What Is It?
A member of the milkweed family, Gymnema sylvestre is native
to the tropical regions of India. Nicknamed the “sugar destroyer”
because the leaves effectively block sweet tastes in the mouth
when chewed, the herb is often promoted as an appetite suppressant
and weight-loss agent. This claim has no evidence to support it,
however. In fact, the capsules sold for this purpose don’t even
alter the taste in a person’s mouth–the leaves need to be chewed
directly for this purpose.
Interestingly, generations of people in India with diabetes have
successfully chewed the leaves to help control blood sugar. Several
small, placebo-controlled trials indicate that gymnema extracts
may indeed lower blood sugar levels. In those with type 1 diabetes,
gymnema seems to enhance the action of insulin. In one study,
27 people with type 1 diabetes who took gymnema leaf extracts
for several months required less insulin to control their blood
sugar levels. Animal studies also support this use; they indicate
that gymnema can double the amount of insulin-producing cells
in the pancreas, and return blood sugar levels to normal as a
In the case of the far more prevalent type 2 diabetes–also known
as noninsulin-dependent diabetes–research findings indicate that
the use of gymnema may improve blood sugar control and result
in the need for smaller doses of oral diabetes drugs to control
the disease. However, it’s critical that people with this disease
don’t abandon proven ways to manage it, from a healthy diet to
regular exercise and medications when needed.
Traditional Ayurvedic medicine uses gymnema to treat a variety
of other disorders as well, including digestion problems, cough,
constipation, and malaria. Animal studies indicate a possible
role for gymnema in lowering cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL
(“bad”) cholesterol. More research on this intriguing
connection is needed.
Gymnema may alter the dosage needed for other drugs commonly
used to treat diabetes, including glipizide, metformin, and insulin.
Note: For information on interactions with specific generic drugs,
see our WholeHealth Chicago Drug/Nutrient Interactions Chart.
Gymnema has safely been used for decades in various countries.
Careful long-term studies on its safety have not been done so
Consult your doctor about your desire to supplement your diabetes
regimen with gymnema.
Diabetes 150 mg twice a day