Gymnema sylvestre is a woody plant growing in Africa, Australia, and South and Central India, which is useful for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. This plant has been mentioned in the ancient Indian texts of Ayurveda as “Madhunashini,” which, in Sanskrit, literally means ‘destroyer of sugar’ (It is also known as “Gudmar” in Hindi. The leaves of Gymnema sylvestre have a substance which, temporarily, interferes with two functions in the body –
- The ability to taste sweetness
- The absorption of sugars in the intestine
Adding Gymnema sylvestre to your diabetic diet regimen can help you control your blood sugar levels. It is possible that the consumption of Gymnema sylvestre may even prevent prediabetics (those at risk of diabetes) from becoming diabetic. Gymnema sylvestre can also help you with weight management by reducing your sugar cravings. However, further research is needed on this.
Although Gymnema sylvestre is beneficial for a wide variety of conditions, proper research has been conducted only on its effectiveness against diabetes. Gymnema sylvestre has shown beneficial effects for
- Weight loss
- Metabolic syndrome
- Stimulating digestion
- Softening the stool (as a laxative)
- Increasing urine excretion (as a diuretic)
- Snake bites
- Eye complaints
- Lowering LDL cholesterol, and
- Stimulating pancreas to secrete insulin
What Research Says About Diabetes And Gymnema Sylvestre?
One study looked at the effectiveness of GS4, which is an extract from the Gymnema sylvestre leaves, in the management of hyperglycemia. The study investigated 22 patients with type 2 diabetes. These patients were also taking regular oral medications to control their diabetes. GS4 was given to each of the study’s participants at 400 milligrams per day, for 18 to 20 months. Each participant was on both – the supplement and the conventional anti-diabetic drug. During GS4 supplementation, these participants showed decreased fasting blood glucose levels, hemoglobin A1c levels and glycosylated plasma protein levels. The supplement was so successful that five participants from the study were able to stop their conventional drug treatment. It was noted that they were able to maintain normal levels of glucose and hemoglobin A1c even after their conventional treatments were discontinued. Researchers determined that the beta cells of the pancreas may have been repaired or regenerated in the participants who took GS4 as a supplement for their diabetes. Increased insulin levels were found in those patients who took the GS4 supplement.
In another study, researchers gave 27 people with type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes 400 mg of Gymnema sylvestre extract (GS4) daily. After 10 to 12 months, it was found that the Gymnema sylvestre extract had conferred a number of benefits. Reductions in fasting blood sugar, hemoglobin A1c and glycosylated plasma protein levels were noticed. Insulin requirements were also reduced.
How Gymnema Sylvestre Works
Gymnema sylvestre appears to work by suppressing a desire for sugary foods, as well as balancing blood sugar levels.
Physiologically speaking, there does seem to be good evidence that Gymnema sylvestre lowers sugar cravings. The herb contains Gymnemic acid, a nutrient found in certain plants that have been proven to suppress sweetness.
Additionally, Gymnemic acid is structurally similar to glucose. The theory is that when you consume Gymnema sylvestre, it fills your taste bud receptors. This then prevents glucose from docking in those same receptors and cuts your craving for sugar and sweets.
Because Gymnemic acid is similar to glucose, Gymnema sylvestre may also lock into the glucose receptors in your intestines. This prevents the absorption of sugar molecules, leading to balanced blood sugar levels even when you consume sugar-based foods.
Gymnema Sylvestre Diabetic Treatment Dosage
Generally, research on Gymnema sylvestre has been done with 500 mg capsules, standardized to contain at least 25% Gymnemic acid. They should be taken 5 to 10 minutes before a main meal, with a large glass of water.
Another option is to use time-released Gymnemic acid supplements. These make it easier to manage a diabetic regimen and medications.
How To Make Gymnema Sylvestre Tea
The best way to consume a natural herb is through its decoction in warm water. You can pour a cup of boiling water over the leaves of Gymnema to make tea. Cover and steep it for ten to fifteen minutes before drinking it. Other tea leaves, such as green tea, can be added for taste. The combined effect coul even help with weight loss. It is not advisable to take Gymnema sylvestre tea on an empty stomach as it may a cause mild upset stomach.
Gymnema Sylvestre Interactions And Side Effects
With no side effects reported, Gymnema sylvestre is relatively safe. Its use should be monitored when taken with certain anti-diabetic medications. Otherwise, the cumulative effect may lead to plummeting blood sugar and resulting hypoglycemia.
For example, if you are taking aspirin, you should monitor your Gymnema sylvestre consumption carefully. Aspirin can lower blood sugar, leading to hypoglycemia.
Gymnema sylvestre is a safe herb to consume. However, under certain special conditions, it is advisable to not take this herb. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take Gymnema. If you are planning to undergo surgery, you should stop taking Gymnema, since it can lead to hypoglycemia and resulting complications during or after surgery.
Link Between Obesity, Diabetes and Gymnemic Acids?
There is an clear link between diabetes and obesity, with more than 80% diabetics also being obese. However, the biochemical link between these two chronic conditions has been discovered only recently. The fat cells in diabetic patients were found to produce a hormone called “resistin” (resisting insulin) which impairs insulin action and causes glucose intolerance.
Since Gymnema seems to help with obesity and diabetes, it may give diabetics a double benefit. Obesity is caused by accumulation of carbohydrates. Gymnemic acids do not let carbohydrates bind to receptors on the intestinal walls, preventing absorption and storage of excess carbohydrates. This mechanism also helps curb excess blood sugar.
Gymnema Sylvestre And Diabetes: The Verdict
Gymnema sylvestre is not a substitute for diabetes medication. While lowering high blood sugar is, generally, a positive thing in people with diabetes, lowering it too much can be extremely dangerous. If you’re going to supplement with Gymnema sylvestre to treat your diabetes, please do so under your doctor’s supervision. Check your blood sugar levels more often until you know how it affects your body. Also, check your blood sugar levels every time you increase the dosage.
There are many natural supplements that can help you counter the side effects of prescription anti-diabetic drugs. They may also protect your body from other side effects that occur when vital nutrients are lost from the body as a result of drugs.
Finally, remember that no supplement can overcome a diet filled with processed sugars. Even if Gymnema sylvestre does help you suppress that sugar and carb cravings, you will still need to follow a well-rounded diet and engage in moderate daily exercise. The weight reduction properties shown by Gymnema slvestre are yet to be fully researched, but it is a valuable ally in your corner in the fight against diabetes and obesity.