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Diabetes – Restricted Diets – Foods From Prophetic Medicine

Diabetes – Restricted Diets – Foods From Prophetic Medicine

Launched in 2015, NHS England’s Diabetes Prevention Programme (NHS DPP) records that, “around 22,000 people with diabetes die early every year. Type 2 diabetes is a leading cause of preventable sight loss in people of working age and is a major contributor to kidney failure, heart attack, and stroke.”

Diabetes UK announced a new pilot by NHS England starting in 2019 which, “…will test a Type 2 remission programme … involving low-calorie diets.”

The Guardian reports, “The 800-calories-a-day regimen, made up of soups and shakes, has been shown to help people lose excess weight that has caused fat to build up around their internal organs including the pancreas, leading to type 2 diabetes.”

We hope that those taking on such a regimen consider the role of phlegm (mucus, balgham) we wrote about last week.

And also the role of foods from prophetic medicine in the management of diabetes mellitus as listed by Bassem Y. Sheikh of the College of Medicine, Taibah University, Madinah in his review of the literature:

  • Blackseed

  • Lemon Grass

  • Olives

  • Miswak

  • Honey

  • Barley

  • Dates

  • Zamzam Water

  • Vinegar

  • Costus

  • Trouffles

  • Figs

  • Gourd (Cucurbitaceae)


And we are reminded, again, of the hadith of the Prophet, peace be upon him, who said, “No human being has ever filled a container worse than his own stomach. The son of Adam needs no more than some morsels of food to keep up his strength. Doing so, he should consider that a third of [his stomach] is for food, a third for drink and a third for breathing.”



Phlegm – Mucus - Balgham

Phlegm – Mucus - Balgham

Notes from an interview with a Hakeem.


Your work is in treating others’ health problems. What are you doing at the moment for your own health?

“I am currently in the process of detoxing from a phlegm imbalance.  Looking back, I think there has been quite a long term build up, a tendency towards imbalance.  I’ve been doing this now for a number of months and hope to have completed the process soon.”

What do you mean by phlegm imbalance?

“Phlegm, or mucus or (the Arabic word) Balgham is a key component in Islamic Medicine. It is a compound temperament, cold and moist, and one of the four bodily humours.

The three core ideas with this detox are, primarily, to reduce those foods that have a tendency to produce mucus.  You use fruit and vegetables as the roughage, and, if you want extra effect, you increase foods that have a tendency to remove mucus.”

So what are the foods that you are reducing?

“I am avoiding or reducing wheat, dairy, rice, eggs and sugar. I am focusing on mainly lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit, especially dried fruit. Once a week I will have dish of lamb or chicken or fish.”

To be clear, what do you mean by wheat?

“I mean all types of bread made from wheat. Also, pasta, pizza, cake, biscuits, and cereals. This includes naan, pitta, roti and paratha.”

And dairy?

“By “dairy” I mean milk, yoghurt, butter and cheese.”

What kinds of foods are you eating to replace these?

“I continue to eat all types of vegetables - especially green leafy vegetables - and fruit - especially dried fruit - and lentils, pulses, beans, barley, barley bread, rye bread, rye crisp bread, porridge, oats, oat milk and oatcakes. It’s important to remember protein. You’d be surprised how much protein you can get from non-meat and diary sources.”

What about sugar?

“I try to replace sugar with honey but this is not always possible. I avoid pouring boiling water on honey.”

Is this a permanent programme?

“No, not at all. I think it will take a few months. But, long term, I can see the value in eating reduced amounts of wheat, dairy, rice, eggs and sugar.”

What about herbal medicine?

“After a diagnosis from the tongue, eyes, forehead, hands, nails, face, the six body organ pulses on the right and left hands, I decided to support this detox process with specific herbal medicines.”

Can you be more specific?

“Each day I am currently taking a spoon of cayenne powder, as a tonic. It seems to go down best with orange juice with the bits in. I also drink a dilution of lemon juice concentrate first thing in the morning with a spoon of honey. Dried figs, radishes and apples also seem to be good “phlegm-strippers” for me.

