Latin: Gymnema sylvestre
WHAT IT DOES: Gymnema is bitter in taste, and cooling in action. It improves blood sugar control in diabetics, numbs the taste of sweet completely (for about 20 minutes), and decreases appetite (for about 90 minutes).
SAFETY ISSUES: None reported. Should not be used by people with low blood sugars (hypoglycemia).
• 1:1 extract: five to 10 ml per day
• Pill: 500-1000 mg three times per day
Gymnema actually means “sugar destroyer.” It grows in the wild forests of central India, all the way to Western Ghats and up to the Himalayas. Research indicates that gymnema stimulates insulin secretion or release of insulin from the pancreas. Japanese studies have shown that it improves glucose tolerance in animal models of diabetes, and other studies show that the effects can last for up to two months after discontinuation. This herb is a good long-term tonic for Type I and II diabetics. Results are best seen after long-term administration, over six months to a year. I prefer to use it in combination with several other herbs for blood sugar control, because it affects only a few aspects of the imbalance.
In case you’re curious, sugar tastes like sand for twenty minutes after you chew on a little gymnema.
• Triterpenoid saponins in gymnema are responsible for its dramatic sweet taste-blocking action (Baskaran et al., 1990).
• One animal study testing extracts of gymnema confirmed earlier conclusions of human studies that the herb stimulates insulin release, adding that it works by increasing permeability in the islets of Langerhans, allowing more insulin to escape into the blood (Persaud et al., 1999; Shanmugasundaram et al., 1990).
• In tests on diabetic rabbits, gymnema dried leaf powder not only helped control elevated blood sugars, it also corrected metabolic derangements in the liver, kidney and muscles (Shanmugasundaram KR et al., 1983).
• Gymnema does not seem to improve insulin resistance in diabetic rats, although other herbs have been known to do so (Tominaga et al., 1995).
• Gymnemic acids found in gymnema have been found to bind cholesterol, causing it to be excreted in the stool of animals (Nakamura et al., 1999).
• Gymnemic acids also bind glucose and a common fatty acid (oleic acid) in the intestine, causing reduced uptake into the blood (Wang et al., 1998, Shimizu et al., 1997).