GYMNEMA and Blood Sugar Metabolism*
Gymnema Sylvestre is a herb that grows in tropical forests in central and southern India and parts of Africa.
Herbalists in India have used the leaves of this long climbing plant as a treatment for diabetes mellitus (type 2 diabetes) for more than 2,000 years. The name means “sugar killer” in Sanskrit. The Hindu word “gumar” which means “sugar destroyer” describes the primary use of this herb in traditional Indian medicine.
It is also used for its suppressing effects on the taste buds, making sugar cravings less significant, thus helping to reduce appetite.
Additionally, Gymnema Sylvestre is reported to have anti-allergic, antiviral, lipid-lowering and other beneficial effects, including being effective as a liver tonic.
Gymnema Sylvestre is alternatively known as gymnema, gumar, gurmabooti and Australian cowplant.
The major bioactive ingredients of Gymnema Sylvestre are a group of oleanane type triterpenoid saponins known as gymnemic acids. There are several individual gymnemic acids (saponins). There are many other phytochemicals (plant chemicals) in this herb, including flavones anthraquinones, chlorophyll and glycosides.
Gymnemic acids have anti-diabetic, anti-sweetener and anti-inflammatory properties.
Uses for Gymnema
The anti-diabetic potential for Gymnema Sylvestre has led to it being used primarily as a treatment for type 2 diabetes.
This herb has been shown to reduce blood glucose/sugar levels when used over an extended period of time. There are several theories as to how it accomplishes the positive effects it has in the body, primarily on glucose metabolism. One study (in guinea pigs, used in research because they share similar traits with humans) showed that Gymnema Sylvestre suppresses the elevation of blood glucose levels by inhibiting glucose uptake in the intestine.
Gymnema Sylvestre supports a healthy glucose metabolism by mediating insulin release and enhancing pancreatic function. Data from a 2005 study made by King’s College, London, UK confirms that extracts derived from Gymnema Sylvestre can be used as therapeutic agents for the stimulation of insulin secretion in the pancreas in individuals with type 2 diabetes. It may even normalise blood glucose/sugar levels without the use of insulin or oral hypoglycaemic compounds.
Gymnema Sylvestre reduces the taste of sugar when it is placed in the mouth. Thus it can be used to fight sugar and sweet cravings, lowering the total caloric/kilojoule intake and hence acting as a weight loss treatment. This effect on the tongue lasts up to about two hours. Some researchers postulate that the herb actually reduces cravings for sugar by blocking sugar receptors in the tongue.
Dosage and Side Effects
The strengths of commercial products can vary. The directions on the package should be followed. There are many brands available from health shops and via the internet. The following are given by way of example:
· Gymnema Sylvestre (from www.natrol.com). 300mg x 90 capsules. This is a pure 5:1 extract which contains 24% gymnemic acid. Dose: one capsule, twice daily 15 minutes before a meal.
· Gymnema - Nature’s Sunshine brand (from www.goldenglow.com.au). 2g x 60 capsules. Each capsule contains: “Herbal extract equiv. to dry Gymnema sylvestre (Gymnema) leaf 2g”. Dose: one capsule twice daily with a meal.
· www.iherb.com is an excellent on-line supplement order company with highly competitive pricing. Their website lists 15 different brands of Gymnema Sylvestre. Most of these have the extract with approximately 25% gymnemic acid.
· Gymnema is also available in a powdered form (powdered leaves) (from www.gymnema.org). Dose: 2 - 4 g per day.
When taken as directed, dietary supplements containing Gymnema Sylvestre are not associated with significant adverse side effects. It is best taken with food, as mild gastrointestinal upset may occur if it is taken on an empty stomach.
In those individuals with active type 2 diabetes, it is recommended to consult your personal physician before and during the use of Gymnema Sylvestre, as alterations to your dosage of insulin or other anti-diabetic medications may be warranted.
Extremely high doses may have the potential to induce hypoglycaemia (abnormally low blood glucose/sugar) in individuals who are prone to hypoglycaemic episodes.
Gymnema Sylvestre is an interesting herb. It can help to support healthy blood glucose metabolism.
Needless to say, a healthy diet is essential for health and longevity, and in particular, in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. A correct weight (Body Mass Index of less than 25, preferably in the region of 21) is also an essential for health and longevity and the management of type 2 diabetes.
Taken as a supplement, Gymnema Sylvestre can aid weight loss and help support healthy blood glucose/sugar metabolism.
In the presence of type 2 diabetes, it may assist in better control of the elevated blood glucose/sugar levels and lead to a reduction in insulin requirements or oral hypoglycaemic medications (always supervised by your health professional).
*Copyright 2011: The Huntly Centre.
Disclaimer: All material in the huntlycentre.com.au website is provided for informational or educational purposes only. Consult a health professional regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations expressed herein, with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.
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