The Health Benefits of Jiaogulan

Studies have looked at its use for obesity, diabetes, and other health concerns

Jiaogulan tea, capsules, and powder

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

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Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum) is a climbing vine native to China that is believed to have healing properties. Used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and sold in tea, powder, and capsule form, the herb is said to offer anti-aging benefits and aid many common health conditions, including diabetes, high cholesterol, and anxiety.

Also known as Southern ginseng, jiaogulan contains the beneficial compound gypenoside, a saponin similar to one found in Panax ginseng. It also contains sterols, flavonoids, and chlorophyll, which may help preserve heart health, reduce inflammation, and even promote weight loss.

In addition, jiaogulan is an adaptogenic herb that helps the body adapt to stress and may enhance memory, improve sports performance, and boost the immune system.

Health Benefits 

Despite these applications in TCM, research to support these uses for jiaogulan is still in the preliminary stages. What does exist is limited to laboratory studies and small clinical trials, many of which were done on animals.

While results of studies on jiaogulan show the herb may have some promise, it is too soon to recommend it as a treatment for any health condition. More research, particularly on humans, is needed.

Diabetes

Several studies suggest jiaogulan may help control diabetes. While much of the research has been limited to animal studies, a small clinical trial published in Hormone and Metabolic Research in 2010 found the herb may significantly reduce blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Researchers assigned 24 diabetes patients to receive either 6 grams of jiaogulan tea or a ​placebo daily. After 12 weeks of treatment, subjects in the jiaogulan group showed greater improvement in blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity than the control group. On average, the treated group saw a 54 milligram per deciliter reduction in fasting blood glucose readings and a 2-percentage-point drop in A1C levels.

Earlier research on jiaogulan and diabetes includes an animal-based study published in the Journal of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences in 2006. This study tested the herb's effects on diabetic rats and found that it helped reduce blood sugar levels and lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol.

In addition, a 2008 study in mice published in the Journal of Medicinal Food determined that jiaogulan may help regulate blood sugar by altering activity in certain liver enzymes.

While jiaogulan shows potential for treating type 2 diabetes, more research is needed before it can be recommended.

Obesity

Jiaogulan may have anti-obesity effects, according to a study published in the journal Obesity in 2013.

Using a jiaogulan extract known as actiponin, researchers assigned 80 obese patients to receive either 450 milligrams of actiponin or a placebo daily for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, the jiaogulan group showed a significantly greater decrease in weight, abdominal fat, body fat mass, and body mass index compared to the placebo group.

A 2011 study in rats investigated the use of a combination of the Chinese herbs jiaogulan, coptis, and red sage in the treatment of metabolic syndrome, a combination of symptoms and cardiac risk factors that result from obesity-related insulin resistance. Researchers found the herbs worked synergistically to provide several significant therapeutic benefits, including fat loss, lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and improved glucose tolerance.

Stress

Jiaogulan is one of many adaptogenic herbs said to relieve stress.

An animal-based study published in the journal Molecules in 2013 suggests jiaogulan may help protect against stress-related anxiety disorders. In tests on mice, the study's authors observed that jiaogulan helped inhibit stress-induced anxiety, possibly by influencing activity in certain brain cells involved in regulating mood.

Asthma

Jiaogulan may fight asthma, suggests an animal-based study published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine in 2008. The study's authors looked at jiaogulan's effects on mice, finding that the herb helped reduce the airway inflammation associated with asthma.

Possible Side Effects

Jiaogulan is generally regarded as safe, though it may cause side effects, including nausea and an increase in bowel movements.

There are, however, some notable concerns for certain individuals:

  • Jiaogulan may have an impact on the immune system. People with anti-immune diseases such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis should avoid using the herb until more research is done.
  • Jiaogulan may inhibit blood clotting and, therefore, cause harm to people with blood conditions, those taking anticoagulants or antiplatelet agents, and those who plan to undergo surgery.
  • People with diabetes who are taking insulin or other blood-sugar-lowering medications should use jiaogulan with caution, as it may lead to hypoglycemic episodes.
  • The safety of jiaogulan in pregnant or nursing women has not been established, and it should not be used by women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.

Speak to your doctor before taking jiaogulan, and be sure that you mention any other medications, supplements, and herbs you are taking.

Jiaogulan tea

 Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Selection, Preparation, and Storage

Jiaogulan teas, powders, and capsules are sold in many natural-foods stores, shops specializing in herbal products and Chinese medicine, and online. It is available as a standalone product and in herbal formulations.

Jiaogulan tea is caffeine-free and, with its slightly bittersweet flavor, tastes similar to a mild green tea. It can be blended with other teas, such as jasmine, or enjoyed on its own. Steep jiaogulan in hot water; many recommend doing so for at least 10 minutes.

There is no standard dosage for jiaogulan, although alternative health practitioners typically recommend two to four cups a day.

Dietary supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To ensure you are purchasing a quality jiaogulan product, look for an independent, third-party seal on the label from an organization that provides quality testing, such as U.S. Pharmacopeia, NSF International, or ConsumerLab. This does not guarantee efficacy, but it can give you confidence that what's on the label is actually what's in the product.

Store jiaogulan in a cool, dark, and dry location.

A Word From Verywell

It is too soon to recommend jiaogulan for the treatment or prevention of any health condition. If you are thinking about trying it, talk to your doctor or alternative medicine practitioner. While herbal remedies are available without a prescription, it is best to discuss all supplements you use with your healthcare practitioner or pharmacist.

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