keep your blood sugar on the level, but you’re still taking on a big carbohydrate load.

But it could certainly help to avert or delay type 2 diabetes, especially if you drink black or green tea without sugar and snacks alongside. There are plenty of herbs – and tea, of course, is a herb in this context – which can help avoid spikes in blood sugar – and I predict that some of them will come under scrutiny in the next few years. 

Type 2 diabetes is a huge and growing problem, and pre-diabetic states even more so. There are solutions at hand if we know how to look for them.

EDITOR: Sue has an excellent Herb Handbook available to buy directly from her website or from Amazon.

Meet The Author...
Su Bristow
Who Am I?
I studied at the School of Herbal Medicine for four years, and qualified in 1989, becoming a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists ( The road to herbal medicine led from my early interest in organic gardening and healthy eating, through the study of social and physical anthropology at Cambridge, where I specialised in medical anthropology. What fascinated me was how people deal with their health problems when they have only the natural resources around them, and their own ingenuity. I went on to learn massage and reflexology, and worked at a residential naturopathic clinic, where I learned about the use of diet and other natural ways of healing. After qualifying as a herbalist, I set up practice in mid-Devon. Since then I have continued to expand my expertise, with counselling skills, first aid, and knowledge of the Chinese and Ayurvedic systems of herbal medicine. Besides one-to-one consultation, I have also taught evening classes, students of the Westcountry Massage Association, and various private courses.
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