“Gymnema sylvestre” is an herb that has been used in India for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. It is less well known in North America, though, over the past few years, studies have been conducted to measure the effectiveness of gymnema.
Take, for instance, a clinical trial that took place at King’s College London. There, researchers looked at the effects of a gymnema extract in a small cohort of patients with type 2 diabetes. After administration of the extract for 60 days, the researchers found that there was a significant increase in circulating insulin in the participants. This surge in insulin helped to reduce fasting and after-meal blood glucose levels.
The research team concluded that a gymnema extract may provide a potential alternative therapy for the hyperglycemia associated with type 2 diabetes.
What accounts for this blood-glucose-lowering effect? “Gymnema sylvestre” contains an active ingredient called “gymnemic acid.” Gymnemic acid is extracted from the leaves and roots of the plant. It is this ingredient that helps to lower and balance blood sugar levels. It turns out that gymnemic acid molecules have a unique shape similar to that of glucose. This allows the molecules to fill cell receptors in the lining of the intestines, which in turn prevents the uptake of sugar molecules.
Gymnema could also help curb your cravings for sweets. It is thought, too, that when taking the herb with a high-carbohydrate meal or a meal high in sugar, it can make more carbs available for burning. And when these carbs are burned, they can’t be turned into fat stores, helping you to slim down and build more lean muscle mass. Some medical experts claim that this herb also lowers triglycerides and bad cholesterol.
Here’s a health tip for you: quality “Gymnema sylvestre” should contain a minimum of 25% of the active ingredient gymnemic acid. A method developed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) called “standardization” indicates how much of the active ingredient is present in herbs. So, a single 500-milligram (mg) capsule standardized to 25% yields 125 mg of active gymnema acid per capsule. When you buy the herb in supplement form, be aware that the FDA does not regulate herbal supplements strictly and the quality of herbs varies between brands. Make sure you consider the standardization when figuring out the correct dosage to take.
One final note: if you want to add gymnema to your diet and you are already using insulin or medication to treat diabetes, it is important that you talk to your doctor, as the level of these conventional treatments may need to be reduced once you are taking the herb.
To find out about another little-known treatment for diabetes, read the article Little-known Fruit Could Help Prevent Diabetes.