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What is gymnema? Wh is it used for?

Gymnema is a woody, climbing plant that grows in the rainforests of central and southern India. Its name, in Hindi, is gurmar, which means "destroyer of sugar." It earned such a name because of the plant’s leaves, which, when chewed, interfere with the body’s ability to taste sweet things.

Gymnema leaves have been shown to lower blood sugar levels and raise insulin levels. The leaves are also known for their ability to lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, but the ingredients responsible for these actions have yet to be clearly identified.

In India, gymnema has been used as a treatment for insulin- and non-insulin dependent diabetes for more than 2,000 years (and is still in use today). The leaves were also used for stomach ailments, constipation, liver disease and water retention.

How much gymnema should I take?

Traditionally, 2-4 grams of powdered gymnema leaf are recommended for diabetic conditions. However, gymnema should never be used in place of insulin as a means of controlling blood sugar levels. Make sure to consult with a qualified health care practitioner before taking gymnema supplements.

What forms of gymnema are available?

Powdered gymnema leaves and extracts are readily available at many health food and specialty stores.

What can happen if I don't get enough gymnema? What can happen if I take too much? Are there any side-effects I should be aware of?

When taken at the recommended amounts, gymnema is generally considered safe and devoid of side-effects. However, the safety of gymnema has yet to be proven during pregnancy and/or lactation, so it should be avoided under these conditions. Patients with diabetes should consult with a health care provider before taking gymnema supplements.

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  • Baskaran K, Ahmath BK, Shanmugasundaram KR, Shanmugasundaram ERB. Antidiabetic effect of a leaf extract from gymnema sylvestre in non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus patients. J Ethnopharmacol 1990;30:295—305.
  • Bishayee A, Chatterjee M. Hypolipidemic and antiatherosclerotic effects of oral gymnema sylvestre R. Br. leaf extract in albino rats fed on a high fat diet. Phytother Res 1994;8:118—20.
  • Fushiki T, Kojima A, Imoto T, et al. An extract of gymnema sylvestre leaves and purified gymnemic acid inhibits glucose-stimulated gastric inhibitory peptide secretion in rats. J Nutr 1992;122:2367—73.
  • Shanmugasundaram ERB, Leela Gopinath K, Radha Shanmugasundaram K, Rajendran VM. Possible regeneration of the islets of Langerhans in streptozotocin diabetic rats given gymnema sylvestre leaf extracts. J Ethnopharmacol 1990;30:265—79.
  • Ye W, Liu X, Zhang Q, et al. Antisweet saponins from gymnema sylvestre. J Nat Prod Feb 2001;64(2):232-5.


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