What is Gymnema Sylvestre?
Gymnema sylvestre is a plant whose leaf extract has potent anti-diabetic properties. It is also one of those rare extracts that is used for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes! It comes from the leaves of a slow growing woody climbing plant that grows in the tropics of India.
Gymnema leaves have been used in traditional ancient Ayurveda, an Indian medicinal practice for 2,000 years and are considered an effective treatment for diabetes. The Hindus call it the “destroyer of sugar”.
The leaves of the Gymnema sylvestre plant contain the active compounds called ‘gymnemic acids’ with anti-diabetic, anti-sweetener and anti-inflammatory activities.1 These acids have also been shown to slow the transport of glucose from the intestines into the bloodstream.2 This interaction helps to:
- lower blood sugar
- reduce the amount of sugar absorbed by the intestines
- lower LDL cholesterol
- stimulate insulin release in the pancreas
- lower hemoglobin A1c
- research also suggests that gymnema sylvestre extract can help repair and regenerate the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.
What Does the Research Say?
Obesity – We’ll get to blood sugar in a moment but obesity also plays an important role in the development of diabetes. It decreases the number of insulin receptors in insulin target cells throughout the body. This makes the amount of insulin that is available less effective.3
It is thought that the “destroyer of sugar” may have started with using the plant for controlling obesity! Gymnema tea prevents the taste buds from getting the whole impact of sugar molecules, thereby curbing the sugar craving.4
Gymnema leaf extract, especially the peptide, ‘Gurmarin’, has been found to interfere with the ability of the taste buds on the tongue to taste sweet and bitter. However, it is also suggested that limiting the sweet taste sensation causes people to also limit their intake of sweet foods. That may be partially responsible for the hypoglycemic effect.5 Either way, it’s a win/win scenario.
It is a well-known that, in type II diabetes, the diseased condition of the body promotes obesity in nearly 80% of diabetes patients. Why? The fat cells of the body produce a hormone called resistin (‘resisting of insulin’) This hormone impairs insulin action and causes intolerance to glucose or blood sugar. This is why gymnemic acids are helpful. The “empty calories” are taken care of so that the body does not go into an obese stage!
Blood Sugar-Lowering (hypoglycemmic action) – of gymnema leaves was first documented in the late 1920s.6 This action was attributed to members of a family of substances called gymnemic acids.
Gymnema leaf extract raise insulin levels by stimulation of the pancreas.7 How it does this is not clear yet but may include:
1) it increases secretion of insulin,8
2) it promotes regeneration of islet cells,9
3) it increases utilization of glucose,10
4) it causes inhibition of glucose absorption from intestine.11
Gymnemic acids also delay glucose absorption in the blood thereby preventing sugar molecule absorption by the intestine, which results in lower blood sugar level.12
Cholesterol – the leaves are also noted for lowering serum cholesterol and triglycerides. Studies have shown that extracts of gymnema leaves can lower serum cholesterol and triglycerides.13
These compounds have also been found to increase fecal excretion of cholesterol but it is not yet clear what specific constituent in the leaves is responsible for the same.14
The common man layman needs to be made aware of the medicinal aspect of gymnemic acids, and the possible linkage between obesity and diabetes.
The Indian subcontinent has worked with natural remedies, such as Ayurveda, for thousands of years and compiled quite a data base of experience. More science is being added but we’d be foolish to ignore their experience while catching up. Further investigations are warranted, of course, but we can benefit in the meantime.
Used at the low amounts in our Dia-Amazing formula, gymnema is generally safe and devoid of side effects.
- Liu H.M., Kiuchi F., Tsuda Y. Isolation and structure elucidation of Gymnemic acids, antisweet principles of Gymnema sylvestre. Chem. Pharm. Bull. 1992;40:1366–1375. [PubMed]
- Sinsheimer J.E., Subbarao G. Constituents from Gymnema sylvestre leaves VIII: Isolation, chemistry and derivatives of gymnemagenin and gymnestrogenin. J. Pharm. Sci. 1971;60:190–193. [PubMed]
- Jachak S.M. Herbal drugs as antidiabetic: an overview. CRIPS. 2002;3:9–13.
- Yoshikawa K., Kondo Y., Arihara S., Matsuura K. Antisweet natural products IX structures of gymnemic acids XV-XVIII from Gymnema sylvestre R. Br. Chem. Pharm. Bull. 1993;41:1730–1732.
- Nakamura Y., Tsumura Y., Tonogai Y., Shibata T. Fecal steroid excretion is increased in rats by oral administration of gymnemic acids contained in Gymnema sylvestre leaves. J. Nutr. 1999; 129:1214–1222.
- Mhasker KS, Caius JF. A study of Indian medicinal plants. II. Gymnema sylvestre R.Br. Indian J Med Res Memoirs 1930;16:2-75.
- Shanmugasundaram KR, Panneerselvam C, Sumudram P, Shanmugasundaram ERB. Insulinotropic activity of G. sylvestre, R.Br. and Indian medicinal herb used in controlling diabetes mellitus. Pharmacol Res Commun 1981;13:475-86.
- Persaud SJ, Al-Majed H, Raman A, Jones PM. Gymnema sylvestre stimulates insulin release in vitro by increased membrane permeability. J Endocrinol 1999;163:207-12.
- Prakash AO, Mather S, Mather R. Effect of feeding Gymnema sylvestre leaves on blood glucose in beryllium nitrate treated rats. J Ethnopharmacol 1986;18:143-4.
- Gholap S, Kar A. Effects of Inula racemosa root and Gymnema sylvestre leaf extracts in the regulation of corticosteroid induced diabetes mellitus: involvement of thyroid hormones. Pharmazie 2003;58:413-5.
- Shimizu K, Iino A, Nakajima J, et al. Suppression of glucose absorption by some fractions extracted from Gymnema sylvestre leaves. J Vet Med Sci1997;59:245-51.
- Sahu N., Mahato S.B., Sarkar S.K., Poddar G. Triterpenoid Saponins from Gymnema sylvestre. Phytochem. 1996;41:1181–1185. [PubMed]
- Shigematsu N, Asano R, Shimosaka M, Okazaki M. Effect of administration with the extract of Gymnema sylvestre R. Br leaves on lipid metabolism in rats. Biol Pharm Bull 2001;24:713-7.
- Persaud S.J., Al-Majed H., Raman A., Jones P.M. Gymnema sylvestre stimulates insulin release in vitro by increased membrane permeability. J. Endocrinol. 1999;163:207–212.