Chard (Beta vulgaris L. var. cicla) is used as a hypoglycemic agent by diabetic patients in Turkey. The present study was carried out in order to detect whether this plant, used in folk remedies for decreasing blood glucose levels, affects pancreatic B cells and blood glucose. In the diabetic group, a decrease in the number of B cells of Langerhans islets and in the secretory materials, a swollen granular endoplasmic reticulum cisternae and widened intercellular areas in some of B cells were observed. But, in a diabetic group given chard extract, an increase in the number of B cells of Langerhans islets and in the secretory granules were noted, together with many hypertrophic Golgi apparatus and granules of low densities. The extract while having no effect on blood glucose and body weight in the normal group, reduced the blood glucose value in streptozotocin-induced hyperglycemic animals. But, in a diabetic group given chard, the body weight significantly increased in comparison to the diabetic group; maximum reduction in blood glucose levels was observed on the 42nd day. According to the morphological and biochemical results obtained, it is concluded that the extract of this plant when administered by gavage may reduce blood glucose levels by regeneration of the B cells. (C) 2000 Published by Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.