The Health Benefits of Gymnema Sylvestre

Herbal Remedy May Reduce Sugar Cravings and Improve Glucose Control

Gymnema Sylvestre dried herb, capsules, and powder

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Gymnema sylvestre is a plant used in Ayurveda, an ages-old form of holistic medicine practiced in India. The plant is a perennial vine found in tropical regions of India, as well as Africa and Australia. The plant is also known as Australian cowplant and periploca of the woods.

The Hindi term for G. sylvestre is gurmar, which is translated as "sugar destroyer." This is because gymnema leaves contain a compound called gymnemic acid that suppresses the taste of sugar. The suppression of sugar taste is thought to be useful in treating diabetes.

Gymnema sylvestre is also thought to block sugar and fat absorption in the body, the effect of which may be useful in treating obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

Benefits of Gymnema Sylvestre
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The article looks at the possible benefits of Gymnema sylvestre, including how the herbal remedy is thought to work. It also explains how G. sylvestre is prepared and prescribed, as well as the possible risks and contraindications.

Health Benefits

Gymnema sylvestre is said to lower sugar cravings while reducing the rate at which sugar and fat are absorbed into the body. This two-fold action may help treat obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

The active compound in G. sylvestre is gymnemic acid. The compound selectively suppresses sweet tastes without affecting the perception of other tastes. Studies have shown that this can reduce cravings for high-sugar foods. Although these effects occur rapidly, usually within 30 seconds, they only last for around one hour.

Diabetes is a common disorder caused by the body’s inability to utilize or produce insulin properly. G. sylvestre is thought to increase insulin production by improving cell growth in the pancreas where insulin is produced.

Gymnema sylvestre is also thought to lower the amount of sugar that gets absorbed in the intestines. This may further help improve blood sugar levels in people with diabetes or prediabetes.

G. sylvestre may also block the absorption of lipids (fats), thereby lowering "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels in the blood.

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What Studies Say

There is only limited research studying the benefits of Gymnema sylvestre. Of those that are available, most are small and of variable quality.

A 2017 study from Oregon concluded that 34 adults given a lozenge containing gymnemic acid ate 44% fewer sweets than 33 adults who took a placebo, or sham treatment. By contrast, those who were given the placebo were 430% more likely to eat candy afterward.  

In a small study conducted in India in 2010, participants with type 2 diabetes were given 500 milligrams (mg) of G. sylvestre a day for three months. The researchers reported that doing so: 

  • Reduced symptoms of diabetes, including fatigue and thirst
  • Reduced blood glucose (sugar) levels, including fasting glucose levels and glucose levels after meals
  • Improved lipid levels

A 2014 review of studies suggested that taking 200 to 400 mg of gymnemic acid per day may reduce the absorption of glucose in the intestines.

A 2004 study involving 60 moderately-obese people showed that taking a daily G. sylvestre extract decreased "bad" LDL cholesterol by over 20% and increased "good " HDL cholesterol by 22%. Moreover, participants lost between 5% and 6% of their body weight.

Recap

Gymnema sylvestre contains gymnemic acid, which suppresses the taste of sugar and reduces sugar cravings. The herb is also thought to block the absorption of glucose and fat in the intestines, aiding in the treatment of obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol. The evidence supporting these claims is limited.

Possible Side Effects

While Gymnema sylvestre is generally considered safe for use, there are risks associated with this popular herbal supplement.

Common Side Effects

Certain side effects can occur as a direct result of G. sylvestre’s sugar-lowering effects. These include symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) such as:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Shakiness
  • Nausea

Contraindications

Although G. sylvestre is generally considered safe, there are situations in which the supplement should be avoided due to the lack of safety research.

This includes the use of G. sylvestre:

  • During pregnancy or breastfeeding
  • In children and infants
  • In people with diabetes (unless supervised by a doctor)
  • Before surgery (discontinue use at least two weeks beforehand)

People with milkweed allergies should also avoid G. sylvestre, as the plant's components may similarly trigger a reaction.

