Native to the forests of India, Gymnema sylvestre (also called gumar) has a coincidental double relationship to sugar: When placed on the tongue, it blocks the sensation of sweetness, and when taken internally, it might help control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. (There doesn’t seem to be any connection between these two uses.)
What Is Gymnema Used for Today?
Gymnema has become increasingly popular in the United States as a supportive treatment for diabetes. However, the evidence that it works remains weak. Only double-blind, placebo-controlled
This herb is advocated as a support to standard treatment, not as a replacement for it. Gymnema definitely cannot be used as a substitute for insulin treatment, and has not been proven strong enough for use in lieu of oral diabetes medications. However, there are also potential risks involved in adding gymnema to an existing treatment regimen. See
Gymnema is usually taken at a dosage of 400 to 600 mg daily of an extract standardized to contain 24% gymnemic acid.
When used in appropriate dosages, gymnema appears to be fairly safe, although extensive studies have not been performed. One obvious risk is that if gymnema is successful, it may lower blood sugar levels too far, causing a dangerous hypoglycemic reaction. For this reason, medical supervision is essential.
Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe kidney or liver disease has not been established.
2. Shanmugasundaram ER, Rajeswari G, Baskaran K, et al. Use of Gymnema sylvestre leaf extract in the control of blood glucose in insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. J Ethnopharmacol . 1990;30:281–294.
3. Baskaran K, Kizar Ahamath B, Radha Shanmugasundaram K, et al. Antidiabetic effect of a leaf extract from Gymnema sylvestre in non-insulin–dependent diabetes mellitus patients. J Ethnopharmacol . 1990;30:295–300.
4. Joffe DJ, Freed SH. Effect of extended release Gymnema sylvestre leaf extract alone or in combination with oral hypoglycemics or insulin regimens for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Control Newsl. 2001;76(1):1-4.
7. Shanmugasundaram ER, Gopinath KL, Radha Shanmugasundaram K, et al. Possible regeneration of the islets of Langerhans in streptozotocin-diabetic rats given Gymnema sylvestre leaf extracts. J Ethnopharmacol. 1990;30:265-279.
Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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