Gymnema sylvestre is a plant used in India and parts of Asia as a natural treatment for diabetes or “sweet urine.” The herb’s active ingredient, gymnemic acid, is extracted from leaves and roots, and helps to lower and balance blood sugar levels. The unique shape of gymnemic acid molecules are similar to that of glucose, allowing it to fill cell receptors in the lining the intestines, thereby preventing uptake of sugar molecules.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) find “good scientific evidence” that gymnema sylvestre can be helpful in controlling blood sugar levels in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes when used in conjunction with insulin and other medications as prescribed by a doctor. It is important that people with existing blood sugar issues talk to their doctors before adding gymnema sylvestre to their diet, as insulin or other medications may need to be reduced.
In healthy adults gymnema sylvestre is believed to help curb cravings for sweets. Though not a magic bullet, when taken with a high-carbohydrate meal or a meal high in sugar, it can aid the body by passing through sugars and making carbs available for burning, rather than turning these into fat stores. In this way it helps to build lean muscle mass.
Supporters of gymnema sylvestre claim the herb also lowers triglycerides and “bad cholesterol.” The NLM and NIH acknowledge that preliminary human studies with patients having type 2 diabetes tend to back this claim, but believe stronger research is required before a determination can be positively made.
The Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbal supplements, and the quality of herbs varies between and within brands. A method called standardization indicates how much of the active ingredient is present in herbs.
Quality gymnema sylvestre should be standardized to a minimum of 25% gymnemic acid. A single 500-milligram (mg) capsule standardized to 25% yields 125mg of active gymnema acid per capsule. Note that a 150 mg capsule standardized to 75% gymnemic acid yields 112.5 mg gymnemic acid per capsule– nearly the same amount of the active ingredient. Always consider the standardization when taking dosage into account.
Along with a healthy diet and exercise, gymnema sylvestre can be a helpful addition to your weight-loss plan. Note that it builds up in the system over a few weeks time becoming more effective. Since it is recommended that gymnema sylvestre be taken with each meal, it is better to get a lower-milligram capsule that can be taken three times a day to reach the full daily suggested dose. Aside from purchasing it as a stand-alone, it is also commonly available in natural weight-loss products, often with chromium and cambogia gordonii together.
Gymnema sylvestre has been deemed very safe for adults at suggested doses. If pregnant or lactating, do not take this herb due to lack of research and potential impact on the baby. Those will allergies to the milkweed family might experience allergic reactions to gymnema sylvestre. As always, check with your doctor before beginning a new health routine, particularly if you are diabetic or prone to issues involving blood sugar.