Gymnema sylvestre is a woody climbing shrub that’s native to the tropical forests of India, Africa and Australia.
Its leaves have been used in the ancient Indian medicinal practice Ayurveda for thousands of years.
It has been a traditional remedy for various ailments, including diabetes, malaria and snakebites .
This herb is thought to inhibit sugar absorption and thus has become a popular study subject in Western medicine.
Here are 5 impressive health benefits of Gymnema sylvestre.
1. Reduces Sugar Cravings by Making Sweet Foods Taste Less Appealing
Gymnema sylvestre can help reduce sugar cravings.
One of the primary active components in this plant is gymnemic acid, which helps suppress sweetness .
Research shows that Gymnema sylvestre extracts can reduce the ability to taste sweetness and thus make sweet foods less appealing.
In a study in fasted individuals, half were given Gymnema extract. Those who received the supplement had less appetite for sweet foods at a subsequent meal and were more likely to limit their food intake, compared to those not taking the extract.
2. Helps Lower Blood Sugar Levels
According to the World Health Organization, more than 420 million people worldwide have diabetes, and this number is expected to increase.
Diabetes is a metabolic disease characterized by high blood sugar levels. It’s caused by the inability of your body to produce or use insulin effectively.
Gymnema sylvestre is considered to have anti-diabetic properties.
As a supplement, it has been used in combination with other diabetes medications to lower blood sugar. It’s also called gurmar, which is Hindi for “destroyer of sugar”.
Similar to its effects on your taste buds, Gymnema sylvestre can also block receptors in your intestines and thus sugar absorption, lowering your post-meal blood sugar levels.
Scientific proof of Gymnema’s ability to lower blood sugar is insufficient to recommend it as a stand-alone diabetes medication. However, research shows strong potential.
Studies suggest that consuming 200–400 mg of gymnemic acid reduces the intestinal absorption of the sugar glucose.
In one study, Gymnema appeared to improve blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels .
The study concluded that reducing blood sugar after a meal resulted in a decrease in average blood sugar levels over time. This could help decrease long-term complications of diabetes.
For people with high blood sugar or a high HbA1c, Gymnema sylvestre can help reduce fasting, post-meal and long-term blood sugar levels. However, if you’re taking blood-sugar-lowering medications, consult with your doctor first.
3. May Contribute to Favorable Insulin Levels by Increasing Insulin Production
Gymnema’s role in insulin secretion and cell regeneration may also contribute to its blood-sugar-lowering capabilities.
Higher insulin levels mean that sugar is cleared from your blood at a faster rate.
If you have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, your body tends to not make enough insulin, or your cells become less sensitive to it over time. This results in consistently high blood sugar levels.
Gymnema sylvestre may stimulate insulin production in your pancreas, promoting the regeneration of insulin-producing islet cells. This can help lower your blood sugar levels.
Many traditional drugs help increase insulin secretion and sensitivity. However, herbal therapies are gaining momentum in drug development.
Interestingly, metformin, the first anti-diabetic drug, was an herbal formulation isolated from Galega officinalis.
4. Improves Cholesterol and Triglyceride Levels, Reducing Heart Disease Risk
Gymnema sylvestre may help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and triglycerides.
While Gymnema gets its fame from lowering blood sugar levels and reducing sugar cravings, research shows that it may also influence fat absorption and lipid levels.
In one study in rats on a high-fat diet, Gymnema extract aided weight maintenance and suppressed the accumulation of liver fats. Also, animals fed the extract and a normal-fat diet experienced lower triglyceride levels.
Another study found that Gymnema extract had an anti-obesity effect on animals fed a high-fat diet. It also decreased blood fat and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.
In addition, a study in moderately-obese people showed that Gymnema extract decreased triglycerides and bad “LDL” cholesterol by 20.2% and 19%, respectively. What’s more, it increased “good” HDL cholesterol levels by 22%.
High levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides are risk factors for heart disease.
Therefore, the positive effects of Gymnema sylvestre on LDL and triglycerides levels may contribute to a lower risk of heart conditions.
5. May Aid Weight Loss
Gymnema sylvestre extracts have been shown to aid weight loss in animals and humans.
One three-week study showed reduced body weight in rats given a water extract of Gymnema sylvestre. In another study, rats on a high-fat diet that were fed a Gymnema extract gained less weight.
What’s more, a study in 60 moderately-obese people taking a Gymnema extract found a 5–6% decrease in body weight, as well as reduced food intake.
By blocking sweet receptors on your taste buds, Gymnema sylvestre may cause you to eat fewer sweet foods and consume fewer calories.
A consistent calorie deficit can result in weight loss.