In Europe, Hintonia latiflora has been tested and used extensively to help treat diabetes or to prevent pre-diabetes from developing into the disease. But why does it work? In part, because of a polyphenol in the bark called coutareagenin.
This compound, also known for its anti-oxidant properties, appears to inhibit an enzyme called alpha-glucosidase, which normally releases sugar from carbohydrates. For many people, that’s a regular part of getting energy from food. But for people with already-elevated blood sugar levels, it adds to the glucose burden being carried in the body.
Fortunately, because Hintonia delays the release of sugar in the bloodstream, it keeps glucose balanced, rather than allowing it to spike as seen type 2 diabetes, or even in cases of hyper- and hypoglycemia. But that’s also why it’s important to look for Hintonia extracts that are specifically standardized for coutareagenin, too.
Mata R, Cristians S, Escandón-Rivera S, Juárez-Reyes K, Rivero-Cruz I. Mexican antidiabetic herbs: valuable sources of inhibitors of α-glucosidases. J Nat Prod. 2013 Mar 22;76(3):468-83.
Type II-diabetes mellitus (TII-DM) has been regarded as one of the most important public health problems in all nations in the 21st century. Although allopathic therapies remain the most important for the initial management of TII-DM, herbal remedies have gained wide acceptance for treating this condition. These alternative therapies are particularly valued in countries such as Mexico, rich in medicinal plants strongly attached to the cultural values of the population. Medicinal plants are prized sources of α-glucosidase inhibitors, which delay the liberation of glucose from complex carbohydrates, retarding glucose absorption, and thus controlling the characteristic hyperglycemia of TII-DM. Among the plant species used for treating diabetes in Mexico only 38 have been analyzed for their inhibitory activity of α-glucosidases. Most of these studies, reviewed in the present work, have focused on the evaluation of different types of extracts on the activity of α-glucosidases from diverse sources. Four species have been thoroughly analyzed in order to discover novel α-glucosidase inhibitors, namely, Hintonia latiflora and Hintonia standleyana (Rubiaceae), Ligusticum porteri (Apiaceae), and Brickellia cavanillesii (Asteraceae). Their ethnomedical uses, pharmacological and toxicological studies, chemical composition, and antihyperglycemic principles with α-glucosidase inhibitory activity are summarized.
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