Medicinal Plant Intake: Improving Type 2 Diabetes Management in Canadian Aboriginal Populations

Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge on medicinal and food plants represents an underappreciated opportunity for the culturally relevant prevention and management of type 2 diabetes (T2D). Indeed, evidence has accumulated in recent years that many medicinal and food plants used to treat various symptoms of T2D contain active chemical constituents that exhibit significant biological activity. They notably improve the control of sugars and fats by acting on various targets of insulin, such as muscle, liver, fat, and intestine. They can also help reduce the incidence and consequences of diabetes complications such as neuropathy and kidney disease. However, many challenges remain that are related to the general lack of knowledge of health professionals and even some community members, especially youth, about Aboriginal Traditional Medicine and food. An approach combining Aboriginal Ways of Knowing and Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge with modern science and health systems holds much promise to bring down barriers and facilitate an open, mutually trusting, and respectful collaboration to improve T2D prevention and management.

This policy position paper was written Dr. Pierre S. Haddad, Director, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Team in Aboriginal Antidiabetic Medicines, and Professor, Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Québec, Canada.  It is part of the ISGP conference Equitable, Sustainable and Healthy Food Environments, convened in partnership with Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in May 2016.