Gymnema sylvestre is a plant that has been used for over 2000 years in Ayurvedic medicine in India to treat diabetes and to improve the blood glucose lowering effects of insulin. It is gaining popularity in the United States, and is available in supplement form.
The leaves of the plant are ground up and used as a powder. Many experimental and clinical studies have documented the hypoglycemic action of this plant. In other words, it tends to lower your blood sugar and thus help you to control your insulin levels.
While this plant has been used in the treatment of diabetes, it has not yet been studied as an alternative treatment for PCOS. Gymnema is often given clinically to women with polycystic ovarian syndrome because it acts in a very similar manner to metformin.
Metformin (Glucophage) is a common treatment for women with PCOS. In addition to treating insulin-sensitivity, metformin has also been shown in studies to induce ovulation and restore the menstrual cycle in women with PCOS. The latest research in polycystic ovary syndrome has been focusing on the use of insulin-sensitizing agents such as metformin. Some women are resistant to treatment with metformin. Why it does not work in these women is still unknown.
In addition to its use in treating blood sugar problems and diabetes, this traditional herb has been used for allergies, urinary tract infections, anemia, hyperactivity, digestion, cholesterol, and weight control.
It's not entirely clear how this herbal extract works. One study of lab animals showed that it suppresses the elevation of blood glucose level by inhibiting glucose uptake in the intestine.
As a weight loss treatment, gymnema appears to reduce the body's craving for sweets, thus reducing the total caloric intake. Fewer calories consumed aids in weight loss.
No adverse reactions were reported in a long-term study of insulin-dependant diabetic patients. Aside from hypoglycemia and increasing of the effects of hypoglycemic drugs, such as metformin, no clinically significant adverse effects have been associated with oral gymnema in the available literature, in studies up to 20 months in duration.
When used in appropriate dosages, this herb appears to be relatively safe. Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe kidney or liver disease has not been established.
If you are already taking metformin or some other insulin-sensitizing drug, check with your doctor before taking any herbs that might reduce your blood sugar levels. If you take gymnema, you may need to reduce your dose of medication.
It is usually taken at a dosage of 400 to 600 mg daily of an extract standardized to contain 24% gymnemic acid.
Gymnema is most effective when combined with other synergistic nutrients that support pancreas function and blood sugar control. For example, American ginseng promotes healthy post-meal glucose levels. Holy basil and gymnema have been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine for similar purposes. Chromium assists with the maintenance of lean muscle mass in healthy individuals, and maintaining beneficial levels of "good" cholesterol. Cinnamon helps to maintain healthier blood sugar levels.
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