A member of the Cucurbitaceae family (pumpkins, cucumbers, watermelon, and gourds), Gynostemma Pentaphyllum is a perennial vine that is native to the Asian continent, including China and Japan. It is best known for its use as a traditional Chinese herb used for medicinal purposes. Gynostemma Pentaphyllum is the botanical name for Jiaogulan, which is also known as Sweet Tea Vine, Jiaogulan, or Southern Ginseng.
Grown in open forests and/or mountain slopes throughout China and Japan, Gynostemma Pentaphyllum is also commonly found in cultivated beds. Gynostemma Pentaphyllum grows in alkaline, acidic, and neutral soils, preferring ground that drains well such as those offering sandy, clay, or loamy compositions. Growing conditions need to include lots of sun and moisture in addition to warmth as the plant does not tolerate cold weather well. This creeping vine is pollinated through insect activity.
The green leaves are edible and provide a sweet taste when ingested. For centuries, the Chinese have chewed the Jiaogulan leaves to enhance their health and promote longevity. In fact, this herb is commonly referred to as the “immortality herb” in China. The leaves are often used to make a tea that is considered to offer special health benefits that can promote a long life. The entire plant has been used as a tonic herb for the medicinal purposes, and it is sometimes used in place of ginseng, another traditional herb used for health reasons. This herb is available in supplemental form as a pill or capsule, as well as in the consistency of an alcohol extract.
Historical records indicate that this herb was popularly used to treat medical issues during the Ming Dynasty. In particular, Gynostemma Pentaphyllum was given to patients who suffered from inflammation of the neck or pharynx, as well as to those individuals inflicted with tumors. This herb is classified by herbalists as an adaptogen, a term used to refer to herbs that aid the human body by alleviating the bad effects of stress. This process can include regulating the body’s daily functions or internal processes including both the endocrine and immune systems.
Gynostemma Pentaphyllum is filled with minerals, vitamins, saponins, proteins, and amino acids, enabling it to have antioxidant, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, sedative, anticholesterolemic, alterative, tonic, hepatic, and hypoglycemic properties. Containing large quantities of saponins, soapy chemical compounds noted for regulating bodily systems, this herb is considered by some herbalists to be superior to Ginseng regarding human health. It is purported to strengthen the immune and nervous system, reduce blood sugar, improve circulation, lower blood pressure, relieve spasms, stimulate liver function, and reduce cholesterol levels.
Demonstrating antimicrobial properties, the components of this botanical ingredient reduce the likelihood of infection by reducing the existing quantities of bacteria, fungi, and viruses from the human body. These properties account for its inclusion in some skin care formulas designed to clear up infections. Some studies suggest that Gynostemma Pentaphyllum stimulates natural killer cells (lymphocytes) that target microbes and cancer cells, further protecting the body from disease.
Chinese studies have suggested that Gynostemma Pentaphyllum can reduce LDL cholesterol stores by encouraging the muscles and liver to change dietary sources of sugar into energy rather than fat that clogs the blood. This capability is credited with preventing cardiovascular diseases, partly through the prevention of fatty liver, a condition in which the liver changes sugar into fat rather than energy. Having shown the ability to lower blood pressure, Gynostemma Pentaphyllum is used to treat hypertension in place of prescription medications.
Caution should always be exercised when taking any herbal supplement. Gynostemma Pentaphyllum can lower insulin levels and thin the blood, so a consultation with your physician is recommended before taking this herb if you are taking diabetic drugs or blood thinners. Gynostemma Pentaphyllum is also credited with the ability to improve digestion, the absorption of nutrients consumed daily, and a reduction in weight through its ability to help the body regulate blood fat and sugar. It has also been used internally to treat diabetes, bronchitis, asthma, peptic ulcers, nervous tension and exhaustion, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
Containing vitamins E and C, Gynostemma Pentaphyllum encourages the body’s production of natural antioxidants while also providing its own, diminishing the harmful effect of free radicals. This capability makes it a useful ingredient in anti-aging formulas and proprietary preparations for cosmetics.