The plant gymnema sylvestre, a staple in ancient Indian medicine, has proven moderately to highly effective for controlling and reversing both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, according to molecular studies on the plant’s chemical composition. In lab mice, injections of gymnema effectively reduced blood sugar levels between 10 percent and 60 percent. Some scientists, however, suggest that the benefits of using gymnema for diabetes are unproven and that more double-blind studies are needed. Anecdotally, gymnema for diabetes has been touted as a natural treatment since before the birth of Christ.
Gymnema’s power comes from the five different gymnemic acids found in the leaves and stems of the plant; these acids are known as saponin glycosides. By consuming these acids in teas and supplements made from the gymnema sylvestre herb, some diabetics have found that their blood sugar remains balanced and is not as susceptible to peaks and plummets. The gymnema plant has also been cited in medical studies for inducing weight loss, another benefit for diabetic patients, many of whom are obese.
Diabetes, an illness caused by excessively high blood glucose, can be countered by gymnema in three ways. First, the herb reportedly reduces the body’s ability to absorb sugar. Secondly, studies suggest gymnema sylvestre can reduce lipids, which are usually excessively high in diabetics, leading to elevated cholesterol and possibly resistance to insulin. This inflated cholesterol level can also engender heart disease.
Thirdly, using gymnema for diabetes causes the pancreas to produce more insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps turn glucose into usable energy, thereby reducing the levels of sugar in the bloodstream. For patients with diabetes, insulin’s ability to convert sugar is hampered. Often the bodies of diabetics do not create enough insulin, putting them at risk of diabetes-related blindness, stroke, and kidney disease. High sugar levels can even lead to coma.
Studies have shown that diabetics can reap the benefits of gymnema by taking roughly 500 mg of the herb each day; for the best benefit, doctors suggest that the supplement is composed of at least 24 percent gymnemic acids. Many doctors recommend taking the herb with diabetes medication, not in lieu of it. Patients can take the gymnema for diabetes orally or infuse their medical insulin with gymnema.
There are side effects to taking gymnema for diabetes. Users report that they are unable to taste the sweetness in foods after drinking gymnema tea; some diabetics appreciate the loss and feel it reduces their desire for sweets. This side effect is usually not reported when gymnema is taken in the form of a capsule supplement. Another side effect is that excess dosages of gymnema may reduce blood sugar too much, creating hypoglycemia.