Extracts of the herb Withania coagulans help treat diabetes

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Extracts of the herb Withania coagulans, or Paneer dodi, are used in traditional Indian medicine.

Although some healers claim that W. coagulans can help treat diabetes, the bitter-tasting plant hasn’t been studied extensively by scientists.

Now, researchers have found that herbal extracts packaged in polymers derived from natural substances can reduce blood glucose levels in diabetic mice.

They report their results in ACS Omega.

Alternative medicines are becoming increasingly popular for the treatment of chronic illness, primarily because of people’s perception that plant-based medicines are less toxic and have fewer side effects.

However, this is not always the case, and even so-called “natural” therapies must be carefully tested for efficacy, dose-related toxicity and interactions with other drugs.

In addition, scientists must find ways to effectively deliver the medicines into the body in controlled ways.

Many plant extracts, like W. coagulans, are bitter and unpalatable at the doses needed to have beneficial effects.

Also, when taken orally, the medicinal components in plant extracts are often destroyed by the acidic conditions of the stomach.

That’s why Say Chye Joachim Loo and colleagues wanted to find a way to encapsulate W. coagulans extract in a delivery system based on natural components that could safely transport the extract to the small intestine, where the cargo would be released and absorbed.

From the berries of W. coagulans, the team extracted plant steroid compounds that increased insulin secretion by mouse pancreatic cells in a dish.

The researchers encapsulated the steroids in chitosan nanoparticles made from shellfish exoskeletons and coated the particles with starch, which delayed release of the herbal extract under acidic conditions.

Finally, diabetic mice that were fed the nanoparticles for 5 days showed about 40% lower blood glucose levels compared to their starting amounts.

Surprisingly, even 5 days after the treatment ended, the mice showed a 60% reduction in blood glucose compared to their starting levels.

This effect could arise from the ability of the delivery system to prolong the release of extract over an extended period of time, the researchers say.


Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is possibly the world’s fastest growing metabolic disorder that results from defects in insulin secretion (Kahn, 2001) on one side, and insulin resistance on the other side (Polonsky et al., 1996).

About 90% diabetic patients are of T2DM with insulin resistance and are playing a key role in the development of disease (National Diabetes Statistics, 2011). The progression of T2DM begins with an impairment of glucose tolerance (Zimmet and Thomas, 2003) and is often associated with a state of insulin resistance (Robertson and Harmon, 2006).

In recent years, there has been global upsurge in the clinical use of drugs from herbal sources. Indian medicinal plants and their derivatives have been an invaluable source of therapeutic agents to treat various disorders, including diabetes (Koehn and Carter, 2005). Management of T2DM without any side effect is still a challenge to the medical system.

Many oral hypoglycemic agents are available along with insulin for the treatment of diabetes (Holman and Turner, 1991).

But these synthetic agents can produce serious side effects; furthermore, they are not suitable for use during pregnancy (Gilman et al., 1985; Rao et al., 1997; Valiathan, 1998).

This leads to an increase in demand for natural products having antidiabetic activity with fewer side effects and are relatively economical as compared to oral hypoglycemic agents. It is assumed that herbal medicine can be effective alternative to oral hypogly-cemic agents in the treatment of T2DM, where pancreatic islets are not totally destroyed (Koehn and Carter, 2005).

Withania coagulans Dunal (family: Solanaceae), commonly known as Indian cheese maker or Paneer dodi is widely used in Ayurvedic system of medicine for over 3,000 years in India (Indian Pharmacopoeia, 1985).

The adaptogenic, hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, anti- hyperglycemic, hypolipidaemic (cardio-protective), anti- oxidant, antimicrobial, cardiovascular, central nervous system depressant, immunomodulating, anti-platelet (wound healing), antitumour, and cytotoxic activities of W. coagulans have been documented by Maurya et al. (2010), Ojha and Arya (2009) and Prasad et al. (2010).

The aqueous extract of the fruits of W. coagulans has been shown to exert antiangiogenic (Mirjalili et al., 2009) and antidiabetic (Jaiswal et al., 2010) activities. 

According to Jaleel et al. (2008) Triadimefon a triazole derivative plant growth regulator isolated from Withania somnifera) can be used to enhance the antioxidant potential like superoxide dismutase, peroxidase, polyphenol oxidase, and catalase activities. Anwar et al. (2008)  found improved insulin sensitivity index, that is, reduction in elevated blood glucose levels, glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) and insulin in T2DM rats treated with W. somnifera extract. Hoda et al. (2010) found that aqueous extract of W. coagulans showed highly significant decrease (p < 0.01) in the blood glucose (52%), triglyceride, total cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL), and very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) level and highly significant increase (p < 0.01) in high density lipoprotein (HDL) level. They also observed anti hyperglycemic  effect slightly superior (6%) to metformin.

However, the reports on the effect of W. coagulans extract on hyperinsulinemia, glucose intolerance, and insulin sensitivity are scanty in the literature.

Therefore, the present study was conceived to investigate the effect of W. coagulans extract on hyperinsulinemia, glucose intolerance, and insulin sensitivity in T2DM model of rats.


More information: Kaarunya Sampathkumar et al. Small-Intestine-Specific Delivery of Antidiabetic Extracts from Withania coagulans Using Polysaccharide-Based Enteric-Coated Nanoparticles, ACS Omega (2019). DOI: 10.1021/acsomega.9b00823

Journal information: ACS Omega
Provided by American Chemical Society

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