Salt bush is a shrub that grows throughout the Mediterranean region, in the Middle East, northern Africa, and southern Europe. As its name suggests, it is especially common in areas where the soil is saline. Salt bush is a nutritious plant, high in protein, vitamins C, A, and D, and minerals such as chromium. It is also fairly tasty—shepherds as well as their flocks enjoy eating salt bush.

Salt bush may prove useful in the treatment of type 2 (non-insulin-dependent or adult onset) diabetes. This idea came to the attention of medical researchers in 1964, when they discovered that a rodent called the sand rat ( Psammomys obesus) is highly susceptible to developing diabetes.1 Yet wild sand rats, which regularly consume salt bush, never show any signs of diabetes—they tend to develop it in response to being fed regular laboratory food! As a result, scientists have explored the possibility that salt bush has an antidiabetic effect.

The results of animal studiesand preliminary human trials suggest that salt bush does indeed have antidiabetic effects.2-6 However, while these studies are certainly intriguing, only double-blind, placebo-controlled studies can prove a treatment effective, and none have yet been reported. (For information on why this type of study is essential, see Why Does This Database Rely on Double-Blind Studies?) For this reason, the use of salt bush for diabetes remains highly speculative.

Some animal researchers speculate that the effect of salt bush (if, indeed, it has one) may be partly due to the chromium it contains.7 Considerable evidence indicates that chromium supplementation can improve blood sugar control, especially in type 2 diabetes. However, there could be other active ingredients in salt bush as well.