Bougainvillea leaves show potential as a natural diabetes treatment

Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spectabilis) seems to get the best of both worlds – they are not only beautiful, they also have potential therapeutic uses. Unfortunately, many people often overlook these benefits, and the plant is usually limited to being ornamental. Its vibrant colored leaves, which people often mistake as flowers, are rich in compounds that contribute to its many health benefits. A study by researchers from Jiwaji University in India found that one of its potential applications is as a natural remedy for diabetes.

Diabetes mellitus is a worldwide epidemic that affects more than 422 million people. This condition is becoming more and more prevalent due to unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as physical inactivity and poor diet, brought about by the conveniences of the modern world. These lead to the build-up of sugars either due to insufficient insulin production or reduced efficacy of this enzyme. Low insulin levels also contribute to an increase in reactive oxygen species and the consequent oxidative stress. Complications such as cardiovascular diseases may arise because of these since they can induce tissue damage and disrupt receptors, enzymes, and signaling pathways involved in normal body processes.

To prevent diabetes complications, healthcare professionals prescribe antidiabetic medications like sulfonylureas and biguanides. However, these conventional medications often do more harm than good since they can cause other complications like deficient blood sugar levels, weight gain, nausea, and heart attacks. Because of these, researchers are now going back to traditional herbal remedies to look for potential antidiabetic treatments.

Bougainvillea is commonly used in traditional medicine as a remedy for respiratory diseases, stomach pains, flu, and acne. These therapeutic applications are possible due to the presence of bioactive compounds such as furanoids, saponins, flavonoids, quinones, phenols, sterols, triterpenoids, glycosides, and tannins. Moreover, the leaves also contain pinitol, which has exhibited an insulin-like effect. Because of this, the authors hypothesized that bougainvillea could be used as a natural remedy for diabetes.

In this study, which was published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine, the researchers determined the antidiabetes potential of bougainvillea leaves by administering its extracts to Wistar rats with streptozocin-induced diabetes for 28 days. The extent of the plant’s therapeutic potential was determined based on parameters like blood glucose levels, glycosylated hemoglobin, body weight, and lipid profile. Additionally, the researchers evaluated different markers for kidney and liver function as well as oxidative stress.

The results of the study showed that bougainvillea leaf extracts significantly reduced blood glucose and lipid levels, proving that it has both antihyperglycemic and antihyperlipidemic activities. It also exhibited potent antioxidant activity and restored kidney and liver functions. Most importantly, the administration of bougainvillea extracts did not induce toxicity in healthy cells.

Overall, these indicate that bougainvillea has potential use as a natural remedy for diabetes since it has antihyperglycemic, antihyperlipidemic, and antioxidant activities. Moreover, it was safe for diabetic rats. With further studies, bougainvillea can be utilized as a safe and effective alternative to harmful antidiabetic medications. (Related: Diabetes medication plunges blood sugar to dangerously low levels, increasing risk of heart attack and death.)

Other health benefits of bougainvillea

If you already have a bougainvillea plant, then you can get the most out of it by using it for other purposes as well. Some of the other health benefits that can get from bougainvillea include the following:

  • Relieving sore throat
  • Reducing fever
  • Eliminating toxins
  • Treating diarrhea
  • Preventing bacterial infections
  • Easing joint pain
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Improving stomach acidity
  • Promotes regular menstruation

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