Gymnema sylvestre is a plant used for thousands of years in traditional medicine for diabetes and malaria. It has no known toxic effects.
It reduces sugar cravings for hours, making sweet food unappetizing.
It reduces absorption of sugar in intestines, and increases insulin secretion from pancreas. Both of these reduce post–meal sugar levels.
It prevents insulin resistance. This prevents blood sugar levels to stay abnormally high at all times.
Gymnema has been found to lower blood sugar levels both in type 1 and type 2 diabetics.
Gymnema also helps in arthritis, cancer, high cholesterol and triglycerides, obesity, immunity, liver protection, wound healing, dental caries, and inflammation.
Read the full article for more discussion and medical references for the above.
Gymnema sylvestre is a plant found in India, Africa, and Australia. It has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine. Also, its health benefits are well studied.
Gymnema is known as Meshashringa (ram’s horn) or Madhunashini (sweetness destroyer) in Sanskrit, Gurmar in Hindi, Podapatri in Telugu, and Chakkarakolli in Malayalam.
Its main bioactive compound is gymnemic acid, which has many beneficial properties. Its leaves also contain helpful plant compounds such as saponins, flavonols, and gurmarin.
It has been used in traditional medicine for managing diabetes, malaria, and even snakebite. It has no known toxic effects.
Do not use gymnema as the only product for managing your blood sugar. Consume it along with your regular medicines. And discuss with your doctor, if you are taking gymnema.
Evaluating gymnema trials
As with any nutrient trials, you have to be cautious when evaluating the evidence. If a trial shows that a nutrient does not show any beneficial effect, don’t immediately throw the nutrient out of the window.
There are various technical reasons why such trials might show no benefit. Here is a detailed article I have written on this website about this: How to understand the evidence from the nutrients trials.
This is different from what happens in case of pharmaceutical trials. So, the difference is important to understand.
Health benefits of gymnema
Let us now look at the benefits of gymnema sylvestre.
Reducing sugar cravings
There are 7 types of basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, astringent, pungent, and umami. Umami is the Japanese name for a newly categorised taste, it is the taste of monosodium glutamate (MSG). However, our tongue has taste buds for only five of these: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami.
The gymnemic acid in gymnema blocks the taste buds that sense sweet taste. It masks the taste of all sweet foods, including that of artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, xylitol, and stevia.
A 1970 article in the journal Physiology and Behaviour showed that consumption of gymnema, especially in a liquid solution, makes the tongue not feel the sweet taste at least for an hour, and often longer.
An article in 1999 in the journal Chemical Senses showed that there is no long-term effects of gymnema on taste. Also, when gymnema blocks the sweet taste buds, it does not influence the salty, bitter, and sour taste perceptions.
This is like rinsing your mouth with a mouthwash, or brushing your teeth. Immediately after brushing your teeth, the taste buds lose sensitivity to food tastes. So, if someone offers you any tasty food, you probably will not eat it, since it will not be alluring enough.
Exactly the same effect happens with gymnema, but only for sweets. This makes sweet foods less appealing. Here is an article in Scientific American that describes this in simpler English: What Is gymnema sylvestre and can it kill sugar cravings?
Reducing sugar absorption in intestines
Just like your tongue, gymnema also blocks the sugar receptors in the intestines. This reduces absorption of sugar in the intestines, and lowers post–meal blood glucose.
A paper published in 1997 in the Journal of Veterinary Medical Science showed that in animals, gymnema interferes with intestinal blood sugar absorption process, reducing the levels of blood sugars.
A 2017 paper in the journal Current Pharmaceutical Design suggested that consuming 200–400 mg of gymnemic acid reduces the intestinal absorption of the glucose into blood.
Increasing insulin secretion
Gymnema stimulates the pancreas to produce more insulin. It is also said to regenerate pancreatic beta cells, which produce insulin. In conditions such as type 2 diabetes, the beta cells either die or cannot make enough insulin.
A paper published in 2012 in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism showed that gymnema stimulates insulin production in the pancreas.
Preventing insulin resistance
A 2017 paper published in the journal Annals of Medical and Health Sciences Research showed that gymnema prevented development of insulin resistance in rats.
This paper showed that gymnema prevented insulin resistance from developing. But, I did not find any references where gymnema lowers insulin resistance, once it is already developed, as is the case with diabetic patients.
Lowering blood sugar
So, does gymnema sylvestre control blood sugar?
A 2011 paper in the journal Diabetes in Control showed that in type 2 diabetes patients, gymnema lowered blood sugar and improved sugar control.
A meta–analysis (analysis of analyses of various trials) published in 2012 in the Brazilian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences found that patients, both of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, showed showed improvement after taking gymnema.
As per that review, people with type 2 diabetes experienced lower blood sugar and high insulin levels with gymnema. Fasting blood sugar levels fell significantly in type 1 diabetes who took gymnema for 18 months, compared with a group that took only insulin.
Gymnema in other medical disorders
Gymnema also helps in arthritis, cancer and cytotoxicity, high cholesterol and triglycerides levels, obesity, immunity, liver protection, wound healing, dental caries, and inflammation.
The scope of this article is gymnema and sugar control. So, you can read discussions (in arcane language:-(), and medical references about the benefits of gymnema in other medical disorders, in a paper published in 2014 in the journal BioMed Research International: Phytochemical and Pharmacological Properties of Gymnema sylvestre.