We have had numerous requests
for safe and clinically proven nutritional treatments for diabetes.
Understandably, the scientific evidence that vanadium is toxic at levels that
improved signs of diabetes in animals, as well as the fact that it has never
been tested in humans, left many people feeling dismayed that vanadium has and
is being purported as a effective nutritional therapy for diabetes. After
searching the scientific literature for nutritional treatments that are backed
by human studies showing both safety and effectiveness, we were astounded by a
number of extremely promising studies in diabetic animals, as well as insulin
dependent and non-insulin dependent human diabetics, that utilized the herb Gymnema
What is Gymnema Sylvestre?
Gymnema sylvestre (family Asclepiadaceae) is a woody climber that grows in
tropical forests of the central and southern parts of India. In India, it has
been used as a treatment for diabetes mellitus since ancient times. The first
scientific confirmation of this traditional use in human diabetics came almost
70 years ago when it was demonstrated that the leaves of GS reduced urine
glucose in diabetics.(1) Four years later it was shown that GS had a blood
glucose lowering effect when there was residual pancreatic function, but was
without effect in animals lacking pancreatic function, suggesting a direct
effect on the pancreas.(2)
Despite the promise of these
initial results, scientific inquiry into the effect of GS on diabetics was not
seriously resumed until 1981 when it was again demonstrated that oral
administration of the dried leaves of GS brings down blood glucose and raises
serum insulin levels, recorded during an oral glucose tolerance test in
diabetic animals and healthy human volunteers.(3) This 1981 investigation also
showed lower blood glucose and increased serum insulin levels in a single case
of maturity onset diabetes. Because a number of already approved
pharmaceuticals have similar effects in Type 2 (non-insulin dependent)
diabetics by increasing the insulin output of the remaining beta cells in the
pancreas, interest in GS remained almost nonexistent. Unfortunately, these
drugs do nothing to prevent the continued deterioration of pancreatic function
or the abnormalities in blood chemistry, and usually require increasing
dosages to control blood glucose levels. Again in 1988, research was published
that documented the positive effect of GS on glucose homeostasis in diabetic
animals.(4) However, this study went further by showing a normalization of
glycosylated hemoglobin and glycosylated plasma proteins, two indicators of
long term glucose control. Additionally, this study utilized a Gymnema
sylvestre extract (GSE), rather than the whole leaves, in order to concentrate
the active agents in Gymnema sylvestre (GS).
Evidence of a Miracle
In 1990 a series of published studies on GSE lifted this herb from interesting
to revolutionary. To begin with, it was shown that the administration of GSE
to diabetic animals not only resulted in improved glucose homeostasis, this
improvement was accompanied by a regeneration of beta cells in the
pancreas.(5) In the words of the authors, "This herbal therapy appears to
bring about blood glucose homeostasis through increased serum insulin levels
provided by repair/regeneration of the endocrine pancreas." To my
knowledge, this is the only compound that has shown the ability to lessen
indicators of diabetes by directly repairing/regenerating the pancreas cells
responsible for producing insulin. As abnormalities in beta cell number and/or
function are directly related to both Type I (insulin dependent) and Type II
diabetes mellitus, it appeared that GS and GSE was a major discovery in the
battle against one of the most common disorders in the world. Also in 1990,
this same research team published results on their treatment of both Type I
and Type II diabetics with GSE over a period of more than 2 years. In the case
of Type II diabetics, GSE resulted in significant reductions in blood glucose,
glycosylated hemoglobin, glycosylated plasma proteins, and conventional drug
dosage.(6) At the beginning of the study all participants were taking oral
antidiabetic medication, and treatment with GSE resulted not only in a
lowering of oral medication necessity, but almost 25% of the participants were
able to discontinue conventional oral medication and maintain blood glucose
homeostasis with GSE alone. Additionally, GSE significantly improved
cholesterol, triglyceride, and free fatty acid levels that were elevated in
the study participants. The fact that GSE lowered conventional medication
requirements, increased serum insulin levels, and required months to obtain
optimal effects, led the authors to speculate that, "These data suggest
that the beta cells may be regenerated/repaired in Type 2 diabetic patients on
GSE supplementation." The control group used in this study not only
didn't improve during the study period, they actually worsened. An additional
study in Type 1 diabetics showed equally impressive results.(7) Insulin
requirements came down together with blood glucose, glycosylated hemoglobin
and glycosylated plasma protein levels. Serum lipids returned to near normal
levels with GSE therapy. This may help prevent cardiovascular disease, a
common complication in diabetics. Most impressively, an increase in C-peptide
levels was found in these participants. This is strong indication of a
restoration of insulin production, presumably due to regeneration/repair of
beta cells in the pancreas. A control group showed none of these improvements,
and actually worsened over the study period. Importantly, none of the
participants in either of these studies presented any adverse side effects,
although many patients developed hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) and required
a lowering of their dose of conventional oral medication or insulin. Thus, any
diabetic that uses GSE must carefully monitor blood glucose levels and adjust
their medication, in consultation with their physician, to maintain desired
blood glucose levels. This is because improved insulin production and release
during GSE supplementation may result in over-medication, and thus low blood
glucose levels, unless the dosage of conventional oral medication or insulin
is lowered. Since most diabetics monitor their blood glucose levels on a daily
basis, this shouldn't present a problem.
Because diabetes usually isn't
recognized until significant damage has occurred to the pancreas cells
responsible for producing insulin, GSE may be of use to anyone concerned about
preventing the development of diabetes, as well as elderly persons who are at
high risk for developing diabetes. Taking into account the impressiveness of
these results, it is both shocking and dismaying that Gymnema sylvestre
remains unknown and unutilized in most of the world. Because its usefulness in
diabetes was first reported almost three- quarters of a century ago, the use
of Gymnema sylvestre as a treatment for diabetes isn't patentable. I have no
doubt that if the effects of Gymnema sylvestre were discovered tomorrow by a
pharmaceutical company that had a patent on it, we would see it on the front
page of the newspaper as it was hailed as the breakthrough of the century.
source of nutrients and supplements.
did we qualify them ?
1. K.G. Gharpurey, Indian Medical Gazette 1926; 61: 155 (Abstr).
2. K.S. Mhaskar, J.G. Caius, Indian Medical Research Memoirs 1930; 16: 2-75.
3. K.R. Shanmugasundaram, C. Panneerselvam, P. Samudram, et al,
Pharmacological Research Communications 1981; 13: 475-486.
4. E.R.B. Shanmugasundaram, M. Venkatasubramanyam, M. Vijendran, et al,
Ancient Science of Life 1988; 8: 183-194.
5. E.R.B. Shanmugasundaram, K.L. Gopinath, K. Rhada Shanmugasundaram, et al,
Journal of Ethnopharmacology 1990; 30: 265-279.
6. K. Baskaran, B. Kizar Ahamath, K. Radha Shanmugasundaram, et al, Journal of
Ethnopharmacology 1990; 30: 295-300.
7. E.R.B. Shanmugasundaram, G. Rajeswari, K. Baskaran, et al, Journal of
Ethnopharmacology 1990; 30: 281-294.