There are no miracle cure-alls, silver bullets, or magic pills that will get you trim, fit and healthy, but after an exhaustive search and rigorous testing, The Sherpa has pinpointed a few natural health therapies that DO help and ferreted out the scams to avoid...you may be shocked by what we've discovered.

Gymnema Sylvestre: A Natural Way to Curb Cravings and Balance Blood Sugar

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Posted Tuesday, Mar. 22nd, 2011

gymnema

TV, it seems, has its signals crossed.

On one channel you’ll see shows like The Biggest Loser fighting obesity and advocating weight loss through diet and exercise.

But turn the channel and you have Paula Deen whipping up some down-home, deep-fried deliciousness featuring cakes, cupcakes, or other sweet treats.  What gives?

The reality is that we as a country are bombarded with mixed messages every day when it comes to food.  We want to (and often do!) indulge in the sugary goodness that seems to be on every street corner, vending machine, and cookie jar, and then we lament our expanding waistlines and the growing diabetes epidemic.

No wonder everyone is looking for a magic pill to take off the weight.  But what if you could stop the cravings that led to the overeating in a safe and effective way?

Proponents of this herb claim that it does exactly that: stop the weight gain before it even starts.  That’s a pretty bold claim, so let’s take a closer look to see if there is any truth to it.

Indian Herb, International Use…

Gymnema sylvestre is an herb from India that has a long and varied history in traditional medicine, including its use as a:

  • Diuretic
  • Laxative
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Circulatory system stimulant
  • Diabetes treatment
  • Weight loss aid

The herb’s use in weight loss has advocates touting its benefits.  Specifically, they claim that Gymnema sylvestre helps to curb your desire for sweets, blocks the absorption of sugar, and helps balance blood glucose levels.

In other words, it not only reduces your desire for that brownie, but should you cave in and eat it, the herb will block the absorption of the sugar and help you keep your blood sugar levels from rising.

That sounds a little too good to be true, so let’s take a look at the research to get the REAL story.

Putting a Halt to the Cravings…

Interestingly, there is real research to support the claim that Gymnema sylvestre helps to curb cravings for sweets.

One animal study from the International Journal of Crude Drug Research1 (yes, that’s really the name!) found that rodents that were fed Gymnema sylvestre leaves exhibited a decreased interest in, and consumption of, sweets.

In another animal study2, rats that were given a Gymnema sylvestre water extract for two weeks exhibited statistically significant weight loss as compared to the control group.

Sure, but then again, rats don’t have access to Ben & Jerry’s and Krispy Kreme like we do.  At least we don’t think so!  Which begs the question: How does Gymnema sylvestre perform in humans?

A study from Physiology & Behavior3 set out to determine this very point.  Researchers tested the effects of Gymnema sylvestre on fasting patients who were of normal weight.

The researchers found that those who were given Gymnema sylvestre one hour before being offered snack foods ate less food and fewer sweet foods than patients who had not consumed Gymnema sylvestre.

This is intriguing; however, we have to wonder if the herb was the reason, or if some other human factor was involved, such as wanting to appear to have more willpower than you actually do.  The closet-eater syndrome, if you will.  Moreover, it was only one hour later.

We’d love to see a study that looks at these issues in the future.

Help for Type 2 Diabetics…

On the diabetes front, the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) state that Gymnema sylvestre has “good scientific evidence” showing that it helps control blood sugar levels in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes (when used in conjunction with insulin and other medications as prescribed by a doctor).

One study in particular proves this out4.  Twenty-two type-2 diabetics taking conventional oral diabetes medication were also given 400 mg of Gymnema a day for 18 to 20 months.

At the end of the study period, 16 of the 22 participants were able to reduce their medications, while five stopped using them altogether.

This means that the herb not only reduced the amount of medication needed, but in nearly 25 percent of the people, completed negated the need for the drug at all.  Now that’s impressive.

How Does It Do That?

Gymnema sylvestre appears to work by suppressing a desire for sugary foods as well as balancing blood sugar levels.

Physiologically speaking, there does seem to be solid evidence that Gymnema sylvestre does lower cravings.  The herb contains gymnemic acid,5 a nutrient found in certain plants that have been shown to suppress sweetness.

Additionally, gymnemic acid is molecularly similar to glucose.  The theory is that when you consume Gymnema sylvestre, it fills in your taste bud receptors, thereby preventing glucose from docking in those same receptors, thus cutting your craving for sugar and sweets.

