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Gymnema sylvestre is a climbing, vine-like plant that has been used in India for centuries to treat diabetes. To put the ancient herbal medicine to the test, researchers conducted a two-part study. Part one involved testing the effects of a gymnema supplement on 11 people with pre-existing or newly diagnosed diabetes. Part two looked at gymnema’s effects of on human islet cells in a laboratory. Islet cells are found in the pancreas and are responsible for secreting insulin, the hormone that the body uses to move sugar from blood into cells for energy.
The average fasting blood sugar (glucose) levels in the group improved after 60 days of treatment with 500 mg of gymnema extract given twice daily, from 162 mg/dl to 119 mg/dl. Average post-meal glucose levels also improved.
The second part demonstrated how gymnema may improve blood sugar levels: When islet cells were exposed to Gymnema sylvestre they secreted higher levels of insulin than when the plant extract was not present.
Keep the following in mind when considering adding this herb to your diabetes-management program.
(Phytother Res 2010; 24:1370–6)
Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.