Costus igneus is known as the insulin plant because it may help lower glucose levels for some people with diabetes. This plant may cause side effects that include dizziness and stomach problems. While C. igneus may help as a supplement for pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes, it is not a replacement for insulin or other diabetes medications.

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Costus igneus is an herbal plant from Central and South America that’s more commonly known as the insulin plant. Researchers believe it can help lower blood sugar levels in certain people with diabetes.

While it may have some anti-diabetic properties that could be beneficial if used as a supplement, this floral plant can also lead to side effects like dizziness, diarrhea, nausea — even dangerously low blood sugars if it interacts with your other diabetes medications.

This article will provide more information about this particular plant and whether it might be worth considering as an option for diabetes management, including information about possible side effects and how it can impact glucose levels.

Importantly, you should consult your doctor or healthcare team before making any decisions on using the insulin plant or making any changes to your current diabetes care plan.

Costus igneus, or “insulin plant,” comes from Eastern Brazil. It’s a perennial spreading plant that can reach about 2 feet tall.

Those who use this plant consume it in the following ways:

  • chew on the leaves
  • consume the benefits of the leaves as a supplement in tablet form
  • eat the ground powder made from the leaves
  • boil the leaves to make a tea

In Southern India and other parts around the world, people with diabetes use the leaves as a dietary supplement. Additionally, Costus igneus is an antioxidant that can be used to help the immune system defend against bacterial infections. It’s also a diuretic.

Is there a difference between Costus pictus and Costus igneus?

There is no quantifiable difference between Costus pictus and Costus igneus.

The plant is known by a variety of names, including “insulin plant,” “spiral flag,” “painted spiral ginger,” “step ladder,” and “fiery Costus,” among others.

The Costus species is extensively found throughout the world’s tropical zones and is used primarily in Eastern and traditional medicine for its antiseptic and antidiabetic properties.

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If you live with insulin-dependent diabetes, always make sure to consult your diabetes care team before making any treatment decisions about your condition. That includes not stopping your insulin before having a conversation with your diabetes doctor.

However, Costus igneus is safe to use as a supplement in addition to your prescribed medications for diabetes.

In a 2016 study, researchers found the consumption of insulin plant leaves helped prevent postprandial blood sugar spikes in those with diabetes.

This study showed that consumption of insulin plant leaves is effective for most people in bringing down blood sugar levels when used in conjunction with other modalities of diabetes treatment, such as insulin and other diabetes medications.

However, the study authors did note that more research is needed to evaluate safety.

An older study found that among participants who were insulin-dependent, after eating the insulin plant leaves for only 15 days of the study, their insulin needs decreased by half. This was seen in every person who was insulin-dependent in the study.

Additionally, for people with diabetes who were not on insulin but were on some other diabetes medications to address blood sugar levels that were not well managed, their blood sugar levels improved after 15 days of eating the insulin plant leaves.

Consuming Costus igneus may come with side effects, including:

  • upset stomach
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • low blood sugar levels, especially if you take insulin
  • increased risk of diabetes-related coma (from hypoglycemia)

Always check with your doctor before starting any herbal supplements to manage blood sugar levels, especially if you’re insulin-dependent.

Additionally, taking herbal Costus igneus may interact with other medications you’re taking, so be sure to ask your doctor if anything will be contraindicated (reason why you should not consume Costus igneus) if you wish to start taking this supplement.

The longer-term side effects of this plant are largely unknown. More research is needed.

In addition to its anti-diabetic properties, the insulin plant has other health benefits.

That includes antioxidant properties. This can be helpful for people with diabetes to assist in reversing the oxidative stress of the liver, pancreas, and kidneys.

The plant also has diuretic, antimicrobial, and cancer-preventing properties.

Costus igneus, also known as Costus pictus, spiral flag, painted spiral ginger, step ladder, fiery costus, or insulin plant, is a plant native to Eastern Brazil that’s grown and consumed widely throughout the world.

Reseach has shown that consuming the leaves regularly can lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes who are insulin-dependent and those not on insulin when used in conjunction with their traditionally prescribed medications. It also has antimicrobial, diuretic, and anti-cancer properties.

Importantly, you should always consult your doctor or diabetes care team before making any changes to your medications.