Ayurvedic medicine is native to India and surrounding areas where it has been practised for thousands of years. More recently, researchers have been investigating whether there is any scientific basis for the traditional uses of some Ayurvedic herbs. Examples of these herbs which are attracting scientific attention are coleus, brindleberry and gymnema, all of which display physiological effects that may support weight loss efforts when used in conjunction with an appropriate diet and exercise routine.
Traditional Ayurvedic herbalists have prized coleus for centuries, using it to treat skin, cardiovascular and respiratory disorders. A compound called forskolin, which is found in the root of the plant, is regarded as being the most important of its medicinally active constituents. Research into forskolin’s effects in the human body supports many of the traditional uses of coleus, and also suggests that forskolin may support weight loss. Forskolin appears to work by activating the enzyme cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP). This enzyme is involved in numerous physiological processes, including the regulation of the basal metabolic rate (how much energy we burn for fuel), the conversion of calories from food into energy and the release of fatty acids from adipose tissue so stored fat can be used as an energy source.
Brindleberry is used as both a medicinal plant and a culinary ingredient in many parts of Asia and when used as a food has a reputation for making meals more filling. The fruit is a rich source of a compound called hydroxycitric acid (HCA), which may inhibit the conversion of carbohydrates into stored fat and suppress feelings of hunger (perhaps via effects on serotonin levels in the brain).
Gymnema has been used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat blood sugar related issues for more than 2,000 years. In addition to supporting healthy blood sugar levels, it has a remarkable ability to reduce the perception of sweet tastes, an effect that has been shown to reduce calorie consumption in subsequent hours. More scientific research will be required before we fully understand the benefits of gymnema for weight loss and blood sugar management.
However, preliminary scientific studies are promising and include a clinical trial in which participants who took a combination of gymnema, HCA and the mineral chromium experienced greater weight loss on a calorie-controlled diet and exercise program than people who took a placebo supplement. If you are affected by diabetes or are taking prescribed medicines, do not take coleus, brindleberry or gymnema except under the advice and supervision of your healthcare professional.