Research & Education

Gymnema Helps Support Blood Glucose Metabolism and Insulin Sensitivity

Gymnema for Glucose Support

Managing blood sugar is an integral part of our overall health. Blood sugar dysregulation is linked to numerous health conditions, including diabetes. In addition to the impact on a person’s health, diabetes is also associated with increased disability, loss of productivity, and high medical costs.

In addition to diet, lifestyle, and medications, such as metformin, researchers are considering the efficacy of many traditional herbal remedies shown to help balance blood sugar, such as Gymnema sylvestre. This herb, also known as gurmar, has a long history of traditional use in Ayurvedic medicine, particularly for diabetes because of its hypoglycemic effects.

A recent study examined its potential for those individuals with prediabetes. In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, 30 patients with nontreated prediabetes were divided into two groups of 15 patients each. The treatment group took 300 mg of gymnema before breakfast and dinner for 12 weeks, whereas the control group took a placebo.

The effects on glycemic control were tested by fasting blood sugar levels, 2-hour oral glucose tolerance tests, HbA1c levels, and serum insulin levels. The researchers also measured body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, body weight, blood pressure, triglycerides, total cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels.

After treatment with gymnema, 46.7% of the treatment group had normalized HbA1C levels compared to none of the placebo group. The treatment group also experienced statistically significant reductions in 2-hour postprandial glucose levels, LDL cholesterol levels, body weight, BMI, and Matsuda index (a marker for insulin sensitivity).

Another study with a longer treatment time of 18 to 20 months found that patients with diabetes who were taking 400 mg of gymnema extract daily led to a significant decrease in blood glucose levels, HbA1C, and the required dosage of diabetes medication. Several participants (5 of 22) were able to completely stop their diabetes medication by continuing to take the supplement alone.

The mechanisms behind the efficacy of gymnema remain under investigation, but animal and human studies point to several potential mechanisms that affect both the absorption of glucose and the release of insulin to benefit glucose balance.

The main component (gymnemic acid) may occupy glucose receptors in the small intestine, thereby inhibiting or reducing glucose absorption. In addition, studies point to the potential of gymnema to inhibit α-glucosidase enzymes to delay or decrease the digestion of carbohydrates. Rinsing with a gymnema solution may also suppress the oral sweet sensation, thereby decelerating gastric emptying for a slower postprandial blood sugar rise.

Gymnema may stimulate insulin secretion by modulating the incretin effect or by positively impacting beta cells and enhancing endogenous insulin production. Furthermore, gymnema may also have antioxidant properties that counter the inflammation and oxidative stress associated with diabetes and its complications.

Gymnema is one of many herbs and supplements considered to support glycemic control, including bitter melon, fenugreek, cinnamon, ginseng, ivy gourd, chromium, vanadium, and garlic.

By Kendra Whitmire, MS, CNS