Gymnema is a woody climbing shrub native to India and Africa. The leaves are used to make medicine. Gymnema has a long history of use in India’s Ayurvedic medicine. The Hindi name for gymnema means “destroyer of sugar.”
People use gymnema for diabetes, weight loss, and other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.
Gymnema sylvestre (Asclepiadaceae), popularly known as “gurmar” for its distinct property as sugar destroyer, is a reputed herb in the Ayurvedic system of medicine. The phytoconstituents responsible for sweet suppression activity includes triterpene saponins known as gymnemic acids, gymnemasaponins, and a polypeptide, gurmarin. The herb exhibits a broad range of therapeutic effects as an effective natural remedy for diabetes, besides being used for arthritis, diuretic, anemia, osteoporosis, hyperparathyroidism, cardiomyopathy, asthma, constipation, microbial infections, indigestion, and anti-inflammatory. G. sylvestre has good prospects in the treatment of diabetes as it shows positive effects on blood sugar homeostasis, controls sugar cravings, and promotes regeneration of pancreas. The herbal extract is used in dietary supplements since it reduces body weight, blood cholesterol, and triglyceride levels and holds great prospects in dietary as well as pharmacological applications. This review explores the transition of a traditional therapeutic to a modern contemporary medication with an overview of phytochemistry and pharmacological activities of the herb and its phytoconstituents.
6 Impressive Health Benefits of Gymnema Sylvestre
Gymnema sylvestre is a woody climbing shrub that’s native to the tropical forests of India, Africa and Australia.
Its leaves have been used in the ancient Indian medicinal practice Ayurveda for thousands of years.
It has been a traditional remedy for various ailments, including diabetes, malaria and snakebites (1Trusted Source).
This herb is thought to inhibit sugar absorption and thus has become a popular study subject in Western medicine.
Here are 6 impressive health benefits of Gymnema sylvestre.
1. Reduces Sugar Cravings by Making Sweet Foods Taste Less Appealing
One of the primary active components in this plant is gymnemic acid, which helps suppress sweetness (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).
When consumed prior to a sugary food or beverage, gymnemic acid blocks the sugar receptors on your taste buds (1Trusted Source).
Research shows that Gymnema sylvestre extracts can reduce the ability to taste sweetness and thus make sweet foods less appealing (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).
In a study in fasted individuals, half were given Gymnema extract. Those who received the supplement had less appetite for sweet foods at a subsequent meal and were more likely to limit their food intake, compared to those not taking the extract (2Trusted Source).
2. Helps Lower Blood Sugar Levels
According to the World Health Organization, more than 420 million people worldwide have diabetes, and this number is expected to increase (3Trusted Source).
Diabetes is a metabolic disease characterized by high blood sugar levels. It’s caused by the inability of your body to produce or use insulin effectively.
Gymnema sylvestre is considered to have anti-diabetic properties.
As a supplement, it has been used in combination with other diabetes medications to lower blood sugar. It’s also called gurmar, which is Hindi for “destroyer of sugar” (4Trusted Source).
Similar to its effects on your taste buds, Gymnema sylvestre can also block receptors in your intestines and thus sugar absorption, lowering your post-meal blood sugar levels.
Scientific proof of Gymnema ability to lower blood sugar is insufficient to recommend it as a stand-alone diabetes medication. However, research shows strong potential.
Studies suggest that consuming 200–400 mg of gymnastic acid reduces the intestinal absorption of the sugar glucose (4Trusted Source).
In one study, Gymnema appeared to improve blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes by lowering blood sugar level
The study concluded that reducing blood sugar after a meal resulted in a decrease in average blood sugar levels over time. This could help decrease long-term complications of diabetes
For people with high blood sugar or a high HbA1c, Gymnema sylvestre can help reduce fasting, post-meal and long-term blood sugar levels. However, if you’re taking blood-sugar-lowering medications, consult with your doctor first.
3. May Contribute to Favorable Insulin Levels by Increasing Insulin Production
Gymnema role in insulin secretion and cell regeneration may also contribute to its blood-sugar-lowering capabilities.
Higher insulin levels mean that sugar is cleared from your blood at a faster rate.
If you have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, your body tends to not make enough insulin, or your cells become less sensitive to it over time. This results in consistently high blood sugar levels.
Gymnema sylvestre may stimulate insulin production in your pancreas, promoting the regeneration of insulin-producing islet cells. This can help lower your blood sugar levels (6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).
