Did you know India has the dubious distinction of being the diabetes capital of the world? It has the largest population of diabetes patients of any country, with 50.8 million people suffering from this disease.
It is ironic because our indigenous medicinal systems have many effective remedies against both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. One of the most effective herbal remedies for diabetes is Gymnema sylvestre or Gudmar, whose literal translation is ‘sugar killer’.
Untreated diabetes can lead to problems like frequent urination, increased thirst, increased hunger, fatigue, blurred vision, weight loss, darkening of the skin in certain areas of the body and slow healing of cuts and wounds. Diabetes is not curable but you can certainly maintain it. Alternative medicines like Gymnema sylvestre have shown considerable promise in keeping the disease under check.
Gymnema sylvestre has been used in India for thousands of years to balance blood sugar. In the west, it is known as Cowplant or Periploca of the Woods. Interestingly, if you chew a few leaves of this plant, you won’t feel the taste of sugar for up to half an hour afterward. The therapeutic properties of this plant are attributed to its high concentration of saponins. Now let us learn more about this miracle plant.
Reduces blood sugar
There have been a number of studies on the efficacy of Gymnema in treating diabetes. In a 2001 study, 65 people suffering from high blood sugar were given Gymnema sylvestre extract for 90 days. At the end of the study, all the subjects had lower blood sugar than when they began. It works by blocking sugar receptors in the intestine preventing it from absorbing sugar. The plant is said to reduce blood sugar between 10% to 50%.
Increases insulin secretion by beta cells
Gymnema can restore pancreatic function. One of the reasons for high blood sugar is insulin resistance. Insulin is secreted by beta cells in the pancreas. As long as the beta cells produce enough insulin, blood sugar remains within limit. Sometimes, for various reasons the beta cells are not able to produce enough insulin. On these occasions, blood sugar rises. It may even lead to Type 2 diabetes if the insulin deficiency continues for a long time. Gymnema supports the beta cells and enables them to produce more insulin.
It reduces sugar cravings
Gymnema sylvestre contains Gymnemic acids like hodulcine and ziziphin which act like sweet inhibitors. Their structure is similar to that of glucose. When you drink Gymnema herbal tea or eat Gymnema leaves, these Gymnemic acids are released into the intestine. Once there, they latch on to glucose receptors in the intestine and delay glucose absorption.
It lowers cholesterol
Gymnema sylvestre is rich in saponins that have shown tremendous promise in reducing high cholesterol levels. The body needs cholesterol to create hormones, cell membranes and for digestion. But high cholesterol is a risk because it deposits inside arteries (plaque) leading to coronary heart disease. Bile acids create aggregates with cholesterol and this mixture is continuously released into the intestine where the cholesterol gets reabsorbed. But saponins bind with the cholesterol and bile acids, preventing their reabsorption in the intestine.
It improves immunity
Gymnema is a bacteriostatic agent. A bacteriostatic agent is a chemical or biological agent that prevents bacteria from reproducing, while not necessarily killing them. Later, other antimicrobials like antibiotics, antiseptics and the body’s own defense system can kill them. This way, Gymnema enhances and maintains the immune system. That is why Gymnema is given to people suffering from chronic cough and other chronic diseases.
It removes toxins from the body
In Ayurveda, Gymnema is called a body cleanser because it extracts toxins from bodily tissues and flushes them out with urine. Once these toxins are removed, the body tissues can function more efficiently. Gymnema also has anti-inflammatory properties. It is also called a liver tonic because it elevates liver enzymes like superoxide dismutase and γ-glutamyl transpeptidase which act against free radicals in the body.
It supports weight loss
If you are trying to lose weight, try taking Gymnema. The gymnemic acid in the plant acts against both natural and artificial sweeteners. A study published in Phsysiology & Behavior magazine in 1983 found that an hour after a group of fasting people with Gymnema extract applied to their mouth were presented with a plate of snacks, they took less food on an average. So Gymnema suppresses the appetite. Don’t forget Gymnema also delays the absorption of glucose which can lead to weight loss.
It increases the production of urine
When excess water is trapped in the body tissues, it is called edema. Fluid retention in the body can cause puffiness and swelling. Hormones, medicines, venous insufficiency and even heart problems can lead to edema. Gymnema is a mild diuretic. It increases the production of urine in the body, which is consequently flushed out. So if you are suffering from fluid retention, take Gymnema for relief.
It acts like a laxative
Saponins are soap-like substances and Gymnema is rich in saponins. Some saponins are actually dangerous (some primitive tribes use plant-derived saponins to paralyze fish) but not the ones in the Gymnema plant. Gymnema saponins increase the body’s ability to absorb silicon and calcium. So Gymnema can aid digestion and increase the absorption of nutrients by the body.
Gymnema has also been proposed as a treatment for malaria and snake bite. It is already used in traditional medicines like Ayurveda to treat gout and rheumatoid arthritis. So Gymnema is really a miracle plant. If you don’t want to drink Gymnema juice which is bitter, we recommend you drink it in the form of a herbal infusion.
If you are suffering from high blood sugar or diabetes and you are finding it difficult to control it with medicines, try Gymnema. For thousands of years, Gymnema has been used in the Indian subcontinent to regulate blood sugar and bring relief to diabetics. For best benefits, drink Gymnema herbal infusion twice a day daily.