Jiaogulan Health Benefits
With regards to longevity and Li Ching Yuen (more on Wiki), many facts remain unknown. Considering he lived in the southern regions of China where Jiaogulan is grown, and also practised Chinese medicine, then its highly probable that Jiaogulan was part of his dietary regime.
Jiaogulan Research And Information
“Jiaogulan is a herb from my native southern China that I believe possesses the most wide-ranging benefits for human health and wellness of any plant yet discovered. This may seem like a bold statement, but having studied this remarkable tonic herb for more than twenty years, I can assure you that there is strong scientific support to back up my passion for jiaogulan.” – Dr. Jialiu Liu served as a Professor of Pathology at Guiyang Medical College. He is widely acknowledged to be the leading jiaogulan researcher in the world and has been called the “Father of Jiaogulan.” For many years, he led a government-sponsored research team of 16 scientists studying the health-giving properties of jiaogulan. He has been awarded numerous honours by the Chinese government for his important research projects. He has been awarded the prestigious title of “Advanced Scientist” by the Ministry of Public Health, the National Committee of Education, and the National Committee of Science. He was also honoured with the “Outstanding Scientist” award by the Guizhou Provincial Government.
Jiaogulan & Immortality
In China Jiaogulan is referred to as the immortality herb. Many modern scientific studies are now confirming this ancient wisdom. Studies have shown the mechanism that promotes longevity (autophagy). Studies have also shown Jiaogulan to have a range of effectiveness with regards to treating chronic disorders such as asthma, migraines, neuralgia impaired respiratory function and impaired gastrointestinal function characterised by deficiency with nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and chest congestion, gastric and duodenal ulcers, hyperlipidemia, nodules, cystitis, herpes zoster, cancers, high blood pressure, high cholesterol. It is difficult to account for all the conditions Jiaogulan is used to treat because of the many indirect pathways of biological activity. In traditional Chinese medicine, Jiaogulan has a slightly cool property and is regarded as a tonic herb with incredible healing properties. It works on the Spleen, Lung, Kidney, Liver and Heart meridians.
Jiaogulan is not a miracle panacea to all ills and disease however it certainly comes close. Of all botanical plants from Asia and Europe, Jiaogulan stands out as being one of the most powerful ways to restore health and or maintain health.
To keep this in perspective – Jiaogulan contains the largest variety of a class of plant chemicals known as saponins of any other plant in the world.
These saponins give many medicinal plants, like Ginseng for example, their therapeutic properties.
However, while Panax ginseng (one of the richest in saponins plants) contains around 28 different saponins, Jiaogulan is known today to contain at least 174 of them – over 6 times as many!
Keep reading to discover why many people say that if you had to pick just one supplement that would have the greatest overall impact on your health, you should choose Jiaogulan.
What is Jiaogulan?
Praised as “The Herb of Immortality” in China, Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum) is a climbing vine of the cucumber/gourd family, believed to contribute to a long and disease-free life due to its powerful anti-aging effects and possibly the widest spectrum of health benefits of any plant known to science.
The inhabitants of the high mountains of south central China have been using Jiaogulan for hundreds of years as a general health tonic and rejuvenating elixir. They have been drinking it daily as a tea before work to increase their endurance and strength, and after work to relieve fatigue and promote good sleep.
Jiaogulan (pronounced gee-ow-goo-lan) was largely unknown outside of those few remote mountainous regions until the early 1970’s when interest in Jiaogulan by the Chinese government was sparked by the results of the first nationwide population census, according to an article published in the Guangxi Daily Newspaper. (1)
The census revealed extremely low incidence of cancer, senility and other serious diseases, and an abnormally high percentage of people living to 100 years of age in certain villages of the Guizhou, Guangxi and Sichuan provinces. (2, 3, 4)
Interested in the reason for these intriguing results, the Chinese government commissioned a team of researchers from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences to conduct an investigation. The scientists considered genetics, climate, diet and many other factors.
They eventually found out that many of the centenarians consumed a tea made from a wild vine as a substitute for the traditional green tea. The locals called it “Xiancao”, or “The Immortality Herb”, and that served as a big hint for the scientists.
As a result of this discovery, and encouraged by promising research on Jiaogulan that had been going on in parallel in Japan since the early 70’s, the Chinese government appointed Dr. Jialiu Liu to lead a team of 16 scientists to investigate the properties of plants growing in the Mt. Fanjing Nature Reserve. After lengthy and extensive study of a large variety of herbs, they singled out Jiaogulan as the most promising plant for further research.