Higher doses of the herb have been known to cause liver toxicity. Because there is no clear line between "safe" and "unsafe" doses, it is best to err on the side of caution and avoid G. sylvestre if you have liver problems.

Drug Interactions

Gymnema sylvestre should not be taken with diabetes medications like insulin, Amaryl (glimepiride), Diabinese (chlorpropamide), Glucotrol (glipizide), Orinase (tolbutamide), Micronase (glyburide), and others. Doing so may lead to a potentially severe hypoglycemic event.

Recap

Gymnema sylvestre should be avoided in children, in pregnant or breastfeeding people, and before surgery due to the lack of safety research. The supplement may cause hypoglycemia in some people and should not be used in people with diabetes unless under the supervision of a doctor.

Gymnema Sylvestre dried herb

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Dosage and Preparation

As with other herbal supplements, the proper dose of Gymnema sylvestre depends on different factors. These include age, general health, medical conditions, and more.

A safe and effective dose of Gymnema sylvestre has not been established. Always follow the directions of the prescribing doctor or the instructions on the product label.

Preparation

Traditionally, Gymnema sylvestre has been used as a tea or by chewing the leaves of the plant. It is also available in extract, powder, tablet, or capsule form.

G. sylvestre tea is commonly used to control appetite, specifically for the treatment of obesity.

Tablets and capsules are best able to ensure an accurate dose and avoid overdosing.

Dosage

Gymnema sylvestre is possibly safe when taken as directed. Some recommendations include:

  • Tea: Boil the dried leaves for five minutes and allow to steep for 15 minutes.
  • Powder: Starting by taking 2 grams (2,000 mg), gradually increasing to 4 grams (4,000 mg) as tolerated.
  • Capsules or tablets: Take 100 mg three to four times daily.
  • For sugar-blocking effects: Take Gymnema sylvestre supplements up five to 10 minutes before eating high-sugar foods.

High doses of G. sylvestre can cause liver toxicity, and there has been one report of drug-induced hepatitis in an adult with diabetes.

What to Look For

Although Gymnema sylvestre is considered safe when taken in the proper dose, it’s important to note that herbal supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that you must be cautious when selecting an herbal product of any sort. 

To ensure purity, opt for supplements that have been independently certified by third-party authorities like U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab, or NSF International.

Recap

Gymnema sylvestre is available in tea, extract, powder, capsule, and tablet forms. There is no recommended dose. To ensure purity, buy supplements that have been certified by a third-party authority.

Summary

Gymnema sylvestre is a herb that some people claim can help treat obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol. It contains a compound called gymnemic acid that suppresses the taste of sugar and may help reduce sugar cravings.

G. sylvestre is also believed to block the absorption of sugar and fats in the intestines while increasing insulin production in the pancreas. The research supporting these claims is limited.

G. sylvestre is generally considered safe for use, but may cause symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in some people. There is no recommended dose of G. sylvestre. Speak to your healthcare provider before using this supplement in any of its forms.

A Word From Verywell

Although early research shows a lot of promise regarding the effectiveness of Gymnema sylvestre in reducing blood sugar and cholesterols, more research is needed to definitively prove its safety and effectiveness.

As such, don't be swayed by manufacturer claims that may or may not be true. Instead, talk with your doctor if only to ensure the supplement won't cause any harm.

Know, though, that the American Diabetes Association notes that there is no clear evidence of benefit from any herbal or nonherbal supplementation for people with diabetes who have no underlying deficiencies.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take for Gymnema sylvestre to stop sugar cravings?

    One of the benefits of Gymnema sylvestre is that it works very quickly. Some studies have suggested that it takes around 30 seconds for the supplement to start reducing sugar cravings.

  • How long does the sugar blocking effect of Gymnema sylvestre last?

    The sugar blocking effect of Gymnema sylvestre is estimated to last around one hour from the time the supplement is taken.

  • What does Gymnema sylvestre tea taste like?

    Gymnema sylvestre tea is said to be slightly bitter with an intense, earthy flavor. You can sweeten it, but that may undermine its benefits. 

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7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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