Gymnema sylvestre is also known as Gurmari, Gurmarbotti, Gurmar, periploca of the woods, and meshasring. It is native to central and southern India, and is found in the tropical forests there. Gymnema is a woody, climbing plant whose leaves and flowers (which are small, bell-shaped and yellow in color) are used in Ayurvedic medicine--it is referred to as "destroyer of sugar". This is due to its ability to destroy the ability of the tongue's taste buds to taste sweet foods; some purport that Gymnema also suppresses the ability of the intestine to absorb glucose.
Gymnema leaves have been used for centuries, reportedly treating such things as snake bites, malaria, urinary disorders, stomach ailments, constipation, water retention and liver disease. But, its main use has been in the management of diabetes mellitus. The ability of Gymnema to lower blood sugar levels was first noted in the late 1920s. Research in the treatment of diabetes continues, however, and the FDA has not approved gymnema as a treatment for diabetes.
Studies have shown that Gymnema, which contains gymnemic acid, can suppress elevated blood glucose levels by inhibiting the intestine's absorption of glucose, and that it will increase insulin released by the pancreas. Also, its ability to mask the taste of sugar aids in neutralizing the craving for sweets.
An eight-week study was done to determine if this herb would aid in weight loss. The study involved 60 people who were overweight. Results showed that Gymnema sylvestre did produce a reduction in body weight and BMI (the body mass index). Another study was done on rats, which were fed a diet that was high in fat, and they showed some weight loss, while others that were fed a normal diet showed no significant weight loss.
Japanese researchers have studied the effects of low/short-term doses of Gymnema sylvestre on rats. Their studies suggest that there were no noticeable side effects. However, the results of one study did suggest that it might raise systolic blood pressure. People who have a history of hypoglycemic reactions should use extreme caution with this herb; it is essential to consult with a physician regarding any possible reaction/side effect to the herb.
Consult Your Physician
Again, as with any herbal supplement, consult your physician before taking Gymnema sylvestre. Of concern is any possible drug interaction between any medications you are currently taking and Gymnema sylvestre. Note: there is no information available as to the effects of Gymnema on someone who is pregnant or nursing, so avoid taking it if you are in this category.