Diabetes therapy may be in for a breakthrough if a particular type of African tea turns out to be useful in the fight against the debilitating disease, scientists say.
Danish scientists first studied the application of the tea on genetically diabetic mice. The liquid is obtained by boiling the leaves, young stalks and fruit of Rauvolfia vomitoria and Citrus aurantium, and has been used as a treatment in traditional Nigerian medicine.
The animal tests showed that after six weeks of daily consumption, combined with a low-fat diet, the pancreas health improved.
The researchers have recently completed a four-month long clinical test on human patients with type 2 diabetes who drank 750 ml of the tea each day and reported encouraging results.
"The [African tea] appears to differentiate itself from other current type 2 diabetes treatments because [it] does not initially affect the sugar content of the blood," says Joan Campbell-Tofte from the University of Copenhagen.
"But after four months of treatment we can see a significant increase in glucose tolerance," she adds.
The researchers say the patients who drank the tea had higher levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which make cell membranes more permeable, resulting in better glucose absorption from the blood.
According to the CDC, more than 23 million Americans are affected by diabetes, and between 90 and 95 percent of diagnosed cases involved type 2 diabetes.