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Entdecke das Wunderkraut Jiaogulan: Geschichte und Heilkraft in der Volksmedizin

Unveiling the Miracle Herb Jiaogulan: History and Healing Power in Folk Medicine

Jiaogulan, also known as the "Herb of Immortality," is one of the lesser-known traditional medicinal herbs from Asia. This plant, bearing the botanical name "Gynostemma Pentaphyllum," was primarily used in folk medicine for centuries in the mountainous regions of southern China, where it grows wild.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), as we know it today, originated far from these regions. Therefore, Jiaogulan is not included in the standardized TCM drug system, making it less widespread than other medicinal herbs.

However, the Herb of Immortality has a long history. In this article, You'll learn more about the origins and traditional uses of this Chinese healing plant.

Gynostemma Pentaphyllum: The History and Botany of the Plant

Discovery as the Herb of Immortality

As mentioned earlier, the use of Jiaogulan was limited to a few regions in Asia for a long time. So, how did this herb, which had been used in traditional folk medicine for centuries, suddenly gain worldwide interest?

In the 1970s, China conducted a massive population census, revealing that residents of certain regions, predominantly in Guizhou province, were living exceptionally long lives—often over 100 years. It turned out that these particularly elderly residents had regularly consumed Jiaogulan tea throughout their lives. This marked not only the birth of the pseudonym "Herb of Immortality" but also the initiation of numerous research projects surrounding this enigmatic Asian plant.

The Herb of Immortality has several other names, including Women's Ginseng and Five-Leaf Ginseng. However, Jiaogulan and true ginseng are not botanically related. The nomenclatural connection arises from the intensive research conducted on Jiaogulan in the late 20th century, which uncovered a series of ingredients similar to or even identical to those found in ginseng.

Botanical Characteristics of the Plant

Jiaogulan is a perennial vine. This means its bulbous roots do not die off during the winter but remain underground. When spring arrives and the weather warms, the plant produces new shoots.

The plant's height depends significantly on external factors, and under optimal conditions, the climbing plant can grow up to 8 meters in height. Its leaves are fresh green and consist of compound parts with five leaflets. This unique appearance led to Jiaogulan being dubbed the Five-Leaf Ginseng. During the summer months, the plant also produces inconspicuous, greenish-white flowers.

Originally, Jiaogulan was primarily native to China, India, Japan, Korea, and Thailand, as well as the entire Malaysian region. However, cultivating and caring for it is generally straightforward. If You wish, You can even cultivate the Herb of Immortality in Your garden or as a potted plant.

The leaves are traditionally consumed as an herbal remedy, either eaten raw or used to make tea. The taste of the herb is mildly sweet and herbal. Parts of the Jiaogulan plant, as is common with medicinal herbs, can also be processed into extracts, which contain a particularly high concentration of active compounds.

The Efficacy of Jiaogulan in Folk Medicine

Active Ingredients in Jiaogulan

As mentioned earlier, some of Jiaogulan's active ingredients are closely related or even identical to those in ginseng, known as ginsenosides.

This discovery surprised researchers, as the development of specific secondary plant compounds typically occurs within a single plant family. Ginseng, however, belongs to the Araliaceae family, while Jiaogulan is botanically classified under the Cucurbitaceae family.

The active ingredients of Korean ginseng are called ginsenosides, while the related compounds in Jiaogulan are referred to as Gypenosides. Both groups structurally belong to the class of saponins.

The term "saponin" is derived from the Latin "sapo," which means soap. They are so named because, in combination with water, they can produce a soap-like foam. Saponins are known for their mucolytic, anti-inflammatory, and immune-stimulating properties, among other health benefits.

In addition to Gypenosides, Jiaogulan contains valuable flavonoids such as rutin and quercetin.

Flavonoids are the pigments found in many fruits and vegetables. Depending on their structure, they can serve various purposes, including attracting pollinators or acting as a defense mechanism against herbivores. Health-wise, they are appreciated for their antioxidant and antibacterial effects.

Gypenosides and flavonoids are primarily responsible for Jiaogulan's therapeutic effects. Since its global discovery in the 1970s, the climbing plant has been the subject of numerous studies.

Researchers have identified several promising application areas:

Application in Diabetes and Blood Sugar Regulation

Numerous studies have investigated the effects of Jiaogulan on diabetes and blood sugar levels.

In one clinical study, 24 subjects with type 2 diabetes consumed Jiaogulan tea or placebo tea daily for 12 weeks. Both groups also received advice on nutrition and exercise. The Jiaogulan tea led to a significant improvement in short- and long-term blood sugar levels compared to the control group.