Research into Jiaogulan over the past 40+ years has uncovered so many health benefits that at first it’s difficult not to react with disbelief. We provide references to a subset of the hundreds of scientific studies that support our claims, so you can examine them further if interested.
Jiaogulan’s health benefits are mostly due to it containing extremely high content of a class of plant chemicals known as saponins.
These saponins give Gynostemma its adaptogenic and antioxidant properties, as well as its ability to regulate Nitric Oxide production in the body.
Read on as we examine these properties in detail to see how Gynostemma is capable of making such a broad impact on your health by leveraging and mobilizing the body’s own innate intelligence and capacity for self-healing.
Jiaogulan the Adaptogen
Adaptogens are rare and remarkable plants that increase the body’s ability to counter and resist physical, chemical, biological, emotional, and environmental stressors by raising nonspecific resistance toward such stress. They decrease the organism’s susceptibility to illness by allowing it to “adapt” to the stressful circumstances.
How Adaptogens Work
Adaptogens support normal metabolism, help restore balance to the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems, and allow the body to maintain optimal homeostasis. They usually also benefit the liver, cardiovascular system, kidneys, and pancreas.
For a plant to be qualified as an adaptogen, it must meet the following 3 criteria as defined by Israel I. Berkhman, PhD, and Dr. I. V. Dardymov in 1968:
An adaptogen is nontoxic to the recipient. It must cause minimal side effects on physical or mental health.
2/ Increases Resistance to Stress
An adaptogen produces a nonspecific response in the body—an increase in the power of resistance against multiple stressors including physical, chemical, or biological agents in multiple nonspecific ways, including the building of a reserve of “adaptive energy”. This reserve is then used when an actual stressor arises, instead of depleting the cells of vital energy.
3/ Has a Normalizing Effect
An adaptogen is “intelligent” in that it has a normalizing influence on physiology, regardless of the direction of change from the normal state caused by the stressor. This normalizing influence implies the capability of adaptogens for a bidirectional effect on physiological function. They are capable of either toning down or strengthening the activity of multiple systems, including the neuro-endocrine and immune systems, depending on the need. For example, if a person with high blood pressure is given Jiaogulan, their blood pressure will drop. If on the other hand their blood pressure is below normal, it will raise.
When Dr. Berkhman was studying adaptogens, he discovered that the active compounds in most of them were a particular class of chemical compounds called triterpenoid saponins, which had very low toxicity and little addictive potential.
Some of these triterpenoid saponins have been identified as having adaptogenic properties, while others were found to have anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective (protecting the liver), adrenal gland strengthening, and immune system modulating effects (2).
Jiaogulan is a premier adaptogen, and has been described as “Like Ginseng, but better than Ginseng” because of the energizing effect both plants have on the body.
However, while Ginseng is often poorly tolerated and can cause insomnia, tachycardia and nervousness, Jiaogulan has the opposite effects because it is a superior adaptogen.
This is because while Panax Ginseng contains up to 28 different saponins (5) (called panaxosides or ginsenosides), as of 2015 scientists have isolated 174 of them from Gynostemma (called gypenosides), nine of which are identical to those of Panax Ginseng (6, 7).
That’s over 6 times as many of these health-promoting and balancing chemicals!
In fact, Jiaogulan has the widest spectrum of saponins of any known plant in the world by far! This makes it a potentially more powerful and intelligent adaptogen with broader health effects than any other plant, and many have proclaimed it “The King of Adaptogens”.
Over 40 years of scientific research done so far on Gynostemma seems to support this possibility.
Jiaogulan the Supreme Antioxidant
For details on Jiaogulan’s Antioxidant properties, please see our Jiaogulan – The Best Antioxidant Supplement page.
Jiaogulan as a Nitric Oxide Regulator
Nitric Oxide (NO) is a gas and free radical produced in the body that is deemed so important in human physiology that it was named “Molecule of the Year” by the journal Science in 1992 (58). Few people realize it, but Nitric Oxide is probably the most important chemical compound for cardiovascular health.
The President of the American Heart Association called it “the most important discovery in the history of cardiovascular medicine”, and in 1998, the Nobel Prize for Medicine was given to the three scientists who discovered the role of Nitric Oxide as a cardiovascular signalling molecule.
