Gurmar: The Sugar Buster PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Rammohan V Rao, PhD, CAS   

Gurmar (Gymnema sylvestre) is a member of the milkweed family of herbs and is native to the tropical forests of India. The plant also goes by other names such as: gurmari, gurmarbooti and mesbasringi. The Hindi word gur-mar literally means sugar destroyer and the Sanskrit word mesbasringi means ram’s horn because of the shape of its fruits. Leaves of this long, slender plant have been used for more than 2,000 years in India to treat diabetes, a condition also described as “sweet urine.”

Diabetes is a consequence of abnormalities in the blood levels of insulin, the hormone that converts blood sugar into energy. It is a condition where the body cells do not use glucose properly and the blood sugar level rises beyond a normal tolerance. In an extreme
situation, it can even lead to a coma from the high sugar levels. But on an ongoing chronic basis, the high sugar levels can lead to overall physical deterioration. Classic symptoms of diabetes include excessive thirst and urination, weakness, excessive hunger but weight loss despite increased food consumption, blurred vision, tingling, leg cramps and dryness. Long standing complications include coronary heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and ketoacidosis.

Science now has a new classification for diabetes. Type I [insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) or juvenile diabetes] results from an insulin shortage. Without insulin, the cell cannot use or burn the blood sugar as energy. Type II diabetes [Adult-onset diabetes or non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM)] is caused by the body’s inability to adequately process insulin resulting in lack of energy. It is now a well-accepted fact that fast foods, deep-fried or heavily sugar-coated foods that are all high in saturated fat put people at greater risk of obesity and in increase the risk of triggering the onset of diabetes. When too much fat accumulates in a cell, the effectiveness of the chemical receptors on the surface of the cell are decreased resulting in poor release of insulin or responsiveness to insulin and therefore decreased absorption of glucose.

Ironically, diabetes is considered to be a “prosperity disease” since four of five people with Type II diabetes are also overweight. According to the American Diabetes Association, there are presently six million Americans who have been diagnosed as with diabetes. One million of these are thought to be lacking insulin (Type I) and the other five million suffer from Type II diabetes.

Thousands of years ago, in Ayurveda, diabetes was treated using leaves of the gurmar plant. The plant’s sugar-destroying property was released when a person chewed on one or two leaves. Gurmar was said to paralyze a person’s tongue to the taste of sweet taste. That taste-blocking reaction lasted for several hours. People will not want to eat as much sugar if they can’t taste it. And by blocking the taste buds from perceiving sugar, gurmar blocks sugar in the digestive system, resulting in a decrease in blood sugar, also known as a hypoglycemic effect. Gurmar also stimulates insulin secretion and helps the pancreas to produce more insulin in type II diabetics. Studies show powdered gurmar leaf is effective in dosages ranging from 400 mg per day to twelve grams per day.

Several small, placebo-controlled trials indicate that the leaf extracts may indeed lower blood sugar levels. In those with type I diabetes, the extract seems to enhance the action of insulin. In one study, twenty-seven people with type I diabetes who took gurmar leaf extracts for several months required less insulin to control their blood sugar levels. In the case of type II diabetes, research findings indicate that the use of gurmar leaf extracts regulate the blood sugar level thus resulting in the need for smaller doses of oral diabetes drugs to control the disease (1-2). Besides having these properties, gurmar is also a cardiac stimulant and diuretic and corrects metabolic activities of the liver, kidneys and the muscles.

Gurmarin and gymnemic acid are believed to be the active ingredients in the leaf extract responsible for these numerous effects. Thus gurmar fits well into a weight management program because it complements exercise and dietary changes by curbing sugar cravings. Here is another indication that one needs to look at nature that is at its best in our backyard and not necessarily at the drug store with an expensive label.

Rammohan Rao, PhD, CAS, PKS, is a graduate of the California College of Ayurveda (CCA) with certification as Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist. He presently teaches in the CCA program in Marin and San Francisco counties. Ram is also a Research Associate Professor at the Buck Institute for Age Research in Novato where his research focus is on understanding mechanisms of age-associated neurodegenerative diseases. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

The information provided here is for educational purposes only. Before using any Ayurvedic remedies, consult with a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner or healthcare provider. This article represents the opinion and recommendation of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of LA YOGA Ayurveda and Health magazine.

1) Srivasta Y, et al. Hypoglycemic and life-prolonging properties of Gymnema sylvestre leaf extract in diabetic rats. Isr J Med Sci 1985;21:540-542.

2) Okabayashi, et al. Effect of Gymnema sylvestre, R.Br. on glucose homeostasis in rats. Diabetes Res Clin Pract 1990;9:143-148.

 
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