Large, evergreen, twining plant, climbing up through forest trees, sometimes to a considerable height. Has dull green leaves about 2 in (5 cm) long, and umbels of small yellow flowers.
Habitat & Cultivation
Gymnema is native to forests of central and southern India, Southeast Asia, and as far south as northern Australia. It prefers loamy soil.
Gymnema contains saponins (gymnemic acids) and a polypeptide (gurmarin).
History & Folklore
Gymnema has long been used in Indian domestic medicine as a remedy for sugar cravings and diabetes. Its Hindi name means “sugar destroyer.”
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Gymnema has real value in treating diabetes, especially in the early stages of type 2 diabetes, which develops in middle to old age. If taken consistently for a year or more, it will help to prevent the condition deteriorating. Gymnema may help to regenerate cells in the pancreas that secrete insulin, so it may be possible to control or reverse mild diabetes with diet and gymnema. The plant’s remarkable ability to block sweet tastes means that it can reduce sugar cravings and contribute to weight-loss programs.
In recent research in India and Japan, gymnema has shown promise as a safe and effective natural treatment for diabetes. In two clinical trials in India, patients with diabetes needed less insulin or other treatments to lower blood-sugar levels. There is an indication that gymnema may encourage repair of the islet cells of the pancreas, responsible for insulin secretion. The leaves have been shown to anesthetize the sweet taste buds of the tongue, and temporarily reduce appetite.