For general health, do you take any herbal medicines?

“Yes, I take mullein, hawthorn berry powder, buchu, astralagus, raspberry powder, nettle leaf powder, celery powder, skullcap and meadowsweet powder.  Also, I am taking du zhong [eucommia bark powder] and yin yang huo [epimedium] for the kidneys, bladder, bones and lower back, and lobelia (a paired herb for the cayenne).I would advise people to only take herbal medicines as prescribed by someone trained in herbal medicine and after a proper diagnosis.”

Do you have any general advice?

“I advise myself of the hadith of the Prophet, peace be upon him, who said, “No human being has ever filled a container worse than his own stomach. The son of Adam needs no more than some morsels of food to keep up his strength. Doing so, he should consider that a third of [his stomach] is for food, a third for drink and a third for breathing.”



Phlegm imbalance can lead to very challenging health problems.  Some of those writing about mucus have put together “mucus-lean” or “mucus-free” diets.  Three examples are from Dr Christopher, from Arnold Ehret and from Dr Sebi (Alfred Bowman) who have all written about the problems of mucus. The Livestrong Foundation has an interesting list in this respect.  Some of the views expressed in support of a mucus-free diet seem very extreme or excessive. And these writers have differences of opinion on what mucus is and how to deal with it. 


It is best to return to the Sunnah on these matters and to study what the scholars of Islamic Medicine have to say about what to eat, what not to eat and, most importantly, the amount to eat as referred to in the last part of what was said in the interview.

We advise people to embark on any health and diet detoxification process only on the advice of their medical advisers.

We also advise people to make sure that they get enough protein in their diet, whatever dietary programme they follow.






Latin: Astragalus propinquus, astralagus membranaceus

TCM: Huang Qi

Also known as milkvetch.

 “Immune enhancer, tonic.” (Menzies-Trull in "The Herbalist's Prescriber")

Dan Bensky and Andrew Gamble, in “Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica” say, “Sweet, slightly warm … Tonifies the spleen … [and] lung … [and] blood …”

David Hoffman in “The New Holistic Herbal” notes its role in deep immune activation along with, amongst others, Ligusticum wallichii and Schizandra chinensis.


The Effect of Pungent Foods

The Effect of Pungent Foods

Bhikha and Abdul Haq in “Tibb – Traditional Roots of Medicine in Modern Routes to Health” state, “Excess pungent foods [For example, garlic, onion, cayenne, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, turmeric chilli peppers, black pepper, ginger root, horseradish.] increase heat and dryness and are harmful to the liver and weaken muscular tone.”

Burdock Root

Burdock Root

Latin: Arctium Lapa

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM): Niu Bang Zi

“Burdock is used the world over as a blood-purifying agent as well as a diaphoretic, a diuretic, and an alterative.” (Robert Thomson, in “The Grosset Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine” (1980))

A “vaso-tonic alterative” (Menzies-Trull in "The Herbalist's Prescriber")

A “most valuable remedy for the treatment of skin conditions which result in dry and scaly skin. It may be most effective for psoriasis if used over a long period of time. Similarly, all types of eczema (though primarily the dry kinds) may be treated if Burdock used over a period of time … useful as part of a wider treatment for rheumatic complaints, especially where they are associated with psoriasis … It will aid digestion and appetite … in general Burdock will move the body to a state of integration and health…” (David Hoffman in “The New Holistic Herbal”).

Dan Bensky and Andrew Gamble, in “Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica” say it is, “acrid, bitter, cold … disperses wind-heat … clears heat … vents rashes… moistens intestines…”

Fruit and sour foods at mealtime

Fruit and sour foods at mealtime

Bhikha and Abdul Haq in “Tibb – Traditional Roots of Medicine in Modern Routes to Health” state, “Fruit should preferably be eaten before a meal or on an empty stomach, sour foods [For example, lemons, grapes, oranges, and melon.] can be eaten after a meal as they aid digestion.”

Celery Seeds

Celery Seeds

Latin: Apium Graveolens

Arabic: Karafs

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM): Qin Cai


As-Suyuti in "Medicine of the Prophet" mentions its neutralizing effects on eating spleen meat.