Another research project involving 25 subjects found that combining a diabetes-proven drug with a Jiaogulan extract over 8 weeks resulted in better blood sugar levels than treatment with the prescription medication alone.

Various preclinical studies have also demonstrated Jiaogulan's blood sugar-lowering properties. Moreover, the contained Gypenosides appear to have a positive impact on insulin resistance, a common factor in type 2 diabetes. This means that the body's cells become less sensitive to the hormone insulin, resulting in reduced glucose intake from the blood and an increase in blood sugar levels.

Another preclinical study suggests that Jiaogulan and grape extract enhance each other's positive effects on insulin resistance. Their combined effect in the study was even greater than the sum of their individual effects.

Due to the limited number of participants, the human studies are not yet representative. Nevertheless, they indicate that Jiaogulan could be an effective option in supporting established diabetes treatments.

Application in Dyslipidemia (Abnormal Blood Lipid Levels)

Jiaogulan appears promising in the treatment of dyslipidemia.

In a clinical study, this Chinese plant was found to reduce cholesterol, triglyceride, and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) levels in the serum. Elevated levels of these three substances in the blood are associated with various common health conditions and are considered risk factors.

In contrast, HDL (high-density lipoprotein) levels in the Jiaogulan group increased during the study. HDL is a protein responsible for transporting excess cholesterol, making an increase in HDL levels a positive development.

The positive effects of the medicinal plant on blood lipid levels have been confirmed in further studies. Moreover, it is suspected that Jiaogulan may be beneficial in the medical management of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, although more research is required in this area.

Antioxidant Properties

The Herb of Immortality has a remarkable antioxidant effect on the body.

This means it may protect You from oxidative stress and its detrimental effects. Oxidative stress occurs when the number of free radicals in Your body surpasses the number of existing antioxidants. Free radicals are oxygen compounds with unpaired electrons, making them highly reactive. They can snatch electrons from other molecules, initiating a chain reaction.

Antioxidants can neutralize free radicals, preventing them from attacking Your cells. The presence of free radicals in Your body is normal, but it's the excess of these compounds relative to antioxidants, referred to as "oxidative stress," that could have long-term detrimental effects on Your health. A healthy lifestyle can help prevent this.

According to various studies, Jiaogulan can reduce the extent and effects of oxidative stress. The plant is particularly known for its ability to increase the concentration of superoxide dismutase (SOD) in the body. SOD is one of the most important endogenous antioxidants, and researchers believe its concentration is proportionally linked to the life expectancy of different animal species.

Jiaogulan may indeed extend human life, but further research is needed to answer this question conclusively.

Adaptogenic Properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Jiaogulan is also known for its adaptogenic effects, supporting Your body's ability to adapt to stress and enhancing Your performance.

These adaptogenic properties were studied in a preclinical trial. The treatment was administered for 28 days with either a saline solution (placebo) or extracts from Gynostemma Pentaphyllum. At the end of the study, the physical performance of the Jiaogulan-treated group was greater than that of the placebo group. Some blood values related to fatigue had also improved with Jiaogulan treatment.

Additional Application Areas

The described use of Jiaogulan for diabetes, dyslipidemia, as an antioxidant, and as an adaptogen is the best-researched as of today. However, the consumption of this Chinese healing herb may also benefit other health conditions.

Preclinical studies have explored the effects of Jiaogulan on conditions like gastric ulcers, Parkinson's disease, and allergic asthma. Additionally, its regulatory effects on the immune system and body weight are discussed.

Jiaogulan in Play It Cool Eye Gel

Conclusion: Is the Herb of Immortality a Myth or Reality?

Similar in effect but less renowned than Korean ginseng, Jiaogulan was exclusively used in selected regions of Asia for centuries. Only in the late 20th century did researchers discover a link between the consumption of Jiaogulan tea and the exceptional longevity of certain Chinese residents. This led to the name "Herb of Immortality."

Since then, Jiaogulan's effects on various diseases have been intensively researched. According to studies, it appears especially promising in the supportive treatment of diabetes, dyslipidemia, and as an antioxidant and adaptogen.

Whether and why the Herb of Immortality could genuinely extend life is not definitively settled. However, it is believed that the plant's antioxidant and adaptogenic properties may play a role. Furthermore, researchers suspect a strong connection between the insulin hormone and the biological aging process. Thus, Jiaogulan's regulatory effects on insulin and blood sugar levels could be crucial.

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