Simply put, adequate Nitric Oxide production is the first step in a chain reaction that promotes healthy cardiovascular function, while insufficient production triggers a cascade of destruction that eventually results in heart disease.
Nitric Oxide has been called a double-edged sword – or the Janus molecule, after the two-faced god – since it can be both vital and detrimental to your health and normal functioning.
At normal body concentrations Nitric Oxide is critically important for the proper functioning of all major body systems, including the cardiovascular, immune, nervous, and reproductive systems.
It enhances blood flow by dilating blood vessels, dissolving arterial plaques, and aiding in tissue recovery and regeneration. It helps brain nerve cells to communicate with each other and is involved in their development and regeneration. It also plays an important role in the fight against invading bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
However, Nitric Oxide concentrations that are too low or too high can result in a number of serious conditions and diseases like heart disease, stroke, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autoimmune diseases, chronic inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and many more.
Studies have now shown that Jiaogulan has the remarkable ability to both protect and stimulate the production of Nitric Oxide (NO) when your body produces too little of it (6, 57, 59, 60, 61), or to limit its production when it is out of control (38, 62, 63, 64).
Since diseases arise when Nitric Oxide levels are either too high or too low, the regulatory effect of Jiaogulan on its production is crucial in maintaining good health through balance, and is further testament to the herb’s adaptogenic properties.
Here is a short video by one of the discoverers of Nitric Oxide explaining the benefits of this molecule for your health.
We will explore the effects of Nitric Oxide on the various body systems in more detail throughout the rest of this article.
Jiaogulan Promotes Cardiovascular Health
Heart and blood vessel disease is the #1 cause of death in the world, resulting in 17.3 million annual deaths globally. In the United States it killed almost 800,000 people in 2013 alone.
The majority of problems classified under the umbrella of heart disease are related to a process called atherosclerosis, or thickening and hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis is a condition that develops when plaque, mostly made up of white blood cells and blood fats like cholesterol and triglycerides, builds up in the walls of the arteries.
This process starts when damage to the lining of the arteries – or endothelium – accumulates over time. It can be caused by high blood pressure (hypertension) and/or free radicals, for example as a result of smoking.
This arterial damage has a two-fold negative effect.
First, it results in a lower production of Nitric Oxide, which in turn leads to constriction of the arteries, higher blood pressure, more plaque formation, further arterial damage, and as a consequence even less Nitric Oxide production. This self-reinforcing cycle can spin out of control and lead to heart disease unless broken in some way.
Second, when the arteries get damaged they become stiffer and stickier over time. This makes them attract more “bad” LDL cholesterol and white blood cells, which then build up in the artery walls forming plaque.
The more cholesterol and fats there are in the blood (hyperlipidemia), the easier it is for arterial plaque to form. Buildup of plaque narrows the arteries and makes it more difficult for blood to flow through.
This can eventually lead to the formation of a blood clot (a process called thrombosis), which can completely block the blood flow and lead to heart attack, stroke, or embolism.
A heart attack or an ischemic stroke (the most common type) occurs when the blood flow to a part of the heart or brain, respectively, is blocked by a blood clot. If this clot cuts off the blood flow completely, the part of the heart muscle or brain supplied by that artery will die. This can lead to death or, in the case of stroke, to loss of ability to carry out normal functions like walking or talking.
In another type of stroke – haemorrhagic stroke – a blood vessel within the brain bursts. The most common cause is uncontrolled high blood pressure.
Other complications due to atherosclerosis include peripheral arterial disease, kidney disease, and erectile dysfunction.
What is truly remarkable about Jiaogulan is that it counteracts each of the individual causes of atherosclerosis mentioned above, and therefore at the very root it prevents and counters all the complications that come with it.
Jiaogulan Prevents Arterial Damage
As we already mentioned, damage to the arterial lining (endothelium) is THE key factor that leads to the development of atherosclerosis.
Jiaogulan prevents damage to the arterial lining in two ways.
The primary function of endothelial Nitric Oxide is to widen the blood vessels (vasodilation), which increases blood flow circulation throughout your body, providing more of the oxygen and nutrients necessary for proper function of all tissues and organs.
Widening of the arteries has the effect of lowering blood pressure, since blood has more room to flow through and therefore less pressure is put on the arterial walls.
Without Nitric Oxide arteries constrict and require a higher blood pressure to maintain adequate blood flow to the tissue.
