What Is Jiaogulan?

Studies have looked at its use for body composition, diabetes, and more

Jiaogulan tea, capsules, and powder

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum) is a climbing vine found in China and other Asian nations and used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for its healing properties.

Also known as fairy herb and southern ginseng, jiaogulan contains compounds called saponins that are thought to be responsible for most of its clinical effects. Jiaogulan is sold as an herbal supplement for health conditions that include diabetes, high cholesterol, and anxiety.

This article looks at some of the herb's possible health benefits, the science supporting these claims, and side effects and precautions to be aware of.

Unlike drugs, dietary supplements are not regulated in the United States, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. Choose a supplement tested by a trusted third party, such as USP, ConsumerLab, or NSF, when possible.

However, even if supplements are third-party tested, it doesn't mean they are necessarily safe for all or effective in general. Therefore, talking to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and checking in about potential interactions with other supplements or medications is important.

Supplement Facts

  • Active ingredients: Gypenoside saponins, polysaccharides, flavonoids, amino acids, and phytosterols
  • Alternate names: Gynostemma pentaphyllum, bellflower, fairy herb, gospel herb, miracle grass, sweet tea vine, poor man's ginseng, southern ginseng
  • Legal status: Over-the-counter (OTC) supplement in the United States
  • Suggested dose: 225 milligrams twice a day
  • Safety considerations: Not recommended in pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Uses of Jiaogulan 

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or healthcare provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.

Much evidence supporting jiaogulan is limited to lab studies in mice and other animals and small clinical trials.

The most notable human research for jiaogulan is on diabetes, obesity, and stress.


Jiaogulin has theoretical diabetic effects, but there are few clinical trials.

In one small study, 16 people newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes were given either 6 grams per day of jiaogulan tea or green tea for four weeks. The jiaogulan was found to improve the body's response to insulin.

In another small study, 25 people with type 2 diabetes were given a blood sugar–lowering medicine for four weeks and then randomly assigned to either 6 grams (g) a day of jiaogulan tea or a green tea placebo for eight additional weeks. The group that received the jiaogulan tea in addition to the standard diabetes medication achieved better blood sugar control, demonstrated by decreased hemoglobin A1C and fasting plasma glucose levels.

While jiaogulan shows potential for type 2 diabetes, more human research and more extensive trials are needed before it can be recommended.

Body Composition

Jiaogulan may have body composition effects, according to a study. Researchers gave either 450 milligrams (mg) of a commercial jiaogulan extract called ActivAMP or a placebo treatment daily to 117 people assigned male or female at birth who were overweight.

At the end of 16 weeks, the jiaogulan group showed a significant reduction in total body weight, body mass index (BMI), and total fat mass compared to the placebo group. And interestingly, differences were observed between people assigned male or female at birth. People assigned male at birth who took jiaogulan had significant decreases in visceral fat, which develops around internal organs inside the abdomen, while people assigned female at birth had reductions in gynoid fat, which forms around the hips, thighs, and breasts.

The scientists say their work supports earlier studies that found body composition changes for people taking the herb. Still, more research is needed before jiaogulan can be routinely recommended.


Jiaogulan is one of many medicinal herbs thought to relieve stress.

A study in South Korea looked at 72 people with a history of chronic stress and anxiety. Half of them were given an extract from jiaogulan leaves, while the others received a placebo. They continued taking the supplement for eight weeks while routinely assessed for stress.

The authors found lower self-reported stress levels in the jiaogulan group but no differences in the levels of stress hormones like norepinephrine and cortisol between people taking jiaogulan and those taking a placebo. While researchers concluded that jiaogulan might be helpful in people prone to anxiety at baseline, additional studies are needed to explore its effects further.

Additional Uses

In addition to the potential health benefits listed above, preliminary studies in a test tube or animal models have looked at jiaogulan for the following conditions:

Jiaogulan is not recommended for these purposes due to a lack of solid human data. Robust clinical trials are certainly needed to prove it's effective in humans for any of these conditions.

What Are the Side Effects of Jiaogulan?

Your provider may recommend jiaogulan for diabetes or anxiety or for another condition. However, consuming an herb like jiaogulan may have potential side effects. These side effects may be common or severe.

Common Side Effects

Jiaogulan is generally thought of as safe, though it may cause side effects such as the following:

Severe Side Effects

There are no reports of severe side effects from jiaogulan, although human safety data is sparse.