Ibn Qayyim in "Medicine of the Prophet" said, "…the garden variety sweetens the breath greatly, and if the stem is worn around the neck, it is beneficial for toothache.  It is hot and dry though some say it is moist. It opens obstructions of the liver and spleen. Its leaves, when moist, are beneficial for a cold stomach and liver, are diuretic and emmenagogue, and break stone.  Its seeds have a stronger effect in this and are aphrodisiac and beneficial for bad breath.”

An “anti-septic diuretic.” (Menzies-Trull in "The Herbalist's Prescriber")

An “anti-rheumatic, diuretic, carminative, sedative … Celery seeds find their main use in the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis and gout. They are especially useful in rheumatoid arthritis where there is associated mental depression.” (David Hoffman in “The New Holistic Herbal”).



 Latin: Scutellaria Lateriflora

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM): Huang Qin


A “nervine and anti-spasdmodic, and is slightly astringent … it has been known to render the patient free of disturbance in many cases of hydrophobia. This is also true in cases of insomnia, excitability, and restlessness.” (Robert Thomson, in “The Grosset Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine” (1980))

A “central nervous system vaso-dilator and antispasmodic.” (Menzies-Trull in "The Herbalist's Prescriber")

“Skullcap is perhaps the most widely relevant nervine available to us in the materia medica. It relaxes states of nervous tension whilst at the same time renewing and revivifying the central nervous system … it may be used in all exhausted or depressed conditions.” (David Hoffman in “The New Holistic Herbal”).

Dan Bensky and Andrew Gamble, in “Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica” say, in the section headed “Herbs that clear Heat and Dry Dampness”, that it is, “bitter, cold … [it] clears heat and drains fire … drains dampness … sedates ascendant Liver yang…”.  

Fasting, enzymes and healing

Fasting, enzymes and healing

Bhikha and Abdul Haq in “Tibb – Traditional Roots of Medicine in Modern Routes to Health” state, “whenever the body undergoes fasting, enzymes normally assigned by the body to digest food are freed to conduct healing functions, such as dissolving latent tumours. Fasting is regarded as a major technique of health enhancement by practitioners of Tibb.”



Latin: verbascum thapsus

Chinese Traditional Medicine (TCM): Jia Yan Ye


“A demulcent expectorant” (Menzies-Trull in "The Herbalist's Prescriber").

“A very beneficial respiratory remedy useful in most conditions that affect this vital system.” (David Hoffman in “The New Holistic Herbal”).

Unani Tibb: For, amongst other things, coughs, colds, chest and haemorrhoids (Robert Thomson, in “The Grosset Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine” (1980).




We have mentioned rice before.

Ibn Sina in “The Canon of Medicine” says, “The temperament of rice is hot and dry; the dryness being more pronounced than hotness. Some physicians, however, hold it to be hotter than wheat …Rice gives good nourishment but also causes dryness. When cooked with milk and almond oil, it gives more and better nutrition. Its properties of causing constipation and desiccation are lost when it is soaked in bran water and left over night. This process endows rice with a property to cool and cleanse … Rice produces some constipation when cooked with water. If cooked with milk, it increases the production of semen. It does not cause constipation except when boiled with its husk and an attempt is made to remove the moisture of the milk. The dryness may be removed by soaking the rice in bran-water.”



Full Meals

Full Meals

Ibn Sina is quoted as saying in “Avicenna’s Medicine” that “The best way to eat full meals is to eat only one a day and two the day after (morning and evening). The schedule should be strongly followed since a person who gets used to two meals will become weak and lose strength. A person with weak digestion should eat two meals and reduce the amount of food each time.”




