Health Benefits of Jiaogulan

Motherwort and Jiaogulan or Twisting-Vine Orchid, illustration from pre-Linnaean herbarium, 1600
Health benefits of jiaogulan. De Agostini / G. Cigolini / Getty Images

Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum) is an herb native to China. Also known as Southern ginseng, it's long been used in traditional Chinese medicine. Said to offer anti-aging benefits, jiaogulan is thought to aid in the treatment of many common health conditions.

Uses for Jiaogulan

In alternative medicine, jiaogulan is said to help with the following health problems:

Jiaogulan is also said to act as an adaptogen (a substance said to shield the body from the harmful effects of chronic stress), as well as enhance memory, improve sports performance, boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, preserve heart health, support detox, and promote weight loss.

Health Benefits of Jiaogulan

Here's a look at several study findings on the potential health benefits of jiaogulan:

1)  Diabetes

Several studies show that jiaogulan may help control diabetes. In a clinical trial published in Hormone and Metabolic Research in 2012, for instance, researchers assigned 24 diabetes patients to 12 weeks of treatment with either jiaogulan tea or a placebo tea. Results revealed that those given jiaogulan experienced a greater improvement in blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity by the study's end.

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 mice (published in the Journal of Medicinal Food) determined that jiaogulan may help regulate blood sugar by altering activity in certain liver enzymes.

2)  Obesity

Jiaogulan may have anti-obesity effects, according to a study published in the journal Obesity in 2013. For the study, 80 obese people were given either jiaogulan or a placebo for 12 weeks.

At the study's end, members of the jiaogulan group showed a significantly greater decrease in weight, abdominal fat, body fat mass, and body mass index (compared those given the placebo).

3)  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.

4)  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.

Caveats

Jiaogulan may cause a number of side effects, including nausea and an increase in bowel movements.

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 anti-platelet agents.

Due to jiaogulan's possible effects on blood clotting, it's also crucial to avoid use of this herb prior to undergoing surgery.

Since jiaogulan may lower insulin levels, individuals with diabetes should use caution when taking this herb.

Keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. While consumers face such risks when purchasing any dietary supplement, these risks may be of greater magnitude in the purchase of products containing a variety of herbs in varying doses.

Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get further tips on using supplements here.

Where to Find It

Jiaogulan is sold in many natural-foods stores and stores specializing in herbal products. You can also purchase jiaogulan online.

Using Jiaogulan for Health

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend jiaogulan as a treatment for any condition. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using it for any health purpose, make sure to consult your physician first.

Sources

Choi HS, Zhao TT, Shin KS, Kim SH, Hwang BY, Lee CK, Lee MK. "Anxiolytic effects of herbal ethanol extract from Gynostemma pentaphyllum in mice after exposure to chronic stress." Molecules. 2013 Apr 12;18(4):4342-56.

Circosta C, De Pasquale R, Occhiuto F. "Cardiovascular effects of the aqueous extract of Gynostemma pentaphyllum Makino." Phytomedicine. 2005 Sep;12(9):638-43.

Huang WC, Kuo ML, Li ML, Yang RC, Liou CJ, Shen JJ. "Gynostemma pentaphyllum decreases allergic reactions in a murine asthmatic model." Am J Chin Med. 2008;36(3):579-92.

Huyen VT, Phan DV, Thang P, Hoa NK, Ostenson CG. "Antidiabetic effect of Gynostemma pentaphyllum tea in randomly assigned type 2 diabetic patients." Horm Metab Res. 2010 May;42(5):353-7.

Megalli S, Davies NM, Roufogalis BD. "Anti-hyperlipidemic and hypoglycemic effects of Gynostemma pentaphyllum in the Zucker fatty rat." J Pharm Pharm Sci. 2006;9(3):281-91.

Park SH, Huh TL, Kim SY, Oh MR, Tirupathi Pichiah PB, Chae SW, Cha YS. "Antiobesity effect of Gynostemma pentaphyllum extract (actiponin): A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial." Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013 Jun 26.

Yeo J, Kang YJ, Jeon SM, Jung UJ, Lee MK, Song H, Choi MS. "Potential hypoglycemic effect of an ethanol extract of Gynostemma pentaphyllum in C57BL/KsJ-db/db mice." J Med Food. 2008 Dec;11(4):709-16.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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