Gymnema Sylvestre is a woody plant native to India, Africa, and Australia. But it’s not because of its pretty yellow, bell-shaped flowers that this plant is revered. It has, in fact, been used to make traditional medicines for a variety of conditions since ancient times, and its benefits are now beginning to be recognized in the West.
Ayurvedic medicine, the traditional medical system of India, has used this plant for more than centuries. It is called “gurmar” in the Indian language Hindi. This means ‘destroyer of sugar,’ hence its reputation for controlling.
So, what makes this plant so special? It’s mainly the active ingredients, gymnemic acids. These acids are able to suppress the taste of sweetness on the tongue, whether it comes from sugar (sucrose), xylitol, stevia, or artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. This makes the plant suitable for the treatment of both diabetes I and II.
Decreases cholesterol and triglyceride levels
Gymnema Sylvestre can lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. A study conducted on rats placed on a high-fat diet found that Gymnema Sylvestre extracts assisted with weight maintenance and also suppressed the build-up of fats in the liver. Those rats fed a diet with a normal level of fat as well as the extract showed lower levels of triglycerides.
Both high LDL cholesterol and triglycerides are serious risk factors for cardiac disease. This would suggest that using Gymnema Sylvestre extract might have a similar effect on human beings. Science shows that supposition to be correct. In a study with moderately-obese people, Gymnema extra was shown to have exactly the same effect as it has in rats.
Increasingly, the spotlight in medicine is falling on inflammation and its role in the healing process. Although some inflammation is necessary to protect the body against infections, chronic low-grade inflammation is known to contribute to many health problems. Sugar intake can increase inflammation.
Gymnema Sylvestre has been shown to decrease the inflammation caused by ingesting excessive amounts of sugar. The plant also contains compounds called saponins and tannins, which are anti-inflammatory agents in themselves, adding to the plant’s anti-inflammatory properties.
Helps stop sugar cravings
If you have a sweet tooth and find it hard to resist all sweet temptations, maybe Gymnema Sylvestre can help. It turns out that the plant can help to reduce sugar cravings.
As we said earlier, Gymnema is well known for its ability to suppress sweetness as a function of the gymnemic acids in it. In fact, research has shown that the extract can reduce our ability to taste sweetness. This can make sweet foods seem less appealing. So next time you’re craving something sweet, and you’re trying to cut down on sugar, sip on a cup of Gymnema tea instead. It will help to limit your food intake.
Helps to protect the heart
As we age, the arteries begin to harden and lose their ability to stretch. It turns out that Gymnema Sylvestre can help to maintain the elasticity of the arteries, and therefore protect the heart. It also stops blood vessels from becoming blocked and is said to slow down the development of atherosclerosis, the hardening of the arteries.
It is also able to protect the heart from the damage caused by free radicals and has anti-clotting properties. Blood clots that form in the arteries have the potential to cause cardiac arrest or a stroke.
Reduces high blood pressure
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects millions of people around the world. It is a serious risk factor for heart disease and metabolic syndrome and can cause kidney failure, stroke, and other serious health problems. Some of the symptoms of hypertension include a headache, a feeling of pressure in the head, vision changes, confusion, nose bleeds, and vomiting.
The gymnemic acids in Gymnema Sylvestre have the ability to block the protein that is responsible for increasing blood pressure. In this way, it can normalize one’s blood pressure
Helps fight Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOD)
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOD) is a syndrome found generally in obese women and can cause infertility problems. Interestingly, research shows that 30 to 40 percent of women suffering from PCOD have impaired glucose tolerance levels.
Because Gymnema Sylvestre has been used for hundreds of years to control blood sugar levels, it is useful for those suffering from PCOD, which often comes with sugar and carbohydrate cravings. The plant’s extract has also been found to increase insulin sensitivity in people with PCOD or insulin resistance.
Helps regulate bowel movements
A healthy digestive system is essential for overall wellbeing. Constipation, if experienced often, can be a serious health concern as waste products and toxins build up in the body if not expelled. Although constipation can often be alleviated by incorporating more fiber in the diet and by exercise, Gymnema Sylvestre can also help.
Once again, it’s the gymnemic acids in the plant that can help to regularize bowel movements, improve digestion, and prevent constipation.
The bottom line
Although Gymnema Sylvestre is safe for most people, better speak to your doctor before taking it, especially if you take other medications, particularly medication to lower your blood sugar. Gymnema should not be taken by pregnant or breastfeeding women, or by children.
Like all medications, plant-derived or otherwise, Gymnema Sylvestre can have side-effects, including an undesirable drop in blood sugar levels. This could lead to dizziness, shaking, lightheadedness, headache, and nausea. Do not take Gymnema Sylvestre supplements at the same time as St. John’s Wort or aspirin. Do not use if you are allergic to milkweed.