In addition, lack of Nitric Oxide increases the number of smooth muscle cells, which can also lead to higher blood pressure.
One double blind clinical study of patients with high blood pressure showed that Jiaogulan is almost as effective as Indapamide (a high blood pressure drug), and almost twice as effective as Panax Ginseng (82%, 93%, and 46% respectively) in reducing high blood pressure (65).
Jiaogulan Prevents Plaque Buildup
Since LDL cholesterol and blood fats are the main ingredients of arterial plaque, a reduction of their concentration in the blood will help prevent or slow down the progression of atherosclerosis.
Jiaogulan has demonstrated its ability to lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglyceride levels, while raising good cholesterol (HDL) levels in a number of studies (18, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84).
It achieves this by improving the body’s ability to metabolize fat and by stimulating Nitric Oxide production, which suppresses the damage done to bad (LDL) cholesterol by free radicals.
Lowering of the cholesterol levels also has a positive side effect of prevention of the formation of cholesterol gallstones
Jiaogulan Prevents Platelet Stickiness and Blood Clots
Plaques grow over years and slowly blocks blood flow in the arteries. What’s worse, cholesterol plaque can suddenly rupture, especially where the person suffers from high blood pressure.
When a plaque inside a coronary artery ruptures, platelets (blood cells whose function is to stop the bleeding) become sticky, develop tentacles and start to roam around in gangs (platelet aggregation) and quickly make their way to the damaged area and pile on it until they either partially or completely block the artery.
The sudden blood clot that forms over the ruptured area causes the blood flow to stop, which results in a heart attack or stroke. Furthermore, blood clots can detach and travel into the blood stream until they get lodged in other blood vessels, for example in the lungs, causing an embolism.
Jiaogulan helps against the formation of blood clots by preventing the platelet aggregation process described above by increasing Nitric Oxide production – which reduces the stickiness of platelets – and by inhibiting Tissue Factor (TF) – the main protein needed for the blood clotting process to initiate (85).
The herb has been shown to prevent the platelets from sticking together and to the lining of arteries in the first place, and also to help them detach from each other, or de-aggregate, in both human clinical trials (85) and animal studies (87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94).
Other Cardiovascular Benefits
Jiaogulan reduces the affected area and the severity of injury to the brain and heart suffered as a consequence of a stroke or a heart attack, and accelerates the healing and recovery process (95, 96, 97, 98).
Jiaogulan also helps protect against coronary spasms, irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), pressor response (the increase in arterial blood pressure in response to various internal or external conditions, e.g. drugs, mental stress, etc.), and ventricular tachycardia – a life-threatening rapid heart beat that starts in the bottom pumping chambers of the heart (101).
Jiaogulan is beneficial for people who suffer from congestive heart failure because it improves the efficiency of the pumping action of the heart. This means the heart does not work as hard to produce the same amount of blood flow, helping it deliver more oxygen and nutrients to the body as a whole without causing additional stress (102, 103).
Jiaogulan and Cancer
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, killing almost 600,000 people in 2013 alone.
If you are an American, there is a one in three chance that you will get cancer during your lifetime. If you are a man, the odds are closer to one in two. Almost everyone in America either knows someone who currently has cancer or who has already died from cancer.
Arguably worse than the actual disease is the conventional treatment. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are based on the principle that by poisoning and destroying the body as a whole, including its natural defenses against the disease (the immune system), the cancer will also be removed.
This is akin to deciding to carpet-bomb New York City, including its anti-terrorism and police departments, because there were “terrorist cells” discovered.
There are several problems with such a strategy:
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are so devastating to our body that the majority of people die as a result of the treatment and not the cancer itself.
The root cause of the problem is not being addressed, so even if conventional treatments do succeed in removing the cancer, it will usually reappear in due time.
It is extremely expensive financially, costing up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Because only the symptoms and not the root cause are addressed, multiple treatments will usually be necessary over the years, provided they work to begin with. How many of these “treatments” can your body survive?
To use another metaphor, imagine your body is an iron rod and the cancer is rust on that iron. If you don’t address the root cause of the rusting process, which is the presence of oxygen reacting with the iron, and only focus on removing the rust with a heavy-duty industrial grinder, how many times can you repeat this process before snapping the rod in two?
The answer of course depends on how thick the rod is, or how strong your body’s constitution is. Regardless, I’d bet the house you don’t want to find out.
Wouldn’t it be more sensible to apply a coating on the rod so that rust wouldn’t develop in the first place?
