Herb of the Month - Gymnema!
Author: Kaylee Dunbar
Have you ever heard of the amazing herb called Gymnema that has been used traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine for the past 2000 years? Well if you haven’t stay tuned because today we are going to look at this herb in great detail including information about its botanical name, plant family, plant description, where this herb is grown and of course information about how it may benefit your health and much, much more!
So let’s get in to it!
Botanical Name - Gymnema sylvestre.
Plant Family - Asclepiadaceae also known as the milk weed family.
Plant Class - Woody perennial.
Plant part used therapeutically - Leaf.
Plant Description - Leaves: Narrow tipped, smooth green leaves Flowers/Fruits/Seeds: Pale, yellow bell shaped flowers.
Origin - This plant is native to tropical and subtropical regions such as central and southern India, southern China, tropical Africa, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.
Nutritional Components - Gymnema is rich in many nutrients including ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), beta-carotene, chromium, iron, magnesium and potassium!
Ayuervedic medicine traditional uses for gymnema:
- Digestive stimulant.
- Analgesic for body aches.
- To reduce the perception of sweetness on the tongue.
So what are the health benefits of gymnema?
- It helps to maintain healthy pancreatic function to assist with its normal enzymatic and hormone production in healthy individuals.
- Gymnema contains an active constituent called gymnemic acids which help inhibit the absorption of glucose in the intestines.
- Gymnemic acids also stimulate the activity of enzymes that help promote our body’s ability to utilise glucose which can help us beat those afternoon energy slumps!
- Gymnema also helps to reduce our sense of taste when consuming sweet foods! So how does gymnema do this? This action occurs because of the active constituent called gurmarin that interferes with your taste buds so that your tongue is not able to identify the difference between sweet and bitter foods. That clever little gurmarin!! If you want proof of this, try this simple experiment at home!
Put 1-2 millilitres (ml) of gymnema extract directly on your tongue for one minute and if you wish you can either rinse off your tongue or alternatively swallow the extract. Then consume a piece of chocolate or alternatively your favourite sweet treat and then note the taste! You may discover that your favourite treat tastes a little different than it once did! In fact you may not be able to taste any sweetness on your tongue at all!
This is one of the fabulous health benefits of gymnema and may help to beat your sugar cravings!
Please note that the reduction of sweetness on the tongue is only temporary so therefore it is recommended that this exercise is repeated as needed every 2 to 3 hours as required. It is also important to consult your health professional prior to the use of gymnema to ensure that it is the right supplement for you.
Fun facts about Gymnema
- It it a climbing plant and it requires support for growth.
- Gymnema seeds have low viability so alternatively root cut offs are planted instead to promote growth.
- In India gymnema is referred to as Gurmar, the “sugar destroyer” because of its' ability to reduce the taste of sweetness on the tongue. Traditionally people in India chewed gymnema leaves specifically for this purpose and referred to the leaves as the “periploca of the woods.”
- Gymnema seeds are planted during the months of November and December and the plant is harvested between the months of September to February.