Wednesday, May 6, 2015
Wisdom Wednesday: Gymnema
Gymnema sylvestre is an Ayurvedic herb known as the “sugar destroyer”. It has been in use for thousands of years, long before the term diabetes was given to advanced insulin resistance. The leaf of the plant is the only part used to produce the herb. The key constituents of Gymnema leaves include saponins as glycosides and acylated gymnemic acid.
Ayurvedic physicians traditionally would smell and taste the urine of their patients as a part of their clinical evaluation. When the serum glucose exceeds 180, the kidneys begin to dump the excess sugar into the urine. This results in a sickly sweet smell and taste to the urine. Gymnema was the herb that resolved that smell and taste, hence the name “sugar destroyer”.
Controlled studies involving patients with insulin-dependent diabetes have found that Gymnema extract reduced insulin requirements, fasting blood glucose, glycosylated hemoglobin, and glycosylated plasma protein levels compared to patients receiving insulin therapy alone. Cholesterol, triglycerides, free fatty acids, and serum amylase were also lowered. Some suggestion of enhancing endogenous insulin production, possibly by pancreatic regeneration, was demonstrated as well.
Clinically, I find Gymnema to be the most effective supplement for balancing blood sugar issues. I use it for hypoglycemia as well as type II diabetes. It will reduce all the lab values noted above and combined with an improved diet and exercise can reverse diabetes.
Personally, I use it to control my nocturnal hypoglycemia. In combination with Chaste tree, it has dramatically improved by sleep patterns.
When we sleep, our blood sugar tends to fall, that elevates the cortisol levels from the adrenals, stimulating a release of glycogen (stored sugar) from the liver. In hypoglycemia, the sugar drops too quickly, resulting in excessive cortisol release. Upon awaking between sleep cycles the elevated cortisol stimulates the brain and the patient is unable to fall back asleep. Low doses of Gymnema keep the blood sugar stable avoiding the rollercoaster effects of hypoglycemia, allowing for the patient to easily fall back asleep when waking between sleep cycles.
The herb tastes quite bitter but when held on the tongue for a minute or so, it effectively numbness the taste buds for sweet. In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, the raw leaf was chewed and the gymnemic acid suppresses the taste for sweets. Used in this manner, Gymnema can reduce sugar craving. This is also considered its’ “doctrine of signature” – the aspect of the plant that indicates its’ use.
The Bottom Line:
When combined with proper diet and exercise, Gymnema is a very effective tool for reversing type 2 diabetes and controlling hypoglycemia. As with most herbs, quality issues abound in what is advertised as Gymnema. I obtain all my Gymnema from Australia to assure pharmaceutical quality.