Wouldn’t it be better to instead strengthen the body and its defenses so that it can naturally prevent or fight the disease? After all, cancer cells are always present in our bodies and our immune system is usually perfectly capable of neutralizing them.
We believe this is a more sensible approach, and it seems mainstream science is starting to agree. So much so, in fact, that the journal Science has designated “Immunotherapy of Cancer” as its Breakthrough of the Year in 2013.
Research has shown that Jiaogulan has many cancer fighting and prevention effects on a wide variety of cancers.
It works on several levels to prevent and heal cancer:
It enhances the body’s own defenses by protecting and boosting the immune system. A strong immune system is important for preventing the formation of tumors.
With its exceptional antioxidant effects, Jiaogulan scavenges free radicals within the body, minimizing DNA mutations that lead to tumors. (See the Antioxidant section for more information)
Its chemical components like saponins (gypenosides), flavonoids and polysaccharides have direct anticancer action.
Jiaogulan has been shown in studies to reduce tumor size, inhibit tumor growth and metastasis (spreading), cause apoptosis (tumor cell death) by increasing free-radical damage to cancer cells, and inhibit energy production in cancer cells.
These effects have been demonstrated in several types of cancer, including:
Liver (hepatoma) (104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113)
Lung (114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 120)
Colorectal (122, 123, 124, 125)
Esophageal (122, 126)
Oral (127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133, 134, 135)
Stomach (137, 138)
Skin (melanoma) (139, 140)
Uterus/cervix (141, 142, 143)
Leukaemia (144, 145, 146, 147)
Sarcoma (147, 148)
For those who choose to use the traditional methods of cancer treatment – chemotherapy and radiation therapy – Jiaogulan has shown to be an invaluable ally.
Jiaogulan Slows Down Aging and Increases Longevity
Longevity isn’t just about reaching a ripe old age – it’s also about feeling and looking good as you get there!
While most people today choose anti-aging creams, surgery, and Botox, we believe in a more holistic approach to health and aging because youth, like beauty, is more than skin deep.
Jiaogulan was first discovered in China because of the unusually long life spans and good health of so many of its users in the mountainous regions where it grows.
When you drink Jiaogulan tea daily you will not only look younger, you will be younger and healthier.
The herb slows down aging from the inside out. It has a rejuvenating and healing effect on all organs and major systems due to its unrivaled ability to neutralize the free-radicals that damage and age your body by boosting production of the two most important endogenous antioxidants – superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione.
These two antioxidants are crucial in preventing aging and promoting longevity. Please see the section on the Antioxidant properties of Jiaogulan for details and more scientific evidence.
In human clinical studies, administration of Jiaogulan three times daily for two months was beneficial for all 106 patients (in the study) in reducing general signs and symptoms of aging, such as fatigue, lack of energy, aversion to cold, diarrhoea, poor memory, decreased balance, insomnia, and excessive dreams (155).
Studies with aging animals have shown that Jiaogulan improves their memory and learning ability (156), and rejuvenates their skin (47, 48, 157). It was also found that the herb increases the thickness of the skin, boosts synthesis of collagen, and protects elasticity (158). For extra skin benefit, you can also apply Jiaogulan tea topically, for example as a face rinse.
In addition, there have now been several studies that support claims the herb increases longevity.
In one study, a group of old mice were divided into two groups. After four months, all mice in the control group died, while only 50% of the mice in the Jiaogulan group died (159).
Jiaogulan Prevents and Fights Diabetes
For details on Jiaogulan’s benefits for Diabetes, please see our Jiaogulan and Diabetes page.
Jiaogulan Protects and Boosts the Immune System
Numerous human and animal studies have shown Jiaogulan to protect and strengthen the immune system function.
The immune system is a network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to protect the body from infection and disease.
It is your body’s only natural defense against viruses, bacteria, parasites, and diseases like cancer.
It is hardly surprising that a strong and properly functioning immune system is crucial to lasting good health.
Jiaogulan’s beneficial effects on the immune system are mostly due to its antioxidant properties and ability to balance Nitric Oxide production.
Nitric oxide regulates the functional activity, growth and death of many immune and inflammatory cell types. Certain immune cells produce it in high enough concentrations for it to become toxic and use it as a weapon against invading bacteria, viruses, parasites, as well as to defend against tumors.
