Gymnema

Another botanical medicine from the Ayurvedic system, gymnema (Gymnema sylvestre) leaf extract is used as an adjunctive to insulin and oral hypoglycemic therapies for treating patients with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Gymnema causes additional reductions in blood glucose levels as well as decreasing glycosylated hemoglobin.38 In addition, this herb is effective for lowering total cholesterol and triglycerides in patients with type 2 diabetes, and researchers have speculated that therapy with a specific gymnema extract may stimulate production of endogenous insulin by regenerating and=or revitalizing residual beta cells in these patients.39 Other studies have shown that gymnema decreases blood-sugar levels, serum triglycerides, and total cholesterol including very low-density lipoprotein and LDL cholesterol.40 One early study suggested that gymnemic acids, which are derivatives of the leaf, may inhibit intestinal absorption of glucose and may stimulate pancreatic beta-cell growth.41 Although this herb is a useful adjunct for lowering blood sugar, more research is needed, especially to examine claims regarding beta-cell regeneration with their obvious implications concerning the usefulness of this plant. In the meantime, gymnema is another tool for promoting metabolic normalcy via control of blood sugar and insulin levels. It is interesting that gymnemic acid can inhibit the ability to taste sweet or bitter items without affecting pungent, sour, or astringent tastes.

There are many other botanicals shown to benefit blood-sugar balancing including bitter melon (Momordica charantia), fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum), cassia cinnamon (Cin-namomum aromaticum), and banaba (Lagerstroemia speciosa). (See Chapter 11 on diabetes.)

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