Jiaogulan (Gynostemma Pentaphyllum) is an herb belonging to the gourd, melon, and cucumber family (1). It is sometimes called “Southern Ginseng,” and although it is not a true ginseng, Jiaogulan does contain some of the compounds and benefits found in true ginseng (2).
Jiaogulan (Gynostemma) Benefits
- May promote weight loss (ref)*
Jiaogulan (Gynostemma) is emerging as a subject of interest in the medical community, but thus far, there has not been a large amount of research or trials conducted with humans, except for those studies referenced above.*
The following are examples of dynamics associated with Jiaogulan (Gynostemma) through the animal model and may not be representative of the effects in the human body:
- May lower blood glucose (in rats) (ref)*
- May reduce oxidative stress (in rats)(ref)*
- May support cardiovascular health (in rabbits—ref)(in dogs ref)(in rats ref)*
- May support healthy levels of cholesterol (in animals)(ref)*
- Anti-inflammatory properties (in rat cells in vitro)(ref)*
Jiaogulan (Gynostemma) Mode of Action
Jiaogulan belongs to the family of Curcurbitaceae (which includes gourds, melons, and cucumbers) and is a climbing vine that produces a small purple, inedible gourd as its fruit. It grows in China, Southeast Asia, Japan, Korea, India, Bangladesh and New Guinea. It has serrated leaves which are grouped in arrangements of five and is sometimes referred to as “five-leaf ginseng” or “southern ginseng” (1). Jiaogulan is not related to the ginseng family (2).
The leaves of Jiaogulan contain gypenosides, which are triterpene saponins. Over 189 saponins can be found in Jiaogulan and some of the gypenosides are chemically identical to ginsenosides common to Panax ginseng. Unlike Panax ginseng which contains the ginsenosides in the root, the aerial leaves of Jiaogulan contain its saponins, and are equal to the amount found in Panax ginseng’s roots (3).
Jiaogulan contains the ginsenosides Rb1, Rd, Rb3, and F2 which are present in Panax Ginseng (2). The unique constituents of Jiaogulan include carotenoids, chlorophyll compounds, ombuine, allantoin, caffeic acid, vitexin, kaempferol, quercetin, rutin, selenium, calcium, magnesium, flavonoids, polysaccharides, sterols, malonic acid, lutein, linolenic acids, and palmitic acids (2, 3).
Though Jiaogulan has been present in traditional Chinese medicine, it has not been extensively studied in humans and further research is underway to discover all of its modes of action.
Scientists believe that Jiaogulan can increase fat oxidation and glucose uptake which may lead to weight loss because it is an activator of AMP-activated protein kinase. The activation of the AMPK enzyme inhibits cholesterol and fat synthesis. Both in vitro and in vivo research identified that the saponins damulin A and B are directly involved in this action by increasing the phosphorylation of AMPK, which in turn stimulates beta-oxidation (3).
Preliminary research suggests that Jiaogulan can reduce blood sugar levels through inhibition of protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B, which increases insulin sensitivity. It is not believed to increase insulin in humans, but rather lowers blood glucose levels by increasing the release of insulin (3).
Jiaogulan’s gypenosides are thought to have anti-lipid peroxidation activities and may protect vascular endothelial cells from oxidative damage. Its cardiovascular effects have been mostly studied in animals and suggests that its gypenosides may prevent the development of artherosclerosis, and may lower blood pressure, blood vessel resistance, heart rate, inhibit platelet aggregation, and increase coronary blood flow (3).
Perhaps the most interesting benefit of Jiaogulan is its ability to lower cholesterol. In vitro and animal studies have pointed to the ability of Jiaogulan to activate liver X receptors, which are the receptors that regulate and sense the levels of cholesterol in the tissues. By activating these receptors, the herb promotes balanced levels of cholesterol (3).
Jiaogulan’s anti-inflammatory properties are due to the gypenoside XLIX which inhibits the main pathway of inflammation through the nuclear factor-kappaB. Gypenoside XLIX inhibits the activation of this pro-inflammatory due to a peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-alpha-dependent pathway (PPAR-alpha-dependent) (3).
The extract of the roots via alcohol are generally used for concentrated saponin and triterpenoid content, while hot water extracts from the leaves in a tea are generally utilized for its flavonoids (2).
Jiaogulan (Gynostemma) Capsules Dosage
Pure Nootropics’ Jiaogulan (Gynostemma) Capsules provide 450 mg per 1 capsule. Suggested use for adults is 1 capsule by mouth once daily.
Jiaogulan (Gynostemma) Side Effects & Toxicity
If you are taking any medications, please consult with your healthcare practitioner before beginning supplementation with Jiaogulan. Please see below for list of possible interactions with medications.
Jiaogulan is usually well tolerated when taken orally. Side effects are rare but may include gastrointestinal discomfort such as nausea and increased bowel movements (3).
In an extract solution of gypenosides concentrated at 6% and a saponin content of 14.9%, oral doses of 1000 mg/kg/day of total extract solution (which is 60 mg/kg/day of gypenosides) was non-toxic (3).
If you are taking any medications, herbs, or supplements, please consult with your healthcare practitioner before beginning supplementation with Jiaogulan.
For more information, please see our references tab.