However, under certain conditions this process can backfire, resulting in the production of too much Nitric Oxide by the immune system. This can cause a variety of problems, including inflammation, sepsis, and autoimmune diseases.
Jiaogulan’s ability to reduce Nitric Oxide when the immune system is overactive is therefore vital in the prevention of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, including some cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, heart disease, periodontitis, and hay fever.
The herb also fights inflammation by decreasing free radical damage and inhibiting Nuclear Factor-kappaB (NF-kB) – a protein involved in cell survival and signaling – both important factors in the generation of inflammation (30, 32, 62, 93, 94, 178, 179, 180, 181).
Gynostemma also protects the immune system from the effects of stress (6), rigorous or exhaustive physical exercise (182, 183, 146, 184), and cancer chemotherapy and radiation therapy (149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 154).
Jiaogulan Protects and Strengthens the Nervous System
Jiaogulan protects and enhances the function of the central and peripheral nervous systems, mainly through its antioxidant properties and its ability to regulate Nitric Oxide production.
Nitric Oxide plays an important role in learning and memory by helping nerve cells in the brain to communicate with each other (197, 198). It is involved in neurotransmitter release, neural development and regeneration, synaptic plasticity and regulation of gene expression (199).
At normal concentrations, Nitric Oxide protects the nerve cells from damage and cell death. However, at high concentrations it becomes toxic to the nerve cells and can cause cell injury and cell death (200).
Overproduction of Nitric Oxide in the nervous system has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Huntington’s disease, and depression (201).
In light of this, it’s not surprising that Jiaogulan has been shown to help prevent both Alzheimer’s (204, 205, 206, 207) and Parkinson’s (37, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212), which are the 6th and 14th leading causes of death in the United States respectively. It may also be effective against optic neuritis, although further studies are needed (213).
The herb also helps protect against and recover from brain and memory damage induced by alcohol (217, 218) and free radicals (31, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 49), as well as damage and cognitive impairment from ischemia-reperfusion and hypoxia due to stroke and other causes (34, 218, 219, 220, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127).
A study with elderly cerebral infarction patients (a type of ischemic stroke) showed that administering Jiaogulan for a 12-week period improved their cognitive functions to a level close to that of normal elderly subjects who had not suffered a stroke. In addition, the improvements were better than that of a control group that was given Piracetam, a popular nootropic and brain-enhancing drug (128).
A second clinical study using different evaluation methods showed identical results, and further improvement when treatment was continued for 12 more weeks – 24 weeks in total (229).
Lastly, the herb was found to increase the excitability and stability of the brain during athletic competition. A Guiyang Medical College research group carried out testing on more than 300 professional athletes, including athletes of the China National Skating Team. All of the tested athletes reported that a Jiaogulan/Danshen recipe taken before the competition made them vigorous and alert, with quick reflexes and less nervousness. A control group taking Danshen alone did not feel increased stability and excitability of the nervous system during competition, although they also felt increased energy and endurance (234, 235).
Jiaogulan Improves Athletic Performance
Many top athletes and bodybuilders use Jiaogulan because it enhances their performance by energising the body and increasing physical strength, stamina, endurance and muscle tone.
This is also why Jiaogulan is given to race-horses.
If you’re involved in sports or workout at the gym, you will find that you can go through your usual training routine with less effort, or that you can endure a harder workout by only expending the same amount of effort as you did before.
Jiaogulan is able to increase athletic performance in several ways:
1- By regulating the production of Nitric Oxide.
2 – By improving heart function efficiency.
3 – By stimulating the production of the endogenous antioxidants glutathione and superoxide dismutase.
Since one of the main functions of Nitric Oxide is to widen the arteries (vasodilation), it has the effect of increasing blood circulation throughout the body. This provides more of the oxygen and glucose the muscles need to be able to work at peak levels longer, improving stamina and energy levels.
Nitric Oxide also stimulates growth hormone production (236), which encourages fat reduction and muscle building.
Jiaogulan also improves the efficiency of the pumping action of the heart, so that it doesn’t work as hard to produce the same amount of blood flow. Again, more oxygen and nutrients reach the muscles and performance is improved.
A clinical study at the Guiyang Medical College with 30 normal healthy persons and 220 athletes showed that within 30 minutes after oral administration of a single dose of Jiaogulan combined with other Chinese medicinal herbs, all subjects responded with increased cardiac output and stroke volume, while heart rate and blood pressure did not change (237).
