Nature has its own ways of balancing. While India is topping the charts, housing the maximum number of diabetics in the world, it can also boast of having myriad natural solutions and antidotes to fight blood sugar levels.
One of the lesser-known ones is Gymnema Sylvestre, commonly known as ‘Gurmar’ or Madhunashini. ‘Gurmar’ has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries and was first used to treat diabetes almost 2,000 years ago.
The word Gymnema is derived from the Hindi word ‘Gurmar’, which means ‘’destroyer of sugar’’. This tropical and woody vine-like climbing plant is native to India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Africa and Australia. The medicinally active parts of the plant are its leaves and roots. Its healing and health-promoting properties have been used for centuries in Ayurvedic and herbal medicinal preparations.
The leading active compounds in Gymnema are gymnemic acids and gurmarin found in its leaves. They possess anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory activities. It is known to have antimicrobial, cholesterol-lowering, liver-protective, laxative, anti-cancer and diuretic effects. Its benefits have also been documented in Ayurvedic texts for asthma, dental caries, stomach ailments, constipation, hemorrhoids and water retention.
A recent study in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine evaluated the effect of Gymnema Sylvestre on the blood sugar and cholesterol levels of 32 human subjects with type-2 diabetes mellitus. It was seen that daily administration of it for about six months significantly reduced their blood sugar levels and glycosylated hemoglobin levels. Several studies have confirmed Gymnema’s traditionally-known actions and therapeutic uses including its remarkable anti-diabetic benefits for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Interestingly, it has been reported to help curb sweet cravings. Gymnema is available in various anti-diabetic herbal preparations. It can also be consumed as a simple herbal tea, or a liquid or as a capsule, though its preparation in the form of fresh tea leaves may be most effective.
It is best to seek professional help from an experienced practitioner of Ayurveda to incorporate Gurmar as a therapeutic agent, but do inform your medical practitioner. It is not recommended during pregnancy, lactation and should not be given to infants and those with low blood pressure and low blood sugar levels.
Author is a clinical nutritionist and founder of http://www.theweightmonitor.com and Whole Foods India