Gymnema sylvestre is an herb from the milkweed family that contains chemical compounds that have been found dull both the ability of the taste buds to recognize the sweet taste and the intestinal tract from absorbing simple sugars. (1-3)
This activity is fitting, as the herb is also known as Shardunika or Gurmar – which literally means “sugar destroyer.”
While teaching herbal seminars in the past, I would have the students taste the herbs we would be learning about.
When we got to discussing Gymnema, I would have them taste it and then immediately give them a sweet, like a chocolate kiss, telling them it was to offset the bitter taste of the herb.
The 5-10 minutes following Gymnema touching their taste buds, they couldn’t taste anything sweet – the chocolate kiss would taste like cardboard!
They were always more than happy to spit out the sweet in the trash bucket I would pass around.
It would be a great practical joke on your favorite relative with a sweet tooth!
How Gymnema Supports Healthy Blood Sugar
Gymnema has two active constituents responsible for this effect: Gurmarin and Gymnemic acids. Both of these acids block the uptake of glucose from the intestinal tract into the bloodstream, and also block the ability for the taste buds to taste sweet.
Gymnema has been shown to support healthy blood sugar levels, pancreatic function and weight loss by:
- Increasing the secretion of insulin by stimulating cell membrane permeability. (5)
- Promoting the healthy function of the islet cells in the pancreas that manufacture insulin. (1)
- Stimulating enzyme activity that supports the natural utilization of glucose. (1)
- Inhibiting glucose or sugar from being absorbed through the intestinal wall. (1)
- Supporting healthy weight loss while on a high-fat diet. (4)
- Helping stop cravings by supporting healthy leptin (satiety hormone) levels. (4)
When glucose levels rise in the blood, in response, the pancreas secretes insulin to escort the glucose into the cells, muscles or brain for energy.
When Glucose Goes Wrong
Over time, if the cells become overwhelmed with glucose, they resist the insulin’s attempt to deliver sugar into the cells. This is called “Insulin Resistance.” The insulin responds to this by dumping the sugar into an alternative storage site as a fuel reserve – your fat cells. This is one way we gain weight!
The problem gets worse when the blood sugar levels remain elevated. The fat cells, which are now loaded down with excess glucose, can also resist the dumping of more glucose into the fat cells by the insulin.
These overwhelmed and oversaturated fat cells start producing a hormone called resistin (for “resistance to insulin”), which stops the insulin from storing any more sugar into the fat cells. While this will temporarily stop the weight gain, it can cause more serious blood sugar concerns down the road.
How Gymnema Supports Healthy Weight Loss
Gymnema, by supporting the natural and healthy production and release of insulin into the bloodstream, helps balance the amount of sugar circulating in the bloodstream while encouraging the body to burn fat as fuel.
If the body can’t recognize and absorb the sugar from the intestines, the body will being to break down fat (lipids) and use it as a better, more stable source of energy. (4)
Studies have shown that Gymnema can support healthy weight loss even while on a high-fat diet – suggesting that not only does Gymnema support healthy blood sugar levels, but it also motivates the body to be a more efficient fat burner – I call that an effective strategy for weight loss! (4)