A number of studies involving forced swimming tests with animals have proven that Jiaogulan has a significant anti-fatigue effect and increases the endurance capacity in animals, enabling them to swim significantly longer before they get exhausted. In addition, these effects become stronger as the dose is increased (239, 240, 241, 242, 243, 244, 245, 246).
Jiaogulan significantly increases glucose levels in the blood, liver and muscles, which is the fuel the muscles use and is therefore very important for the prolongation of endurance exercise.
Furthermore, Gynostemma decreases the amount of lactic acid (the build-up of which causes sore muscles the day after rigorous exercise) in the blood significantly and this is an important indicator for judging the degree of fatigue and means that Jiaogulan is able to postpone the appearance of fatigue and accelerate the recovery from fatigue (239, 240, 241, 242, 243, 244).
Jiaogulan also helps us reach peak mental and physical function by boosting the levels of the endogenous antioxidants superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione, and lowering Malondialdehyde – MDA (241, 242, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247, 248, 249, 250). This means less muscle damage resulting from exercise, quicker recovery time, increased strength, endurance and a shift in the metabolism from fat production to muscle development.
This is important because it has been demonstrated that the immune system is suppressed after rigorous exercise. Marathon runners and the high frequency of respiratory tract infections immediately after a run are one example.
If you are involved in physical exercise, act like the pros and have some Jiaogulan before a workout for extra energy and stamina, and after workout to help your body repair more quickly from the damage physical exercise inevitably causes.
Other Health Benefits of Jiaogulan
Anti-Anxiety and Anti-Stress
Being an adaptogen, Jiaogulan reduces mental and physical stress. It has also been shown to have a significant anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effect and to help recover dopamine and serotonin levels back to normal (6, 211, 251, 252, 253, 254).
One double-blind placebo-controlled human clinical trial demonstrated the herb’s ability to significantly reduce anxiety and stress in groups of high anxiety and normal individuals by over 20% and 10% respectively, as evaluated by standard anxiety and stress tests (255).
Jiaogulan has also shown promise in the treatment of depression (256).
Promotes Weight Loss
Jiaogulan helps reduce weight in overweight people, at least in part by activating AMP-activated protein kinase – AMPK (257, 258). In addition, the herb’s ability to increase insulin sensitivity in the body also has beneficial weight-stabilizing or weight-loss effects (259).
A 12-week, randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial was done with 80 participants who were considered obese according to Asia-Pacific guidelines. 40 subjects were given an extract of one of Jiaogulan’s active ingredients and 40 were given placebo. The subjects made no changes to their lifestyle. Body weight in the Jiaogulan group dropped by 1.35kg, fat mass dropped by 1.25kg, and waist circumference dropped by 2.62 centimeters on average. None of these changes were observed in the placebo group (260).
A second randomized, single-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial involving 56 subjects who were diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver also found statistically significant effect of Jiaogulan extract on Body Mass Index (BMI), as well as improvements in other parameters over the placebo group (260).
Jiaogulan has also been reported to help those who are underweight to gain mass by improving metabolism and nutrient absorption. However, no studies have yet been done to test this claim.
Cleanses the Body From Toxins
Jiaogulan has been widely reported to protect and cleanse the body from toxins (294, 295, 296). The herb is able to do that by stimulating the production of the antioxidant glutathione, which plays a vital role in detoxifying the body by binding to pesticides, heavy metals and other toxins until they are excreted.
Protects the Liver
Jiaogulan was found to completely cure Hepatitis B in a 5.5 years long clinical trial with an effective rate of 77.5%.262 In short-term clinical studies (3 months or less), Jiaogulan was also found to have positive effect on patients with a chronic hepatitis B infection (263, 264).
Prevents liver fibrosis – a scarring process that represents the liver’s response to injury – which can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, liver failure and liver cancer (45, 265, 266, 267, 268, 269, 270).
Jiaogulan prevents liver fatty degeneration in fatty liver disease by modulating fat metabolism, ameliorating liver dysfunction, reducing oxidative stress (272), and protecting liver cells from injury and death (261).
Protects against liver damage and cell death caused by ischemia/reperfusion via its antioxidant activity (273).
Protects and Improves Kidney Function
Three separate clinical studies with hundreds of patients suffering from chronic renal failure showed that Jiaogulan can decrease blood fats and improve kidney function, anemia, and the nutritional situation in these patients (274, 275, 276).
Protects the kidneys from damage due to toxins (277).
