Gymnema Sylvestre is also known by the names Gurmar, Gurmabooti, Rams Horn, Periploca of the Woods, and Meshasringi. Gymnema is a climbing plant that grows in the tropical forests of central and southern India. The woody Gymnema plant also grows in parts of Africa. Leaves of this long, slender plant have been used for more than 2,000 years. The leaves, when chewed, interfere with the ability to taste sweetness, which explains the Hindu name "gurmar."
In the past, powdered Gymnema root was used to help support snake bites, constipation, stomach complaints, water retention, and liver problem. However, the name Gurmar best describes the primary use of Gymnema - because "gurmar" means "sugar destroyer." This herb has been used in Ayurveda for thousands of years to help support blood sugar level concerns, once described as "honey urine." The hypoglycemic (blood sugar lowering) action of Gymnema leaves was first documented in the late 1920s. This action is gradual in nature, differing from the rapid effect of many prescription hypoglycemic drugs. Gymnema leaves raise insulin levels, according to research in healthy volunteers. Based on animal studies, this may be due to regeneration of the cells in the pancreas that secrete insulin. Other animal research shows that Gymnema can also improve uptake of glucose into cells and avoid adrenaline from stimulating the liver to produce glucose, thereby reducing blood sugar levels.
The leaves are also noted for lowering serum cholesterol and triglycerides. The primary chemical constituents of Gymnema include gymnemic acid, tartaric acid, gurmarin, calcium oxalate, glucose, stigmasterol, betaine, and choline. While studies have shown that a water-soluble acidic fraction provides the hypoglycemic actions, it is not yet clear what specific constituent in the leaves is responsible for this action. Some researchers have suggested gymnemic acid as one possible candidate, however further research is needed. Both gurmarin (another constituent of the leaves) and gymnemic acid have been shown to block sweet taste in humans. When Gymnema is taken before eating, these constituents block the taste of sugar, thereby reducing the desire to eat it. The molecules of gymnemic acid fill the receptor sites for one to two hours, thus avoiding the taste buds from being activated by the sugar molecules in food.
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Hot tea brewing method: Bring freshly drawn cold water to a rolling boil. Place 1 teaspoon of tea for each cup into the teapot. Pour the boiling water into the pot, cover and let steep for 2-4 minutes. Pour into your cup; add milk and natural sweetener to taste.
Iced tea brewing method: (to make 1 liter/quart): Place 5 teaspoons of tea into a teapot or heat resistant pitcher. Pour 1 1/4 cups of freshly boiled water over the tea itself. Steep for 5 minutes. Quarter fill a serving pitcher with cold water. Pour the tea into the serving pitcher straining the tea. Add ice and top-up with cold water. Garnish and sweeten to taste.
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