Today I wanted to talk about a climbing shrub native to the tropical forests of India, Africa and Australia. The leaves of this plant have been used in Ayurveda (the traditional medical practice in India) for thousands of years. 

Gymnema (gymnema sylvestre) is considered an “anti-sweetener” and is said to help stop sugar cravings. It seems this plant, when taken by mouth (especially as a tea or tincture so it has contact with the tongue), blocks sugar receptors in the tongue. In Ayurveda, it is used to stimulate insulin secretion.

One study I remember reading back in herb school when I was studying to become a certified herbalist, involved fasting patients. Some were given gymnema and some were not. Those who consumed gymnema one hour before being presented a meal of snack foods ate less than the patients who had not taken gymnema. 

In our class, I remember my herbal professor, Victoria, did a similar experiment with us (the students). That day in class, she made us all a cup of gymnema tea. We drank most of it, and then she gave us a Bit-O-Honey candy. It literally had no sweetness to it at all. I couldn’t finish it because it had no taste, it was the strangest thing ever. 

I definitely can say I know from experience that this does work to help sugar cravings in the sense that if you take it before eating sweets, your sweets will not taste good like you hope and you will just not eat as much of them. 

There are some cautions when taking *extremely high* amounts of gymnema, as it has the potential to induce hypoglycemia in individuals already prone to low blood sugar episodes. Stimulants may reduce the effectiveness of gymnema. Be sure to discuss it with your doctor if you are considering adding any herbal supplements to your health routine and especially with something as delicate as blood sugar, make sure you are consistent in checking your levels daily, even multiple times a day, to be safe in how your body reacts to something new in your daily routine. 

Remember, I’m not a doctor and do not prescribe, diagnose, prevent or cure disease. That is for your doctor to do! I am simply providing some herbal education and information about how this plant has been used traditionally over time. 

Have you ever heard of a plant that can change your taste buds? What are some of the strangest herbs you know about?

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