People affected by diabetes, either type 1 or type 2, can benefit a lot from the regular use of gymnema sylvestre. It is one of the herbs commonly used in the Ayuverdic medicines of India. It is found in the tropical forests of southern and central India, and has been used as a natural treatment for diabetes, for more than two thousand years. The Hindi name of this herb, 'Gur-mar', literally means sugar destroyer. The Sanskrit name Meshasringa means 'ram's horn', a name, that must have been derived from the shape of its fruits. The Latin word gymnema has its origin in another Latin word meaning 'naked' and sylvestre means 'from the forest'.

Benefits for Diabetes
  • The herb helps reduce the need for insulin, and also helps lower the fasting blood glucose levels.
  • It reduces the intestinal glucose uptake, thereby reducing the blood sugar levels.
  • The active component GS4 from this herb, helps raise the beta cells in the pancreas. This leads to an increased production of insulin.
  • Since diabetes is associated with hormonal imbalance, it helps prevent adrenaline hormone from stimulating the liver to produce glucose.
  • The natural health benefits of this herb cut down the need for conventional drug therapy, and the patients don't have to tolerate the side effects of those drugs.
  • Studies have shown that it works great for hyperglycemia, restores appetite, and cures dyspepsia. It is useful for anemic patients, and helps prevent several inflammatory conditions.
  • Gymnema leaves are used for stomach ailments, constipation, water retention and liver disease. The herb improves the digestive health, which indirectly is helpful for diabetics.
  • Obesity is the main problem in type 2 diabetes. The herb helps in losing weight, especially when combined with calcium citrate and chromium. It helps build lean muscle mass.
  • When placed in mouth and chewed, it reduces the taste of sugar and this effect can last for at least two hours. The gymnemic acid obtained from the leaves, displays anti-sweet activity and helps fight sugar cravings.
  • Additional benefits of this herb are related to decreased cholesterol levels and triglycerides. It helps in the absorption of oleic acid, which is one of the omega-9 fatty acids found in vegetable oil, animal fat, and other sources of dietary fat. This helps reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and also raise the HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Side Effects

Low doses of gymnema sylvestre or its short-term use, may have unnoticeable side effects. The long-term use or high dosage may raise the systolic blood pressure in some rare cases. In most of the studies, no adverse side effects of the herb were observed.

Diabetics should use this herb carefully. They should adjust their medication, consult their physician, and monitor their blood glucose levels regularly, so as to maintain the desired levels. Improved insulin production during gymnema sylvestre supplementation may result in over-medication, and this may cause low blood glucose levels. So, the patients are expected to lower the prescribed dose of conventional oral medication or insulin. If the blood glucose levels are monitored on a daily basis, this supplementation shouldn't present a problem.

It is recommended that this herb should be taken in combination with other vitamins, minerals, and herbs for diabetes. Many natural weight-loss products contain the herb along with other ingredients such as alpha lipoic acid, banaba, bitter melon, black cumin, calcium, chromium, copper, green tea, magnesium, manganese, etc. It would be more beneficial to take this herb along with other alternative medicines.

Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.