Diabetes – An Ayurvedic perspective

Diabetes is the fifth deadliest disease in the USA, as reported by Skyridge Medical Center. According to ADA (American Diabetic Association) 23.8 million people in USA suffer from diabetes i.e. almost 8 % of the total population of USA. Not only in USA, but all over the world there is an increased number of diabetic cases. In India, there are 25 million diabetic cases and unfortunately India
ranks as the largest diabetic populated country. Statistically every fifth diabetic in the world is an Indian.

According to Ayurveda, Diabetes can be correlated to “Madhumeh”. Madhumeh is categorized under the disease “Prameh” which is extensively described in all major Ayurvedic texts. The word ‘madhu’ means honey (sweet) and ‘meh’ means urination. Hence ‘madhumeh’ means a disease in which person urinates honey like urine.

Types of Madhumeh (Diabetes)

Ayurveda classifies ‘Madhumeh’ into two types:

  1. Sahaja = Due to a defect in genetic substance, either in the mother or father

This form corresponds to juvenile–onset diabetes or type I diabetes.

  1. Apathyanimittaja = Due to excessive habit of over indulgence of food or sweet.

This form corresponds to adult-onset / Type II diabetes.

Causes of Diabetes

Causes may be traced to tendencies inherited at birth or to derangements acquired afterwards such as:

  1. Inactivity, laziness, lack of exercise
  2. Excessive sleep during daytime
  3. Excessive consumption of yogurt
  4. Excessive consumption of meat and soup of the domestic, aquatic and marshy land animals
  5. Eating of new grains (Navanaam) products of jaggery or all other sweets
  6. All other kapha promoting things
  7. Worries, stress or anxiety


  1. Greater need to urinate
  2. Often feeling hungry or thirsty
  3. Weight Loss
  4. Sweet taste in mouth, coated tongue or teeth etc.
  5. Very dry skin
  6. Tingling numbness in hand or feet
  7. Lethargy
  8. Slow wound healing process

Management Principles

As always, a general Ayurvedic rule for any disease is that, one has to eliminate or negate causative factors to successfully treat a disease. The three fundamental pillars of Ayurvedic management for madhumeh are Aahar (diet), Vihar (lifestyle) and Aushadhi
(medicine or therapeutic modalities)

Aahar: Diet

What to avoid eating:

  1. Simple Carbohydrates as well as all refined carbohydrates
  2. Too much processed food and preservatives
  3. Sugar with all other stimulant such as caffeine and all artificial sweeteners
  4. Too much fats
  5. Too much calories at the same time

Ayurvedic food recommendations for diabetes:

Barley (Yava) is main choice of grains emphasized in Ayurveda. The next
preferred are wheat and 60 days rice (Sathe shalee) and course and old grains should be consumed. If old grains are not
available then one an substitute it by roasting the grains.

Moong (green beans), Masoor (red gram), Kulitha (horse gram), Chanak (yellow gram)

Bitter melon (karela), fenugreek (methi), alpha alpha, guvar, capsicum, onion, garlic, white pumpkin, etc.

Fruits that contain slow releasing sugar such as apple, pear, berries, etc.

Natural sweeteners such as honey, stevia

Chicken, Turkey or Fish

Olive oil, flaxseed oil

Green tea, Herbal tea, cumin seed treated butter milk

Vihar: Lifestyle Changes

30 to 45 minutes exercise is recommended and it is advisable to perform aerobic exercise because aerobic exercise produces insulin like effects. Hence regular exercise helps maintain regular blood sugar. Besides exercise effective yogasanas are very useful. Also rigorous exercises are contraindicated to lean and weak patients. Instead severe madhumehi (diabetic) are advised to perform specific yoga postures that are believed to benefit with least physical stress. Research shows certain postures are for to stimulate the pancreas and improve its functions.

Some important ones are Paschimotanasana, Halasana, Bhujangasana, Shalabhasana
and Dhanurasana. Along with exercise and yoga, meditation for stress management is equally important.

In psychological perspective diabetes is a disease of desire, thirst and lack of contentment in life. Spiritual focus is another avenue to address and treat the psychological side of the disease. Hence Pranayama can be performed on regular basis with spiritual aspect.

Aushadhi: Medicine and Therapeutic Modality

Ayurveda suggests two types of treatment modalities:

a) Shodhana Chikitsa
Shodhana means internal cleaning of the body. This method works for obese or sthoola diabetic. Shodhana is generally carried out by performing the Panchakarma treatment.

b) Shamana Chikitsa
Shamana means pacification of doshas. This is advocated by offering Ayurvedic formulas for long period of time.

Useful herbs for diabetes:

  1. Gudmar
  2. Amalaki
  3. Jambul
  4. Bel
  5. Nimba
  6. Turmeric
  7. Shilajit


The recommendations mentioned in this article are for educational and health increasing use only and not meant to be a prescription for diseased condition. If you are experiencing symptoms, please contact a qualified Ayurvedic physician for a diagnosis and total health program.

Article provided by Ashlesha Raut, BAMS, MD (Ayurveda – India), N.C. (Nutritional Consultant – USA), Board Certified In Integrative Medicine and faculty member at Sai Ayurvedic College & Ayurvedic Wellness Center.

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