Gymnema has real value in treating diabetes, especially in the early stages of the type of diabetes that develops in middle to old age. If taken consistently for a year or more, it will help to prevent the condition deteriorating.
Gymnema may help to regenerate cells in the pancreas, which secrete insulin so it may be possible to control or reverse mild diabetes with diet and gymnema.
The plant’s ability to block sweet tastes means that it can reduce sugar craving and contribute to weight-loss programs.
Gurmar, Gurmabooti, rams horn, periploca of the woods, meshasringi, Shardunika
Indian physicians first used Gymnema to treat diabetes over 2,000 years ago. In the 1920s, preliminary scientific studies found some evidence that Gymnema leaves can reduce blood sugar levels, but nothing much came of this observation for decades.
Gymnema is a woody climbing plant native to the tropical forests of southern and central India, eastern Asia, Australia, and western and southern Africa. It prefers loamy, sandy soil. Its leaves are long, slender, and opposite. The creamy white to beige fruits are roundish and become thinner toward the ends, with one ending in a corkscrew.
Anaesthetising to sweet taste buds, appetite inhibiting, astringent, blood sugar regulating, hypoglycaemic, pancreatic trophorestorative
Diabetes 1 & 2, hypoglycaemia, sweet cravings to assist weight loss
Gymnema has been used to treat diabetes for more than two thousand years in Ayurvedic medicine. When gymnema is taken before eating, the molecules of one of its constituents, gymnemic acid, fill the sugar taste receptor sites on the tongue for one to two hours, thus preventing the taste buds from reacting to the sugar molecules in food and blocking the taste of sugar; with the taste of sugar gone, the desire to eat sugar subsides.
Gymnema also helps stabilise blood sugar levels, enhances insulin production, promotes the regeneration of beta cells that release insulin into the pancreas, and inhibits adrenaline from stimulating the liver to produce glucose.
- Several clinical studies verify that pretreatment with Gymnema extract, Gymnema infusion, and gymnemic acid solution reduced the sweet taste of sweeteners. A period of at least 30 seconds was required after tasting the Gymnema infusion for the full sweet-suppression effect to appear.
- Gymnema powder (10 g/day for seven days) demonstrated a hypoglycemic effect in mild diabetic models in an uncontrolled trial. Serum triglycerides, free fatty acid and cholesterol levels, and creatinine excretion were also decreased
- A controlled study involving patients with insulin-dependent diabetes found that Gymnema extract reduced insulin requirements, fasting blood glucose, glycosylated haemoglobin, and glycosylated plasma protein levels compared with patients receiving insulin therapy alone. Cholesterol, triglycerides, free fatty acids, and serum amylase were also lowered. Some suggestion of enhancing endogenous insulin production, possibly by pancreatic regeneration, was demonstrated. Gymnema extract (400 mg/day, equivalent to 10 to 13 g/day of dried leaf) was administered for 6 to 30 months.
- A second study by the same research group found that the same Gymnema extract (400 mg/day for 18 to 20 months) produced similar results for patients with non-insulin-dependent diabetes with a reduction of similar biochemical parameters and hypoglycemic drug requirements. Fasting and postprandial serum insulin levels were elevated in the Gymnema group compared with controls taking only conventional drugs. Administering Gymnema to healthy volunteers did not produce any sharp reduction in fasting blood glucose levels.
- Clinical research under double-blind, placebo-controlled conditions found that a concentrated Gymnema extract (gymnemic acid content not defined) considerably diminished the sweet taste and significantly decreased appetite and the number of calories consumed for up to 90 minutes after the sweet-numbing effect.
Dosage (Divided Daily)
• Dried Leaf: 4,000 – 16,000mg (as a tea)
• Dried Powder: 3,000 – 9,000mg
• Tincture: 3 – 11 mL (1:1)
As with all saponin-containing herbs, oral use may cause irritation of the gastric mucous membranes and reflux.
Interactions with other drugs
May potentiate the blood glucose-lowering effects of insulin and hypoglycaemic agents; use with caution.
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- Chevallier, A. (2000). Encyclopedia of herbal medicine (2nd American ed.). New York: DK Pub.
- Herbalpedia (2013)
- Mars, B. (2007). The desktop guide to herbal medicine : the ultimate multidisciplinary reference to the amazing realm of healing plants, in a quick-study, one-stop guide. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Pub.
- World Health Organization., & Ebrary. (1999). WHO monographs on selected medicinal plants (pp. electronic text.). Retrieved from https://virtual.anu.edu.au/login/?url=http://site.ebrary.com/lib/anuau/Top?id=10040306
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