Gymnema sylvestre is a unique healing herb that has been used for centuries in the ayurvedic medicine. Gymnema sylvestre is a woody climbing plant that is indigenous to the tropical forests of India. The leaves of the gymnema plant are used in herbal preparations.
The principal bioactive components of this herbal remedy are a group of saponins called gymnemic acids. Gymnemic acids possess anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Other significant constituents include parabin, glucose and carbohydrates. This herb may be taken in liquid extract or capsule form, although preparations from whole leaf tea may be most effective.
The roots and the leaves of the plant were used since the ancient times. They were used to treat malaria, cough, diabetes, snake bites, and problems with digestion and with the liver.
The antidiabetic potential of this herb is the reason why today it is primarily used for the treatment of diabetes, but it also shows favorable results in the treatment of anemia, urinary infections, cholesterol, controls weight gain and fluid retention, or has antidiabetic, antiallergic, antiviral and anti-inflammatory action.
Studies show that this herb promotes healthy metabolism of sugars and improves pancreatic function. It stimulates the regeneration of beta cells responsible for insulin release in the pancreas; therefore it is very effective in the treatment of type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes
In response to the presence of glucose in your blood following a meal, your pancreas secretes insulin, which facilitates glucose movement into your tissues. In people with type 1, or insulin-dependent, diabetes, pancreatic insulin production is deficient, blood glucose levels become elevated, and insulin injections are required. Average fasting blood glucose levels were lowered by 34 percent and insulin requirements were lowered by 50 percent in people with type 1 diabetes receiving 400 milligrams of Gymnema extract a day for six to 30 months, according to a second study published in the October 1990 issue of the “Journal of Ethnopharmacology.”
Type 2 Diabetes
In a study published in the October 1990 issue of the “Journal of Ethnopharmacology,” subjects with type 2, or non-insulin-dependent, diabetes received 400 milligrams of Gymnema extract a day for 18 to 20 months. The extract lowered blood glucose levels, and some of the subjects were able to discontinue their conventional drug therapy. In another clinical study, published in the “Diabetes In Control Newsletter” subjects with diabetes were given two 400-milligram Gymnema extract tablets a day for 90 days. The Gymnema extract lowered both pre- and post-meal blood glucose levels by 11 to 13 percent.
Gymnema Sylvestre for Weight Loss
A 2012 study by researchers in the Department of Biology at Sri Venkateswara University produced astounding conclusions in support of gymnema’s role as a weight loss aid.
Over the course of 8 weeks, researchers administered a gymnema extract to obese rats; the obesity had been induced by feeding the rats a high fat diet. At the end of the study, it was noted that the rats had experienced a decrease in body weight and food consumption. To some surprise, it was also noted that “bad cholesterol” levels had fallen. Not only are the results clear evidence in support of gymnema’s use in traditional medicine, it also gives insight into the possibility that the herb could be used as a therapy for blood lipid levels.
Gymnema is typically found in capsule form, although powders and teas are available as well. When looking for a gymnema supplement, it is important to note that it should contain no fillers, binders, or excipients.
Although research suggests the sugar blocking mechanism of gymnema, it is important to maintain a healthy, balanced diet and exercise regularly. When used as part of a comprehensive weight management strategy, gymnema may have significant benefit.