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Gymnema sylvestre R.Br. is a herb native to the tropical forests of southern and central India where it has been used as a naturopathic treatment for diabetes for nearly two millennia.
Description Large climbers, rooting at nodes, leaves elliptic, acuminate, base acute to acuminate, glabrous above sparsely or densely tomentose beneath; Flowers small, in axillary and lateral umbel like cymes, pedicels long; Calyx-lobes long, ovate, obtuse, pubescent; Corolla pale yellow campanulate, valvate, corona single, with 5 fleshy scales. Scales adnate to throat of corolla tube between lobes; Anther connective produced into a membranous tip, pollinia 2, erect, carpels 2,unilocular; locules many ovuled; Follicle long, fusiform1
Chemical composition The major bioactive constituents of Gymnema sylvestris are a group of oleanane type triterpenoid saponins known as gymnemic acids. The latter contain several acylated (tigloyl, methylbutyroyl etc.,) derivatives of deacylgymnemic acid (DAGA) which is 3-O-glucuronide of gymnemagenin (3, 16, 21, 22, 23, 28-hexahydroxy-olean-12-ene)2. The individual gymnemic acids (saponins) include gymnemic acids I-VII, gymnemosides A-F, gymnemasaponins
Use as herbal medicine While it is still being studied, and the effects of the herb are not entirely known, the herb has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels when used for an extended period of time. Additionally, Gymnema reduces the taste of sugar when it is placed in the mouth, thus some use it to fight sugar cravings. From extract of the leaves were isolated glycosides known as Gymnemic acids, which exhibit anti-sweet activity.AD kinghorn and CM Compadre. Less common high-potency sweeteners. In Alernative Sweeteners: Second Edition, Revised and Expanded, L O'Brien Nabors,Ed., New York, 1991. ISBN 0-8247-8475-8This effect, however, is short-lived, lasting a mere fifteen minutes. Some postulate that the herb actually reduces cravings for sugar by blocking sugar receptors in the tongue, but no scientific studies have supported this hypothesis. It is currently being used in an all natural medication for diabetes with other ingredients such as cinnamon, chromium, zinc, biotin, banaba, huckleberry and bitter melon.The active ingredient is thought to be gurmenic acid which has structure similar to saccharose. Extracts of Gymnema is not only claimed to curb sweet tooths but also for treatment of as varied problems as hyperglycemia, obesity, high cholesterol levels, anemia and digestion. According to the Sushruta of the Ayurveda it is helps to treat Madhumeha ie glycosuria.In 2005, a study made by King’s College, London, United Kingdom, showed that a water-soluble extract of Gymnema Sylvestre, caused reversible increases in intracellular calcium and insulin secretion in mouse and human β-cells when used at a concentration (0.125 mg/ml) without compromising cell viability. Hence forth these data suggest that extracts derived from Gymnema Sylvestre may be useful as therapeutic agents for the stimulation of insulin secretion in individuals with T2DM.H Asare-Anane, GC Huang, SA Amiel, PM Jones & SJ Persaud (2005) Poster Presentations - Stimulation of insulin secretion by an aqueous extract of Gymnema sylvestre: role of intracellular calcium. Endocrine Abstracts, Volume 10 DP1.
Alternative names The plants also goes under many other names such as; Gurmari, Gurmarbooti, Gurmar, periploca of the woods and Meshasringa. The Hindi word Gur-mar (Madhunaashini in Sanskrit, Chakkarakolli in Tamil), literally means sugar destroyer. Meshasringa (Sanskrit) translates as "ram's horn", a name given to the plant from the shape of its fruits. Gymnema probably derives from the Latin word meaning naked and sylvestre means from the forest.
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