The following precautions should be kept in mind when using jiaogulan:

  • Severe allergic reaction: Avoid using jiaogulan if you have a known allergy to it or its ingredients. Ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider for a complete list of the ingredients if you're unsure.
  • Diabetes: Despite any benefits for diabetes, those taking insulin or other drugs to regulate your blood sugar should use jiaogulan cautiously. It may lead to low blood sugar levels.
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding: The herb's safety in pregnancy or nursing is not proven. It should not be used by people planning to become pregnant as one of its components, ginsenoside, has been found to cause fetal abnormalities in rats.

Dosage: How Much Jiaogulan Should I Take?

Always speak with a healthcare provider before taking a supplement to ensure that the supplement and dosage are appropriate for your individual needs and that it will not interact with other medications you take.

Jiaogulan has been studied in clinical trials at doses of 450 mg daily for up to 16 weeks for obesity. It's also been researched for chronic stress at 400 mg daily for eight weeks. Typically in clinical trials, the daily dose was divided into a morning and evening dose.

What Happens If I Take Too Much Jiaogulan?

Toxicity has not been reported in clinical trials to date. Doses of up to 800 mg a day for two months have been shown to be safe in a human trial. Still, it's essential to monitor for side effects and follow the directions suggested by your healthcare provider because there's no long-term data about jiaogulan's effects in humans.


Components in jiaogulan called gypenosides have been shown to inhibit an enzyme in the liver known as cytochrome P450 2D6 (CYP2D6). CYP2D6 is responsible for metabolizing (breaking down) some medications. Taking jiaogulan may cause medicines broken down by CYP2D6 enzymes to build up in the body and possibly cause toxicity. Some examples of these medicines include:

If you take any of these prescription medications, discuss the use of jiaogulan with your healthcare provider before starting it to minimize the risk of side effects.

Because jiaogulan may lower blood sugar, it should be used cautiously with insulin and other medicines to regulate blood sugar to minimize the risk of hypoglycemia (too-low blood sugar).A few examples of medicines commonly used for diabetes include:

It is essential to carefully read a supplement's ingredients list and nutrition facts panel to learn which ingredients are in the product and how much of each ingredient is included. Please review this supplement label with your healthcare provider to discuss potential interactions with foods, other supplements, and medications.

How to Store Jiaogulan

Store jiaogulan in a cool, dark, and dry location. Keep away from children and animals. Discard after one year or as directed by the manufacturer.

Similar Supplements

Other herbal products sometimes used for diabetes or its complications include:

Some other supplements that could play a role in lowering the body's stress response are:

Other herbal supplements traditionally used for their anti-aging effects include:

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What sort of changes in body composition can I expect with jiaogulan?

    Body composition changes with jiaogulan were modest. In a 16-week trial, people taking jiaogulan lost less than 2 pounds (1 kilogram).

  • Is jiaogulan safe to take long-term?

    We don't know. Clinical trials have studied the effects of the herbal extract for up to four months. More research is needed to determine long-term safety.

  • Is jiaogulan a true ginseng?

    Ginseng is a generic name for plant species in the genus Panax. Some forms of ginseng that have been used medicinally include Panax quinquefolius (American ginseng), Panax ginseng (Chinese/Korean ginseng), and Panax japonicus (Japanese ginseng). Jiaogulan is not a true ginseng because it is not in the Panax genus but contains many of the same active components, called saponins, found in ginseng.

Sources of Jiaogulan & What to Look For

Jiaogulan can be ingested directly or as an additive in some United States food products. It is also available as a dietary supplement in many different dosage forms.

Food Sources of Jiaogulan

Jiaogulan has a somewhat bitter taste and may be eaten as a vegetable. It's also found in various food and drink products in the United States, including sports drinks, beer, breads, and pasta.

Jiaogulan Supplements

Jiaogulan teas, powders, tablets, capsules, and liquids are sold in many natural foods stores. They also are available online and at specialty shops that sell herbal or traditional medicine products.

The FDA does not regulate dietary supplements. Look for an independent, third-party seal on the label to ensure you purchase a quality product. It should come from an organization that provides quality testing, such as NSF, USP, or ConsumerLab. This does not guarantee safety, but it can give you confidence that what's on the label is actually what's in the product.


Jiaogulan has historically been used medicinally for a range of health issues. Diabetes, obesity, and stress are a few that have some supporting, though limited, human research. Many more potential health impacts are under study.

For now, the herb is considered generally safe to use, but some people—such as those who are pregnant or nursing—need to do so with caution or avoid it altogether. It's always a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider before adding a supplement to your diet.

19 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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Additional Reading

By Megan Nunn, PharmD
Megan Nunn, PharmD, is a community pharmacist in Tennessee with over twelve years of experience in medication counseling and immunization.

Originally written by Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong

Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.

Learn about our editorial process