Learn More About Gymnema Sylvestre
What is gymnema sylvestre?
Widely known to Ayurveda, the ancient medical system in India, as a medicinal herb referred to as "gurmar," or "sugar destroyer," gymnema sylvestre is a woody climbing plant found in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Australia.
What is gmynema sylvestre used for?
We normally associate Type 2 diabetes with the affluent, overfed nations of the West, but the largest number of diabetics in the world can be found in India. While obesity does not appear to be a factor, given that most people in India are relatively thin, the inhabitants of that land may be primed to develop diabetes for a variety of reasons related to poverty, high-grain diets, and possibly genetic reasons.
It is also interesting to note that despite their unfortunate propensity to develop diabetes, Indians appear to possess an unusually powerful herbal weapon in the fight against this disease, namely, gymnema sylvestre. While gymnema has been used to such conditions as rheumatism and gout, its peculiar effects on how the body not only metabolizes but even perceives sugar make this plant of particular interest.
Consider, for example, a 1990 study in which nearly two dozen diabetic test subjects were administered gymnema for a year and a half, along with standard medications normally used for that condition. Most participants exhibited a significant drop in blood sugar. Morever, a fourth of the subjects found themselves able to cease using conventional pharmaceuticals entirely. The scientists who observed this concluded that the gymnema was stimulating the activity of insulin-producging pancreatic beta cells, given that upon supplementing with gymnema, the patients’ blood insulin levels rose.
It is suspected that if gymnema really does have the ability to boost insulin production, then this could possibly be used to extend the life spans of diabetics, who tend to die earlier than non-diabetics. Work conducted with rats specially bred diabetic rats supports the notion that gymnema may help protect against the renal damage that often accompanies that disease, for instance.
Much of gymnema’s purported health benefits may be due to an unusual compound called gymnemic acid, a substance very close in molecular structure to sugar, excess intake of which often triggers or worsens diabetes. But because the body in essence appears to "mistake" gymnemic acid for sugar, taste buds that would normally detect the taste of sweet foods appear to temporarily shut down, thereby making it impossible to taste sugar. This may help to fight certain food cravings that diabetics may find especially difficult to resist. By doing so, gymnemic acid, or gymnema, seems to have to the potential to increase the willingness of diabetics to stick to healthy eating plans.
Also, once again due to its similarity to the sugar molecule, gymnenic acid may make the intestinal membranes less efficient at absorbing sugar, thereby reducing glucose surges that follow meals or snacks.
In a related vein, researchers have observed that since Gymnema reduces the ability of our taste buds to detect sweetness and to curb the desire for sugary foods. Because of this, gymnema has become a strong candidate for an herbal weight loss supplement. A particularly intriguing study that involved fasting patients showed that those subjects given Gymnema demonstrated a greater ability to resist eating snack foods. Taste appears to be a greater inducement to impulsive eating, it seems, than does hunger.
How is gymnema taken?
Gymnema may be taken as a capsule, tablet, tincture, or tea. Some even chew on the leaf itself.
Note that in order to obtain the full benefit of the taste-dulling effect, the herb needs to come into direct contact with the taste buds. For this reason a tincture or tea may be most useful, although some people find it quite easy to open a gymnema capsule and mix that into hot water which is then drunk.
Two to four hundred milligrams of gymnema taken several times a day seems to be a useful amount, according to various reports.
Is gymnema sylvestre safe?
As of this time, gymnema appears to pose no hazards to most people, although anyone with a serious condition such as diabetes needs to speak with an experience and knowledgeable health care provider before taking this or any other nutritional supplement.
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