The herbs - rosemary and oregano - not only enhance the taste of food, lab tests find they are loaded with healthful compounds that work to reduce blood sugar as effectively as anti-diabetic drugs.
Researchers at the University of Illinois found the herbs contain polyphenols and flavonoids, compounds that interfere with a diabetes-related enzyme, which is also the target of prescription drugs to control blood sugar.
Researchers found how the herbs are grown makes a difference. They found commercial extracts of Greek oregano, Mexican oregano and rosemary were better than greenhouse herbs at blocking the diabetes enzyme, an action required for reducing the risk of type-two diabetes.
The incidence of type-2 or adult-onset diabetes has exploded worldwide with the easy availability of cheap fast food.
The findings are reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a publication of the American Chemical Society.
Investigators, led by Elvira Gonzalez do Mejia, discovered that greenhouse herbs contained more polyphenols and flavonoids than commercial herbs, but this did not affect the herbs' ability to inhibit the enzyme.
Experts note that it is easier for some people than others to control their disease with changes in diet and exercise. Others have trouble affording anti-diabetes medication. For these people, experts say herbs may provide a natural way to help lower blood sugar.