Protects against kidney failure and gout by lowering blood uric acid in cases of hyperuricemia (abnormally high level of uric acid in the blood), which can cause both of these conditions (280).
Fights Respiratory Issues and Supports the Lungs
In a clinical study of 86 patients with chronic bronchitis, Jiaogulan was found to effectively treat 93% of the cases (285).
In another clinical study of 96 cases, Jiaogulan was effective 92% in treating chronic bronchitis (286).
The herb is used traditionally as an expectorant and decongestant since it helps clear mucus from the airways, lungs, bronchia and trachea (196).
Protects the Gastro-Intestinal System
Jiaogulan protects the GIT from damage due to toxins (277) and improves digestion and metabolism.
It improves bowel movement function and alleviates constipation.
Helps regulate the gut microbiome ecosystem by increasing the number of symbiotic bacteria. This may in part contribute to the anticancer effect of Gynostemma, since the gut ecosystem can play an important role in diseases such as cancer, autism, rheumatoid arthritis, and allergies (289).
Balances Hormonal Function
Protects and Benefits the Reproductive System
Jiaogulan improves sexual function and helps with Erectile Dysfunction because it regulates Nitric Oxide production. Nitric Oxide plays a key role in developing and maintaining penile erection due to its ability to dilate the arteries and increase blood flow to the whole body, including the penis (209, 290, 291).
Increasing Nitric Oxide production is the biological basis of how the popular drug Viagra works.
Nitric Oxide is also important in sperm production and motility, ovarian function and ovulation, oviduct (the tube that links the ovary to the uterus) function, formation of the placenta, pregnancy, labor, sexual behavior, and generation of steroid hormones (292).
Gynostemma has been used as an effective treatment for insomnia in folk medicine, especially when it occurs because of excessive stress or anxiety. This is because it soothes the nerves and has anti-stress and anxiety effects on the body. A Guiyang Medical College study with 112 patients showed that Jiaogulan could improve sleep with an effective rate of 89 – 95% (297).
Protects the Skin From Sun Damage
Jiaogulan has been shown to protect from UV radiation when applied directly to the skin (157, 298, 299). Even if consumed only as a tea, the herb will still have a protective effect against sunburn because it’s a powerful antioxidant. This is important in the prevention of melanoma (skin cancer) and premature aging of the skin.
Jiaogulan Helps Against Psoriasis
Jiaogulan has shown promise in the treatment of Psoriasis, a chronic inflammatory skin disorder (301).
Anti-Viral, Anti-Fungal and Anti-Bacterial
Jiaogulan has been used for hundreds of years in folk medicine for the prevention of colds and the flu.
It has demonstrated strong anti-viral potential against Yellow Fever (302) and Polio (303), diseases that have no known treatment drugs. It was also shown to have potent and selective anti-retroviral potential against the HIV-1 retrovirus, which is reported to cause AIDS (304).
Jiaogulan inhibits growth in several types of fungi and bacteria (305).
Headaches and Migraines
Jiaogulan has been shown to alleviate headaches and migraines (306).
If you ever find you’ve had a few too many drinks the night before, have a couple of cups of Jiaogulan tea in the morning – you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Jiaogulan is Completely Safe and Non-Toxic
The fact that people have safely been using Jiaogulan daily for hundreds of years in China without reporting any negative side effects should be convincing enough that the herb has no toxicity.
In addition, however, there is also a great deal of scientific research that demonstrates its safety.
Of the many hundreds of scientific studies on Jiaogulan, a significant number of which have checked for toxicity or adverse side-effects, there has never been a report of any toxic effects whatsoever to any organ in the body.
Furthermore, there have been several studies whose specific purpose was to find any signs of toxicity from Gynostemma, as well as determine the LD50 (the dose necessary to cause death to 50% of test animals).
In one study Wistar rats were given up to 750mg per kilogram of Jiaogulan extract orally every day for 6 months. No toxic effects were observed (307). The results of another 4-month study with 1000mg/kg daily oral dose were identical (308).
Considering that the daily recommended dose is usually somewhere between 50-300 milligrams of gypenosides per day, it would be literally impossible for a human to consume enough Jiaogulan to get anywhere near these concentrations even if they tried extremely hard.
Contrast this to prescription drugs people use every day, which cause 106,000 deaths per year in the United States alone! And that does not take into consideration the serious side effects of these drugs even if they don’t kill you (311).
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