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Gymnema silvestis

( Gymnema sylvestre )

 

Family

Asclepiadadeae

 

Synonyms

None

 

Character

Hypoglycemic, appetite suppressant, bitter

 

Description

As a native tree of Africa and India, gymnema leaves have the remarkable ability to block out certain taste sensations, especially sweetness. It is an extremely popular herb in Japan and is included in formulas for diabetes, hypoglycemia and weight loss. A member of the milkweed family, relative species are widely scattered in tropical areas of both hemispheres. most of the species consists of twiny shrubs or perennial herbs which are erect and have weedy, tuberous roots.

 

Phytochemistry

Several bioactive compounds are found in this species including gymnemin, astringents, tannin and bitter constituents.

 

Traditional rain forest use

Hindus named this herb gurmar, meaning sugar destroyer. Chewing the leaves of this plant helps to block the ability to sense sweetness and the practice of chewing gymnema leaves was popular in both Africa and India. After chewing gymnema leaves, eating white sugar would be like eating a completely tasteless granulated substance. In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, gymnema was used to treat blood sugar disorders like diabetes.

 

Modern medicinal applications

While no scientific studies exist that completely explain how the bitter compounds contained in gymnema work, they most likely increase the action of insulin in both its secretion and cell reception. This particular mechanism would be very beneficial to diabetics who build up a resistance to insulin over time. This herb is currently recommended for diabetes, fatigue, hypoglycemia, obesity, and sugar cravings.

 

Authentication

Modern research has found the gymnemic acid, the active ingredient of this herb, blocks sugar absorption in the body. A clinical study published in 1986 suggests that extract of gymnema can significantly enhance liver and pancreatic function.

 

Safety

Diabetics should check with their physician before using this herb.

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