Gymnema sylvestre is a unique botanical product that has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine. Gymnema, or gurmar, is also known as the “sugar destroyer,” since it dulls the ability to taste sweetness.
In India, Gymnema has been used traditionally to treat madhu meha or “honey urine,” another name for diabetes. The leaves of the woody climbing plant that grows in tropical forests in Central and Southern India are used for medicinal purposes.
Interestingly, generations of people in India with diabetes have successfully chewed the leaves to help control blood sugar. Several small, placebo-controlled trials indicate that gymnema extracts may indeed lower blood sugar levels. In those with type 1 diabetes, gymnema seems to enhance the action of insulin. In one study, 27 people with type 1 diabetes who took gymnema leaf extracts for several months required less insulin to control their blood sugar levels. Animal studies also support this use; they indicate that gymnema can double the amount of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, and return blood sugar levels to normal as a result.
In the case of the far more prevalent type 2 diabetes--also known as noninsulin-dependent diabetes--research findings indicate that the use of gymnema may improve blood sugar control and result in the need for smaller doses of oral diabetes drugs to control the disease. However, it's critical that people with this disease don't abandon proven ways to manage it, from a healthy diet to regular exercise and medications when needed.
Gymnema is usually taken at a dosage of 400 to 600 mg daily of an extract standardized to contain 24% gymnemic acid.
Interactions With Drugs
Gymnema may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised if you are also taking prescription drugs that may lower blood sugar levels. Patients taking oral drugs for diabetes or using insulin should be monitored closely by their health care provider while using gymnema. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
Use of Gymnema sylvestre leaf extract in the control of blood glucose in insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.
Shanmugasundaram ER, Rajeswari G, Baskaran K, Rajesh Kumar BR, Radha Shanmugasundaram K, Kizar Ahmath B.
Department of Biochemistry, University of Madras, India.
GS4, a water-soluble extract of the leaves of Gymnema sylvestre, was administered (400 mg/day) to 27 patients with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) on insulin therapy. Insulin requirements came down together with fasting blood glucose and glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c) and glycosylated plasma protein levels. While serum lipids returned to near normal levels with GS4 therapy, glycosylated haemoglobin and glycosylated plasma protein levels remained higher than controls. IDDM patients on insulin therapy only showed no significant reduction in serum lipids, HbA1c or glycosylated plasma proteins when followed up after 10-12 months. GS4 therapy appears to enhance endogenous insulin, possibly by regeneration/revitalisation of the residual beta cells in insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.
Antidiabetic effect of a leaf extract from Gymnema sylvestre in non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus patients.
Postgraduate Institute of Basic Medical Sciences Madras, India
J Ethnopharmacol 1990 Oct;30(3):295-300
The effectiveness of GS4, an extract from the leaves of Gymnema sylvestre, in controlling hyperglycaemia was investigated in 22 Type 2 diabetic patients on conventional oral anti-hyperglycaemic agents. Gymnema (400 mg/day) was administered for 18-20 months as a supplement to the conventional oral drugs. During Gymnema supplementation, the patients showed a significant reduction in blood glucose, glycosylated haemoglobin and glycosylated plasma proteins, and conventional drug dosage could be decreased. Five of the 22 diabetic patients were able to discontinue their conventional drug and maintain their blood glucose homeostasis with Gymnema alone. These data suggest that the beta cells may be regenerated/repaired in Type 2 diabetic patients on Gymnema sylvestre supplementation. This is supported by the appearance of raised insulin levels in the serum of patients after Gymnema sylvestre supplementation.