Insulin Plant

Insulin Plant

Insulin plant (Costus igneus Nak)

Insulin plant (Costus igneus). This plant belongs to family Costaceae and is native to Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia. It is an erect herbaceous plant growing up to 2 m high. Leaves are alternate and spirally arranged. Flowers are yellowish green, axillary, pedunculate, hermaphrodite, bisexual and actinomorphic. These plants are widely cultivated throughout tropical countries for decorative purposes. They are popularly called spiral flag because of their characteristic appearance.

Several parts of this plant are used medicinally like roots, stem bark, seeds, fruits, leaf extracts and latex. A large number of phytochemical compounds such as flavonoids, saponins, tannins, alkaloids, anthraquinones, steroids, cardiac glycosides, phenolic acids etc., have been isolated from different parts of this plant. Some of them exhibit biological activities including antimicrobial, antioxidant, antidiabetic, cytotoxic, analgesic, hypoglycemic, antitumour, immunomodulatory, antiulcerogenic, hepatoprotective, cardiotonic and vasorelaxant properties. However, there are no reports regarding pharmacological studies on insulin plant.

Let us look at it's chemical composition, traditional uses, phytochemistry, pharmacology and toxicology of this plant.

What is the Insulin Plant?

Costus igneus Nak (Syn.: Costus pictus D., Costus mexicanis Liebm ex Petersen or Costus congenitus Rowle) is a member of the Zingiberaceae family. It is a perennial herbaceous plant growing up to 2 meters tall. Costus igneus grows in tropical regions of Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay and southern parts of North America.

The plant is characterized by large leaves, yellow flowers and fruits. Its scientific name literally translates into "costus", meaning spiral or step ladder, referring to the shape of its fruit capsules. The Latin specific epithet igneus refers to the fact that the inner surface of the capsule changes color to red when mature, indicating that the seeds are ready to germinate.

Costus igneus is cultivated as an ornamental garden plant in temperate climates worldwide. A number of cultivars have been selected for different flower colors, such as white, pink, lavender, rose, purple, blue, red, orange and yellow.

In Indian traditional system of medicine, Costus igneus is known as "Step Ladder". It is used to treat Diabetes mellitus and Diabetic neuropathy. It is believed that eating the leaves of this plant helps to lower blood sugar levels.

In Mexican folk medicine, the whole plant is used to treat diabetes, stomach ulcers, diarrhea, cold and cough. The aerial part of the plant is used to make tea or infusion.

Insulin Plant

How does an Insulin Plant Grow?

The spiral flag is one of the easiest plants to grow from seed. It does well in average garden soils, but it prefers moist conditions. Seeds germinate quickly, usually within three weeks. If you live where there is severe winter weather, start seeds indoors about four months prior to planting out. Seedlings emerge in seven days. They require little fertilizer and do best without irrigation. In spring, divide the clump every two years to keep it vigorous. Divide again in summer if necessary. Remove spent flowers to encourage further growth.

Does Insulin Plant really control diabetes?

Several investigation studies were carried out to evaluate the phytochemical constituents of the leaves of 'Insulin Plant'. Different solvent extraction techniques were used to obtain different fractions of crude extract. These fractions were subjected to sequential solvent extraction to obtain different fractions namely petroleum ether fraction, ethylacetate fraction, chloroform fraction, n-butanol fraction, water fraction and ethanol fraction. The phytochemical analysis of each fraction was performed and the results are presented in the following Table.

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Studies carried out to evaluate anti-diabetic effect

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Conclusion of the Studies

In conclusion, Costus igeus showed significant hypoglycemic activity in streptozotocin induced diabetic rats. Leaves of Costus igeus possess better antidiabetic potential than the root extract. This study provides evidence for the traditional use of Costus igeous against diabetes mellitus.

How to Grow insulin plant at home?

Sow seeds in a pot with peat moss. Keep soil moist until germination occurs. After germination, transplant outside after all danger of frost has passed. Water regularly during dry spells.

Insulin Plant

10 benefits of insulin plant

1. Helps to reduce high blood glucose level.

2. Improves digestion.

3. Reduces cholesterol level.

4. Increases energy level.

5. Promotes weight loss.

6. Good for skin health.

7. Prevents heart diseases.

8. Relieves stress.

9. Improves memory power.

10. Protects brain cells.

FAQ on Insulin Plant

Does Insulin Plant contain insulin?

No. However, a few other species of Costus are reported to contain insulin like substances.

How does insulin plant control diabetes?

It has been shown that Costus igeus contains some active compounds which may be responsible for the observed hypoglycaemic action. Further research is required to isolate these active components and determine their mechanism of action.

Is Insulin Plant safe?

Yes. There are no reports of any adverse effects associated with the consumption of Costus igneus.

Can insulin plant cure diabetes?

There have been no clinical trials conducted to prove its efficacy. However, several animal studies have demonstrated that Costus igneus possesses antihyperglycaemic properties.

How do you use the insulin plant?

You can take 1 teaspoon of dried leaves per day. You can also add them to your diet.

What are the benefits of insulin leaves?

Costus igneus is known to lower blood sugar levels. It is also useful in controlling obesity.

Where can we buy the insulin plant?

We sell the insulin plant online at

Is insulin plant harmful?

No. It is not toxic or hazardous to health.

Are there any side effects of using insulin plant?

No. It has no known side effects.

Do you recommend taking insulin plant as an alternative medicine?

Yes. We recommend it because it is natural and effective. Please consult your doctor first.

When should I take my insulin leaf?

Take it daily after meals.

How long will it take to see results?

Results vary from person to person. Some people experience relief in just a week while others need more time.

How many insulin leaves a day?

One teaspoon (1 tsp) of dried leaves is equivalent to one tablespoon (1 tbsp).

How do I know if I am allergic to insulin plant?

If you notice swelling around the mouth, lips, tongue, throat or nose; hives; difficulty breathing; wheezing; itching; rash; redness of eyes; dizziness; nausea; vomiting; diarrhea; abdominal pain; chest tightness; shortness of breath; fainting; confusion; headache; numbness; tingling; weakness; slurred speech; or hallucinations then you might be allergic to this product.

If you think you are having an allergic reaction, stop using the product immediately and call your healthcare provider or poison control center right away.

What happens if I overdose on insulin plant?

Overdose means consuming too much of the product. In case of overdose, seek medical attention immediately.

Next Steps

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Further Reading

10 Medicinal plants to grow at home

Herbs that you can grow at home

Complete guide to microgreens


External References

A review of insulin plant by National Library of Science

Happy Gardening!
Dr. Vandana, Co-Founder,