Many traditional drugs help increase insulin secretion and sensitivity. However, herbal therapies are gaining momentum in drug development.
Interestingly, metformin, the first anti-diabetic drug, was an herbal formulation isolated from Galega officinalis (8Trusted Source).
4. Improves Cholesterol and Triglyceride Levels, Reducing Heart Disease Risk
Gymnema sylvestre may help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and triglycerides.
While Gymnema gets its fame from lowering blood sugar levels and reducing sugar cravings, research shows that it may also influence fat absorption and lipid levels.
In one study in rats on a high-fat diet, Gymnema extract aided weight maintenance and suppressed the accumulation of liver fats. Also, animals fed the extract and a normal-fat diet experienced lower triglyceride levels (9Trusted Source).
Another study found that Gymnema extract had an anti-obesity effect on animals fed a high-fat diet. It also decreased blood fat and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels (10Trusted Source).
In addition, a study in moderately-obese people showed that Gymnema extract decreased triglycerides and bad “LDL” cholesterol by 20.2% and 19%, respectively. What’s more, it increased “good” HDL cholesterol levels by 22% (11Trusted Source).
High levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides are risk factors for heart disease.
Therefore, the positive effects of Gymnema sylvestre on LDL and triglycerides levels may contribute to a lower risk of heart conditions (6Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
5. May Aid Weight Loss
Gymnema sylvestre extracts have been shown to aid weight loss in animals and humans.
One three-week study showed reduced body weight in rats given a water extract of Gymnema sylvestre. In another study, rats on a high-fat diet that were fed a Gymnema extract gained less weight (10Trusted Source, 12).
What’s more, a study in 60 moderately-obese people taking a Gymnema extract found a 5–6% decrease in body weight, as well as reduced food intake (11Trusted Source).
By blocking sweet receptors on your taste buds, Gymnema sylvestre may cause you to eat fewer sweet foods and consume fewer calories.
6. Helps Reduce Inflammation Due to Its Tannin and Saponin Content
Inflammation plays an important role in your body’s healing process.
Some inflammation is good, such as when it helps protect your body from harmful organisms in cases of injury or infection.
Other times, inflammation may be caused by the environment or the foods you eat.
However, chronic low-grade inflammation can contribute to various health issues (13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).
Studies have confirmed the link between excessive sugar intake and increased inflammatory markers in animals and humans (17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source).
The ability of Gymnema sylvestre to reduce sugar absorption in your intestines may also allow it to decrease inflammation caused by excess sugar intake.
What’s more, Gymnema appears to have anti-inflammatory properties of its own. This is thought to be due to its content of tannins and saponins, which are beneficial plant compounds.
Gymnema sylvestre leaves are considered immunostimulatory, meaning they can regulate the immune system, reducing inflammation (8Trusted Source).
People with diabetes not only suffer from high blood sugar and insulin resistance but may also have decreased antioxidant levels, which can contribute to inflammation (6Trusted Source).
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, Gymnema sylvestre can help those with diabetes and high blood sugar in a variety of ways, including by fighting inflammation.
What Is Gymnema Sylvestre and Can It Kill Sugar Cravings?
Gymnemic acid binds to the taste receptors on your tongue that perceive sweetness. As a result, it makes sweet things taste a lot less sweet
If you have a sweet tooth or find it difficult to keep yourself from overeating sweet foods, here’s something that could be useful.
Sweet Defeat is a product that claims to lessen your desire—and therefore your consumption—of sweets. Does it work? I reviewed the science behind this interesting product and also put it to the test—and I have a full report for you.
The active ingredient in Sweet Defeat is an herb called gymnema silvestre. It’s been used for centuries in traditional medicine as a treatment for diabetes. In fact, the Hindi name for this herb translates to “destroyer of sugar.”
Modern pharmacological research seems to support this traditional wisdom. Compounds extracted from gymnema have been shown to reduce the absorption of sugar from the intestinal tract and boost insulin production, all of which could help lower blood sugar. Animal testing confirms that gymnema reduces blood glucose levels.
Lab rats given gymnema extract also eat less and lose weight. As a result, you’ll also find lots of weight loss supplements containing gymnema. Unfortunately, the research on humans is all but non-existent. And, as we know all too well, what works for lab rats does not always work for humans. I wouldn’t waste your money on gymnast-based supplements for weight loss.