Gymnema: Destroyer of Sugar

Posted to Subscribers on 3 September 2017


Dear Subscribers,

What a lot of turmoil! As you know, I have been posting almost daily on mold because the subject is very important. I would like to be in a position to devote full time to this, but, alas, this is not currently possible. I am getting more mail than usual and want to acknowledge the efforts of various helpers and rescuers who are risking so much in order to alleviate the circumstances of others. I simply pray that these kind souls are provided the right protective gear. I might also caution people that it can get pretty hot inside a Tyvek suit so sometimes the shift needs to be limited to 45 minutes. In most cases, the Tyvek suits cannot be reused since it is so difficult to avoid contamination once the suit has been exposed to mold.

Curiously, after seeing a steady climb in subscriptions when most of the posts were on the eclipse, there has been a decline since changing the subject to mold. I wish this were otherwise because mold is a very important subject that is not at all well understood. That said, we are already seeing the havoc of the Great American Eclipse.

As a sort of aside, I have noticed that quite a number of e-mails addressed to me contain an almost inordinate number of typographical errors. Yes, Mercury is still retrograde — but not for much longer — however I believe some of the writing problems go well beyond matters such as the stuck keys on my laptop and involve perceptual issues on the part of the correspondents. Visual issues are often one of the earliest signs of mold exposure. The eyes seem to reveal the problem before there are deeper cognitive issues and medical complications.

Today, I want to give you another approach to understanding herbs and their actions, starting with gymnema. I remember the day a diabetic patient first asked me about this herb. I drew a total blank, but that was in Santa Fe and more than two decades have since passed. During that time, I have, of course, added to my knowledge.

The Ayurvedic name for gymnema is gurmar, Destroyer of Sugar. Gymnema is a tropical climbing vine that is native to India, Sri Lanka, and Africa. It belongs to the Asclepiadaceae family, one that includes plants that secrete milky sap. Though the name means Destroyer of Sugar and it is often marketed in the West as an herb suitable for diabetics, it is seldom the herb most relied upon for treatment of diabetes among Ayurvedic doctors. However, it is often part of what is sometimes called a polyherbal medicine, what we call a blend or formula as opposed to a single herbal remedy, perhaps because it is thought to alleviate so many chronic diseases, especially those that affect the skin.

One theory of the mechanism of gymnema in its role as Destroyer of Sugar is that it acts on the taste receptors of the tongue, which are mainly concentrated at the front tip of the tongue [see area of the image that is lighter]. This is an ancient theory and is much disputed by modern researchers, many of whom deny that the receptors are distributed in such a clear pattern and others who say that all the tastes can be detected on any part of the tongue. That said, gymnema does alter the sense of taste so that one may find foods tasting quite bland after taking gymnema. The normal sense of taste is recovered within about half an hour.

For the moment, let us not worry about who is right and who is wrong about the taste but but rather look at the concept of taste and pharmacology and ask whether an herb can reduce the cravings for sugar or regulate the absorption since very complex chemicals are produced by the body in response to taste that may, in fact, affect the rate at which sugar is absorbed.

From my perspective, herbs usually have multiple benefits because they are much more systemic in action than most realize. In an age of specialization, there may be a tendency, for instance, to focus on hard numbers rather than rates or the manner in which the pancreas and its islets of Langerhans function in terms of insulin production. Worded another way, an herb could potentially have a profound regenerating effect on a certain organ or system of the body, in this case the pancreas and its endocrine secretions.

In modern medicine, for example, diabetes is usually described as pancreatic problem, but in some traditional systems of medicine, it is the tendency to pass more water that is given more attention than the insulin. As such, it is no surprise that gymnema is diuretic. However, it also affects absorption of sugar from the intestines. Most of the pharmacological actions are attributed to gymnemic acids but, as long-term readers know, herbs are complex so one active constituent may not explain the overall properties of the herb, such as why gymnema is also used in the treatment of malaria or snakebites. Its use to reduce weight should be more obvious, but some of the traditional uses may be a little obscure.

In reality, the chemical composition of gymnema answers some of our questions. For example, gymnema leaves contain alkaloids, explaining why the main perception of taste is bitter, not sour as expected with acids. There are also tannins that account for the astringency and diuretic effect, but the post-digestive effect is hot. Looking deeper, we find quinines which account for its use in treating malaria. There are many other chemicals, including coumarins and saponins so people need to choose their herbs carefully.

So, given what we understand about ourselves and our needs, who would choose gymnema over some other option? Obviously, based on what I wrote yesterday about hyphae, one would consider gymnema if there is a known issue with Candida albicans. If the blood sugar is high and the person craves sugar or is overweight, there might be additional reasons for choosing gymnema over another option. If one also has a history of malaria or perhaps even snakebites, the deck is now stacking even more in favor of gymnema. However, if someone were already taking an anticoagulant medication, great caution should be exercised when taking an herb with coumarins. You see, it is all very logical.

On balance, Ayurveda uses gymnema for reducing kapha, made from the earth-water element. Its secondary effect is on vata, the air-ether element. Now, I will share some of the more subtle teachings of Ayurveda so that the connections are clear. The word dosha actually means fault but common usage tends to make it analogous to bodily humor. Technically, this is not completely correct because dosha usually refers to an aggravation of humor — so a kapha type is someone with excess kapha. This is found in the body as mucus or phlegm and the primary place for accumulation is the lungs. So, if one takes an herb that reduces kapha, it will gradually reduce the amount of congestion in the lungs. The waste is removed via the kidneys and urine. So, in a way, we can say that gymnema has a specific detoxifying action that works primarily on sugar, cholesterol, and phlegm. By reducing excess sugar, the nutrients that support other potentially chronic conditions are reduced so this tends towards normalization of conditions such a Candida albicans. The point is simply that the action may not be direct, but rather general. Ultimately, of course, the effect can be quite profound so we should not underestimate all the processes that are supported.

I am going to leave this topic for now and mention that President Trump called for National Day of Prayer. Regardless of how one feels about the border wall or other issues, I think we can probably agree that prayer is much needed.

Many blessings,



Mold Herbs




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