Similarly, because gymnemic acid is similar to glucose, Gymnema sylvestre may also lock into glucose receptors in your intestines, thereby preventing the absorption of sugar molecules.6 This would then lead to balanced blood sugar levels even when you consume sugar-based foods.

But What About the “Side Effects?”

Gymnema sylvestre is safe for most people.  However, there are few groups of people who should show caution before consuming the herb.  These include:

  • Women who are pregnant and lactating
  • People with milkweed allergies
  • People currently taking anti-diabetic medication
  • People taking prescription antidepressants

Additionally, St. John’s wort, white willow bark, and aspirin can enhance the blood sugar-lowering effects of Gymnema sylvestre, resulting into hypoglycemia.  So, taking Gymnema should be avoided while taking any of those other supplements.

On the plus side, it appears that Gymnema sylvestre may also help keep your cholesterol in check.

Research2 has shown that Gymnema sylvestre significantly improves your ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol, which is one of the most predictive indicators for developing heart disease.

These same researchers also claim the herb also lowers triglycerides and “bad cholesterol.” The National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) acknowledge these studies as well, but feel that more research is needed in this area.

We have to agree.  In fact, in addition to more studies involving Gymnema sylvestre, we’d also love to see NIH address the issue of inflammation rather than cholesterol as the greatest predictor of heart disease.

The Bottom Line…

While the research surrounding Gymnema sylvestre and weight loss is compelling regarding its ability to cut sweet cravings, its ability to dramatically boost weight loss has yet to be adequately shown.

Therefore, if sweets are your Achilles’ heel, then Gymnema sylvestre may be the boost you need to bolster your willpower.

If you choose to give it a try, the recommended dosage of Gymnema sylvestre is one 100–mg capsule taken three to four times daily.  If you prefer the powdered form, aim for 0.5–1 tsp. (2–4 g) per day.  You can pour a cup of boiling water over the leaves to make a tea.  Cover and steep for 10–15 minutes before drinking.

You may also want to take Gymnema sylvestre with food, as a mild gastrointestinal upset may occur if it is taken on an empty stomach.

Whatever form of Gymnema sylvestre you choose, be sure the product is standardized to a minimum of 25 percent gymnemic acid.  (A single 500 mg capsule standardized to 25 percent yields 125 mg of active gymnemic acid per capsule.)  Always consider the standardization when taking dosage into account.

It should also be free of preservatives, fillers, binders, excipients, flow agents, shellacs, coloring agents, gluten, yeast, lactose, and other allergens.  Ideally, you’ll also be able to find independent analysis done by a third party to verify the active ingredients and identify any contaminants.

Finally, remember that no supplement can overcome a diet filled with doughnuts, pasta, and ice cream.  Even if Gymnema sylvestre does help you suppress that candy craving, you will still need to maintain a reasonable caloric intake of nutrient-dense whole foods and engage in moderate daily exercise.  And, as always, consult with your doctor before experimenting with any new herbs or supplements.

References:

1Int J Crude Drug Res 86;24[Dec]:171-176.

2Luo, H, et al.  “Decreased bodyweight without rebound and regulated lipoprotein metabolism by gymnemate in genetic multifactor syndrome animal.” Mol Cell Biochem.  2007:299(1-2):93-8.

3Brala, PM and Hagen, RL.  “Effects of sweetness perception and caloric value of preload on short term intake.” Physiol Behav.  1983 Jan;30(1):1-9.

4Baskaran, K, et al. “Antidiabetic effect of a leaf extract from Gymnema sylvestre in non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus patients.” J Ethnopharmacol. 1990 Oct;30(3):295-300.

5Kurihara Y.  “Characteristics of antisweet substances, sweet proteins, and sweetness-inducing proteins.” Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr.  1992;32(3):231-52.

6Sahu, N, et al.  “Triterpenoid Saponins from Gymnema sylvestre.” Phytochem.  1996;41:1181-85.

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  • Mrs Green

    Is this Gymnema sylvestre ok to take if you take levothyroxine?

  • Annaliej

    Where can I buy this product in Centurion??

  • Izzien

    why is all of you are taking the sick people for a ride like the big farmas? It’s all about making money for crying out loud!

  • http://naturalhealthsherpa.com Natural Health Sherpa

    Izzien,

    We don’t sell products…just deliver information to help people make natural choices about their health. We are sorry you see it differently.

    Naturally yours,

    The Sherpa

  • http://naturalhealthsherpa.com Natural Health Sherpa

    Mrs. Green,

    We always suggest that you talk with your physician about any possible medication interactions. If your doctor is not open to natural treatments, you can visit acamnet.org to find an alternative physician in your area.

    Naturally yours,

    The Sherpa

  • Tamarque

    No, it is about learning how to be healthy and to take personal responsibility. Big pharma makes its billions because people have given up personal responsibility and act in a co-dependent way with the medical industry. I like the fact that this site does not sell product.

  • http://twitter.com/GabriellaWest Gabriella West

    Very well-written article!

  • http://naturalhealthsherpa.com Natural Health Sherpa

    Tamarque,

    Incredibly well said! Bravo!

    Naturally yours,

    The Sherpa

  • http://naturalhealthsherpa.com Natural Health Sherpa

    Ah, shucks Gabriella. Thanks!

    Naturally yours,

    The Sherpa

  • Anonymous worried reader

    I can honestly and truly say that I myself am a type 1 diabetic and gymnema sylestre did nothing for me except RAISE my blood sugar. I’ve done lots of research and everything seems to point to this as a lowering agent but from my experiences only good ol’ insuin does that. In fact, after going on this it seemed to inhibit the effects of insulin thus driving my blood sugar to outrageous readings (400+). I do the same exercise as always and have not changed my diet. People seem to want to want to find things that will “help” but honestly, the truth is, if you eat a balanced meal you get all the vitamins and minerals you need, if you exercise and all your metabolism will stay up, and to all diabetics… DIET AND EXERCISE. None of these articles seem to actually show REAL scientific studies with results and everything included.

  • http://naturalhealthsherpa.com Natural Health Sherpa

    Dear Anonymous,

    Please consult the references. We assure you all the studies are REAL and many, if not most, are gold-standard, which is the most credible of all scientific studies.

    We agree that when it comes to diabetes (and, in fact, any disease), diet and exercise are the foundation and key, which is we state in the last paragraph.

    We do hope you used gymnema under the care of a medical professional. Most doctors or other medical professionals would not have had you using gymnema WITH your insulin. You should have adjusted your insulin dosage accordingly.

    Naturally yours,

    The Sherpa

  • http://naturalhealthsherpa.com Natural Health Sherpa

    Dear Anonymous,

    Please consult the references. We assure you all the studies are REAL and many, if not most, are gold-standard, which is the most credible of all scientific studies.

    We agree that when it comes to diabetes (and, in fact, any disease), diet and exercise are the foundation and key, which is we state in the last paragraph.

    We do hope you used gymnema under the care of a medical professional. Most doctors or other medical professionals would not have had you using gymnema WITH your insulin. You should have adjusted your insulin dosage accordingly.

    Naturally yours,

    The Sherpa

  • mary

    I want to know if lemon juice is a aid for weight loss.

  • Kittyshealinghands

    I seem to remember the article saying that it reacted to some diabetic meds and to not use it if you are using them.  I would guess that would be the main reason someone would want to take the stuff.  Meaning they wanted to get off the meds, but maybe this is a product for those that are not yet on the meds…or, it could be the brand you took…not all things are created equal.

  • http://naturalhealthsherpa.com Natural Health Sherpa

    Mary,

    It can be useful for detoxing but not the only tried and true way to effectively lose and maintain your weight is with a healthy diet and regular exercise.

    Naturally yours,

    The Sherpa

  • Mike

    I absolutely agree with your comments however as many people may not be aware that if Obamacare becomes a reality, then the US government will become more and more like food and health police and will tell everyone of us what to eat and how much. Furthermore, if this Durbin bill which is the Dietary Labeling Proposal from 1994 gets voted in, unfortunately many of our great and health healing supplements and herbs will be declared by the FDA as being illegal. As you can now see, voting for the wrong people has huge consequences to us and our precious health.

  • Jake

    Gymnema is another money grabbing scam…I have tried 4 different brands of standardized  Gymnema and the only effect I had after following all instructions was Higher Blood Sugar after taking Gymnema and one brand cause pain in my Kidney area after 2 days of use.  After 4 months of trying Gymnema I feel it is a scam.  How does anyone know what is really in the crap that is being peddled online with lies and fake testimonies.  These  people are just as bad as Big Pharma.

  • Bob W. Ryley

    I have diabetes.  The one natural protocol that has worked for me is one designed by Dr. Bruce West based on whole food supplements, limited exercise and diet changes.  Google “Bruce West” and “diabetes” and you should get the info.

  • http://naturalhealthsherpa.com Natural Health Sherpa

    Thanks Bob! That trio (good diet, consistent exercise, and targeted supplements) is a great prescription for diabetes.

    Naturally yours,

    The Sherpa

  • http://naturalhealthsherpa.com Natural Health Sherpa

    Jake,

    It sounds like you have a pretty bad experience with gymnema. The research on the herb is intriguing and has worked for many people. However, we agree that you have to be very careful when it comes to Internet offers. Do you research…not just of the ingredients but of the companies themselves.

    Naturally yours,

    The Sherpa

  • jessie zabder

    very informative will certainly give it a try to lower cholesterol

  • Cjkerr

    will gymnema destroy the sugar in a glass of red wine

  • Avonskiff

    I use it and it works for me but if one is seriously out of control diet wise well…ain’t nothin’ gonna help – short term maybe but even insulin can only stave off the abuse so long.

  • Avonskiff

    ACV awesome too!

  • Cindybear1954

    Gymnema Sylvestre is a miracle herb. It helped me lose 60 pounds in 6 months. I came off of 2 daily insulin injections, my oral diabetes medications and cut my blood pressures pills in half. I am also off my C-pap machine and feeling better than I have in fifteen years. My husband lost 40 pounds, came off 2 insulin shots and cut his blood pressure medications in half. I recommend this herb to everyone with Type II diabetes or hypoglycemia. Eating more natural foods and fewer processed ones and taking a leisurely walk every day is the only other thing we did, but we had been doing that for 5 years and saw no improvement until we started taking the Gymnema Sylvestre twice daily. 

  • Anonymous

    I must add my experience with Gymnema.  I first tried it as a Standard Process Labs product recommended by my Chiropractor (I also am a retired Chiropractor).  It caused my blood sugar to go up.  Much later, I tried a product that contained Gymnema, formulated along with other herbs that were known to lower blood sugar.  The product had been subjected to a double-blind test using type II diabetics, and had worked very effectively.  The  product made my blood sugar go up.  I suspected it may have been the inclusion of Gymnema.  I called the formulator of the product.  He told me I was one of only a couple of others for whom the product did not seem to work.  In my case, I do not think my “type II diabetes” is really a problem with diabetes, but a mild thyroid problem.  Not all diabetes cases are equal.  If you are experiencing problems with your blood sugar going up when taking Gymnema, it may be something different with your particular diabetic problem.  More research with diabetes needs to be done, as well as research with all natural and unnatural remedies.

  • ShockedandAmazed

    Let me understanding something….Are you saying that it is in written form somewhere in Washington DC that states, Herbs, Vitamins, Supplements will be ILLEGAL. I would love to see this in writing.  I would also like to confirm that this the current administration that has ordained this if so

  • http://twitter.com/healthseeker Paul Kemp

    Thanks for the useful, well-researched article. I have long had problems craving sugar, with diabetes type 2 rampant on both sides of my family tree, so this may be helpful to me if those cravings re-surface in the future.

  • stephen

    Great article. I was thinking of blending this with matcha powdered green tea. Do you have any thoughts on this?
    Thanks, Stephen

  • Nikos

    I suppose that many people will say that Gymnema Sylvestre causing their blood sugar go up, though you don’t understand that those products that have portions of Gymnema Sylvestre will not accurately help you and this is because gymnemic asid is more in the leaves of this bush. Moreover you have to find either cut leaves or powder leaves and make your own preparation of this herb. You’d better consult people that actually made the herb alone, how to prepare it and how to use it, and the only people that can help you are the shamans in India. They pick the leaves and they leave them to dry, then they boil them and drink that mix 1 -3 times a day with small portions. Now as about companies that have pills, nutrition added herb or what so ever I would say you shouldn’t trust them, they want to make money so they’d rather put another “herbal” additives. Despite all that, you can’t blame this site for your bad choices. At least blame once in your life, yourself that you came to this position and ask remedies and help from herbs which you people don’t even know how to use them. Take advices, read, research that’s what a 27 y-o person with type II diabetes cured from Gymnema has to say to you.
    Thank you for your reading.

  • Dave

    good article, not aware of your web site. Since I did not see any adds how do you support yourselves?

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