The Health Benefits of Jiaogulan

Jiaogulans in a gold spoon

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Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum) is a climbing vine native to China believed to have healing properties. Used in traditional Chinese medicine, 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 that 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 

Research into the health benefits of jiaogulan is limited to small clinical trials and laboratory studies. While the research shows promise, it is too soon to recommend jiaogulan as a treatment for any health condition.

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 mg/dL (3 mmol/L) reduction in fasting blood glucose readings and a 2-percentage-point drop in A1c levels.

Previous research on jiaogulan and diabetes includes an animal-based study published in the Journal of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences in 2006, which 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 on mine 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 mg 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 on 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 indicates that 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.

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.

There's also some concern that jiaogulan may inhibit blood clotting, and therefore cause harm to people with blood conditions and/or those taking anticoagulants or antiplatelet agents. Due to jiaogulan's possible effects on blood clotting, it's also crucial to avoid the use of this herb prior to undergoing surgery.

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.

Also, the safety of jiaogulan in pregnant or nursing women has not been established and it should not be used.

Selection, Preparation & Storage

Jiaogulan is sold in tea, powder, and capsule form and available in many natural-foods stores, stores specializing in herbal products or Chinese medicine, and online. It is available as a stand-alone or in herbal formulations.

As a tea, jiaogulan is caffeine-free and tastes similar to a mild green tea with a slightly bittersweet flavor. It can be blended with other teas, such as jasmine, or enjoyed on its own.

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 & Drug Administration. To ensure you are purchasing a quality jiaogulan look for a trusted independent, third-party seal on the label, such as U.S. Pharmacopeia, NSF International, or ConsumerLab.

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, its best to discuss all supplements you use with your healthcare practitioner or pharmacist.

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