Diabetes is Australia’s fastest growing chronic disease and it is an epidemic sweeping much of the world. Every week in Australia more than 1000 people are diagnosed with the condition that leads to heart disease, kidney failure and blindness. At present there is no cure for type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Nevertheless there are ways to improve the condition and to reduce your risk of developing it and research is showing that a herb called Gymnema may be able to help many people.
Diabetes is the seventh most common cause of death in Australia and 85-90 per cent of diabetes cases are type 2 (adult onset). The need for diabetes treatments is extreme. At the forefront of this treatment has to be changes in diet to reduce refined sugar and saturated fat consumption, reducing bodyweight, and increasing exercise. What a new study has confirmed however, is that the herb Gymnema sylvestre can be an important part of coping with the diabetes epidemic.
Gymnema is a stout, large, woody, climbing, vine-like plant that grows in central and southern India and is also native to tropical parts of Australia. It has been used to treat blood sugar problems in India for centuries and in the last few decades has been the subject of a lot of clinical trials, mostly in animals, showing that it does have powers in this regard. Some human trials have also shown promising results and now a new study lends support to the anti-diabetic properties of this plant.
The new study had two parts; the first involved giving an extract of Gymnema to patients with diabetes and the second part involved exposing human islet cells to Gymnema. Islet cells are the cells in the pancreas that are responsible for secreting insulin.
The results showed that after 60 days of taking 500mg of Gymnema extract twice a day the people with pre-existing diabetes experienced significant drops in fasting blood sugar levels and also had reduced blood sugar levels after meals.
The second part of the study showed that islet cells exposed to Gymnema secreted more insulin than when Gymnema was not present.
The other fascinating thing about extracts of Gymnema that was not part of this study but relates to diabetes, is that they have the power to numb or anaesthetise your sweet taste buds. Holding one or two millilitres of a liquid extract of Gymnema on your tongue for a minute before rinsing off will so deaden your sweet taste buds that a piece of chocolate will taste like cardboard. While this may seem like an insane endeavour to chocoholics it is an interesting pointer to the many-levelled relevance of Gymnema for dealing with diabetes.