The Prophet (pbuh) said eat this [raisins], it is a healthy meal, removes tiredness, cools the anger, gives strength, makes food sweet smelling, reduces phlegm and brightens the face. (Dr Mohammed Shakeel Shamsi in, “Tibb-e-Nabawi, Medical Guidance & Teachings of Prophet Muhammed (pbuh)”)


Keeping the kidneys strong

Keeping the kidneys strong

Paul Robin and Paul Brecher in, “Practical TCM”, say, “To keep the kidneys strong we eat beans … and dates. Then in winter when it is cold our kidneys can stay balanced … instead of saying a food is healthy, we say it is either appropriate or inappropriate. For example, in winter we would choose to eat more foods with warm and hot properties …”

Using Food for health preservation

Using Food for health preservation

Ibn Sina is quoted as saying in “Avicenna’s Medicine” that “One who is seeking health preservation should endeavour not to have the essence of their food as medicinal foods such as green, leafy vegetables and fruits, and alike. 

"The attenuant food [that which thins or dilutes the fluids] chars blood (i.e. oxidizes), and heavy food causes phlegm and weightiness of the body.

"Food should be composed of meat, especially that of the young goat, young beef, and young lamb; wheat that has been cleaned and is free from contamination … sweets that are suitable to [the individual’s] temperament [mijaaz]; and good drinks made of fragrant herbs.

Other than that is used for treatment and preservation.”

The Direction of Correction

The Direction of Correction

“The correction of disease occurs from the top of the body downward and from the inside outward. Thus, the first sign of crisis often is headache, lastly diarrhoea.” (Robert Thomson, in “The Grosset Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine” (1980))





“Detoxification can reduce the toxic overload. Detoxifcation cleansing by fasting, dietary changes, enema, hydrotherapy: sauna/steam, supports immune function.” (Menzies-Trull in "The Herbalist's Prescriber")

Herbs to prevent problems appearing

Herbs to prevent problems appearing

David Hoffman in his introduction to “The New Holistic Herbal” states, “Herbs can be used freely and safely as part of one’s lifestyle without thinking of them as ‘medicines’. For specific health needs, their best use would be preventative … There are specific herbs which strengthen and tone specific organs and systems … the following may be safely used over extended periods of time:

Circulatory system: Hawthorn Berries (Crataegus oxyacanthoides) (Shan Zha)

Respiratory system: Mullein (Verbascum Thapsus) (Jia Yan Ye)

Digestive system: Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) (Xuan Gao Wen Zi Cao)

Nervous system: Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora -Labiatae) (Not Baical Skullcap Root which is Huang Qin - Radix Scutellariae Baicalensis - Labiatae)

Skin: Nettles (Urtica) (Xun Ma)

Muscular and skeletal system: Celery Seed (Apium Graveolens) (Qin Cai)

Reproductive system: Raspberry Leaves (Rubus idaeus) (Fu Pen Zi)

Urinary system: Buchu** (Agathosma betulina) …”

(We’ve added in italics the Latin and, where known, the Chinese Medicine name.)


**Contraindicated in pregnancy


The Healing Crisis

The Healing Crisis

The healing crisis. In Arabic: al-bahraan.  It is, "the sudden change in the condition of the patient suffering from acute fever, which is usually accompanied by excessive sweating and rapid decrease in temperature. The abnormal heat of fever acts on the maturing of the superfluous matters so that they can be dealt with by the body. It is also described as a detoxification process.” Ibn Sina, as quoted in “Avicenna’s Medicine”.

“Crisis in terms of substance repulsed, has five modes: vomiting, diarrhoea, nosebleeding, urination, and perspiration. Crisis by urine or perspiration is incomplete because a thin substance is thrown out and a thick one remains. Crisis by vomiting, nosebleeding, or diarrhoea is complete.” (Robert Thomson, in “The Grosset Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine” (1980))

It is, as they say, a Good Thing.

Wild Rue

Wild Rue

Peganum harmala, commonly called esfand, wild rue, Syrian rue, African rue, spilani, harmel, or aspand.

Not related to rue (ruta graveolens).

Cited by Robert Thomson, in “Natural Medicine” (Wildwood House, London, 1981) as one of the top herbs for a natural medicine herbalist to stock.

It is said to have antioxidant and antimutagenic properties and has been used as an emmenagogue and abortifacient agent. Also as an anthelmintic.

Image: By Lazaregagnidze (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons