Gynostemma, also known as jiaogulan or southern ginseng, is an adaptogenic herb believed to restore balance to the body. It's native to China and other Asian countries. It's a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, which also includes cucumbers, gourds and melons. The herb is a climbing vine that has groups of five (on average), sweet-tasting, serrated leaves and is known for its powerful medicinal properties.
Gynostemma's adaptogenic benefits are believed to come from its content of saponins. Saponins are phytochemicals with natural foaming detergents that are believed to reduce cholesterol, have anti-tumor properties and improve immunity. According to Drugs.com, gynostemma is used the following ways:
- Regulates blood pressure
- Boosts immunity
- Lowers cholesterol
- Increases stamina and endurance
WebMD indicates that jiaogulan is used in herbal medicine to treat these additional ailments (although they also mention there is insufficient evidence to definitively prove its effectiveness):
- Cough and bronchitis
- Stomach pain/gastritis
- Hair loss
- Improves heart function
What the Research Shows
Research on the efficacy of gynostemma is ongoing but studies to date are encouraging.
- A study on mice showed gynostemma to help balance dopamine and serotonin levels in mice exposed to stress-induced anxiety, suggesting the herb has anti-anxiety properties.
- According to a PubMed abstract, a heat-processed gynostemma extract called actiponin was shown to significantly reduce abdominal fat, body weight, body mass and total BMI in obese people, without causing side effects.
- A study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism concluded that gynostemma tea improves insulin sensitivity.
- Research shows gynostemma may play an important role in preventing multi-drug resistance to anticancer medications, according to a PubMed abstract.
- A study on mice fed alcohol and a high fat and cholesterol diet concluded that gypenosides (saponins) may help prevent fatty liver disease caused by the diet.
- Gynostemma was shown to have antibacterial and anti-fungal abilities against diarrhea causing fungus and bacteria such as E. coli, Staphylococcus, Salmonella, Aspergillus and Fusarium.
Side Effects and Drug Interactions
WebMD suggests gynostemma may be safe to use short term but can cause side effects including nausea and an increase in bowel movements. In addition, women who are pregnant should avoid the herb since it may cause birth defects. Nursing mothers should also avoid it. Because of the herb's potential effect on blood sugar levels, diabetics should avoid using it unless under the supervision of a physician.
It may increase or decrease the effectiveness of certain drugs or herbs or cause dangerous interactions. Healthline advises not using jiaogulan if you take the following drugs or herbs:
- Cholesterol lowering drugs
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Aspirin or blood-thinning drugs such as warfarin or heparin
- Anti-platelet drugs
- Anti-inflammatory NSAIDS
- Red yeast rice
- Anti-inflammatory herbs (such as ginger or turmeric)
- Ginkgo biloba
- Saw palmetto
Where to Find
You can find gynostemma in natural health stores and online. It's available in tea (caffeine free), capsule, tablet or powder forms. The herb is marketed as gynostemma or jiaogulan, so be sure to look for both names. Here are some options to consider:
- The Immortalitea Organic Loose Jiaogulan Tea: This one ounce bag of high quality loose tea costs $10.77 plus shipping.
- Generation Tea Gynostemma Tea Bags: This box of 18 herbal tea bags costs $5.00 plus shipping.
- Dragon Herbs Gynostemma Capsules: Each capsule is vegetarian and contains 500 mg of organically grown gynostemma leaf extract. A bottle of 100 capsules costs $20.89 plus shipping.
- Primal Herb Gynostemma Leaf Extract: Vimergy offers a 4-ounce bag bag of gynostemma extract for about $40.00 plus shipping.
A Valuable Herbal Remedy
If you're searching for a natural way to improve your stamina and boost your immune system, consider giving gynostemma a try. It's not only highly valued among herbalists and holistic medicine practitioners, but conventional medicine research is proving it's an herb not to be ignored.
To avoid the risk of unwanted side effects or drug interactions, please consult your physician before using gynostemma.