Ayurvedic medicine is an ancient Indian healing practice that has long utilized herbs and natural remedies that scientific research is still confirming today. One of those medicinal herbs is gurmar leaves. Where do they come from, what are their health benefits, and how can they be used as a dietary supplement? We have those answers.
Also known under the common names Gymnema sylvestre, Gymnema montanum, gurmarbooti, meshashringi, merasingi, madhunashini, Periploca sylvestris, Periploca of the woods, Australian cowplant, and vishani, Indian gurmar (its Hindi name) translates to “destroyer of sugar.”
The leaves of a woody climbing shrub that resides in the tropical forests of Africa, Australia, and India, gurmar is known as a sugar destroyer because it’s traditionally been used to reduce sugar cravings, along with treating snakebites, malaria, and diabetes mellitus in its long history of use in the practice of Ayurveda. Some of these uses have been confirmed by modern science.
While the science is slow to accumulate on natural herbal remedies, there are nevertheless several confirmed benefits of gurmar leaf extract.
It sounds almost too good to be true, but the property that gives gurmar its namesake is actually proven: it does make foods taste less sweet by interrupting the absorption of sugar.
This is due to a component in gurmar leaves known as gymnemic acid, which suppresses the sweet taste of food when it’s consumed just before a sugary beverage or treat (1). By blocking the sugar receptors in your taste buds, gurmar has the temporary effect of making sweet foods less appealing, sort of like certain nasal sprays can temporarily block your ability to smell (and taste) while you’re sick.
The reason this is considered a benefit is because those who have a sweet tooth or a more serious blood glucose issue like diabetes can better resist sugary foods with the help of gurmar, which has also demonstrated hypoglycemic and life-prolonging properties, at least in diabetic rats (2, 3).
Decreasing one’s ability to taste sweetness could lead to fewer calories and sugar consumed, helping people avoid or possibly treat metabolic syndrome and other serious conditions. Ask a health care professional if gurmar would make an effective antihyperglycemic aid for you.
It turns out what was discovered in a rat model bears out in human trials as well; specifically, gurmar may help lower blood sugar levels.
Diabetes is a chronic condition that disrupts your body’s ability to produce insulin and regulate blood sugar. While many people with diabetes must rely on expensive pharmaceutical medicine, some are finding ways to manage diabetes with natural remedies.
One of those natural medicines may be gurmar extract, which is showing some early indication that it has the ability to promote the effectiveness of prescribed diabetes medications by blocking the absorption of glucose (sugar) in the intestines (4).
More research is needed to confirm these findings, but early studies show that gurmar extract can improve blood sugar control in humans with type 2 diabetes by decreasing the absorption of sugar after meals. Ultimately this could help diabetic individuals avoid the long-term complications that can come from the disease.
Increasing the production of insulin from the pancreas helps the body clear glucose from the bloodstream more quickly. Those with type 2 diabetes and sometimes prediabetes experience insulin resistance or do not create levels of insulin high enough to meet the demand, leaving them with consistently high blood glucose levels and in danger of worsening health conditions.
Gurmar extract may help stimulate the regeneration of islet cells in the pancreas, insulin producers that can work more efficiently when their numbers are increased (5). Even in cases of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus patients, gurmar extract has an anti-diabetic effect (6).
Herbal remedies are slowly overtaking synthesized drugs in medicine, and in fact, the first anti-diabetic drug ever released was metformin, made from Galega officinalis, aka goat’s rue, a flowering plant native to the Middle East.
There is a wealth of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant natural compounds out there, from turmeric to green tea, and it appears that gurmar may be among their ranks.
Chronic inflammation caused by free radicals and oxidative stress in the body can take a bad condition and make it worse, including conditions such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. By lowering unhealthy inflammation, you can not only feel better, but actually get better too.
Gumar has compounds called saponins and tannins that are considered beneficial to humans and may be behind gumar’s anti-inflammatory and immunostimulatory effects (7). Beyond that, excess sugar in the body also causes inflammation, another avenue by which gurmar may be fighting inflammation. Those with diabetes tend to have lower antioxidant levels already, so gurmar may be improving diabetic health in more ways than one.
Gurmar may help lower triglycerides and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels in your blood.
In the same way it blocks sugar absorption in your digestive tract, gurmar can interrupt fat absorption too, lowering lipid levels and reducing your risk of heart disease (8). While these results are from animal models, remember that the evidence of gurmar’s effectiveness in blocking sugar originated in rat models and showed some of the same effects in humans. Likewise, animals fed a high-fat diet have shown decreased levels of LDL cholesterol, blood fat, and lipids, and at least one human trial on moderately obese adults was able to replicate some of these results, with triglyceride levels decreasing 20.2% and LDL cholesterol going down 19% (9).
While there is not yet definitive information on gurmar’s effects in humans, the early indications are that there’s a consistent reduction of cholesterol and triglyceride levels in mammals, two measures of increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
Speaking of fat, since gurmar is known to block fat absorption in the bloodstream, it stands to reason that it might help with weight-loss efforts as well.
Here what science finds in animal models holds true for human beings as well: rats given gurmar extract both lost weight in one study and gained less weight in another (10, 11). And that same above-linked human study on cholesterol levels showed that participants also experienced a 5% to 6% decrease in total body weight.
Remember of course that, as a sugar-blocker, gurmar can also lead to reduced caloric intake during meals, an aid to weight loss both inside and out.
Gurmar is usually consumed by chewing its leaves or steeping them in a tea. You can also find it in powdered capsule form, but if you’re taking medication for any condition, particularly diabetes, ask your doctor first so you can avoid any potential side effects or interference.
By whatever name you call it, gurmar extract or Gymnema sylvestre leaves, this traditional medicine has modern evidence proving its uses for lowering blood sugar levels, promoting safe weight loss, and reducing harmful inflammation. Discover if it’s the remedy you’ve been looking for.