Southern Ginseng, or Gynostemma pentaphyllum, is a climbing vine extensively found in New Guinea, and East and South Asia. The Southern Chinese and Northern Vietnamese used it as a medicinal herb in their traditional cultures.
The elderly inhabitants of these areas supposedly attribute their long lives to using the herb. According to word-of-mouth, people who used this grow into old age with fewer instances of disease or illness. Because of this, Gynostemma gained the name “Immortality Herb” among the people who use it.
What Gynostemma Can Do For You
1. It can help improve and maintain your cardiovascular health
Although it is a part of different genus of plants, Gynostemma also contains the beneficial compound ginsenoside found in Panax ginseng. From various studies, it has shown to reduce the risk of stroke due to blood clots, heart failure, arteriosclerosis, and abnormal heart rhythm.
Aside from ginsenosides, Gynostemma pentaphyllum also contains its own unique compound known as gypenosides. This compound can improve blood flow in narrowed arteries and protect the heart from damage during a heart attack. Gypenosides can also compound the effects of cardiovascular exercise because of its ability to improve your recovery from it.
2. It controls your allergic reactions
Your immune system is made-up of a pro-inflammatory system (Th2) and an anti-inflammatory system (Th1). An allergic reaction happens when your body has an over-activated Th2 system response to a chemical compound. Gynostemma controls this overreaction by increasing the production of Th1 (T helper 1) cells in your body. This results to reduced histamine production, airway inflammation, and inflammatory astrocyte activation.
Furthermore, gynostemma increases your blood flow and metabolism by increasing nitric oxide and AMPK production. This helps your body immediately eliminate from your system the compound that caused the allergic reaction.
3. It Protects Your Brain from Damage
Our brains require an uninterrupted supply of oxygen to metabolize glucose for energy. When this supply is interrupted, the brain can experience damage. This can lead to temporary memory loss, impaired physical movement, and poor attention span and decision-making. In severe cases, this can lead to seizures, coma, or brain death.
Gynostemma can protect your brain from this based on the observations on an in vitro study of hippocampal slices. The study noted that the brain cells were still functional even when after deprivation of oxygen and glucose.
Moreover, Gynostemma extract supplementation helped revive cellular function even when it did not have said protection prior to deprivation. This led it to being studied as a possible treatment for those who have undergone stroke.
Aside from this, the extract can also protect the brain from oxidative damage that leads to Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. The research is still at the stage of animal and in vitro testing but results are promising. The test subjects administered with gypenosides prevented the manifestation of signs that indicate onset of said diseases. Furthermore, it showed that higher doses showed improved results, which indicates its potential for human use.
4. It can help manage stress-related disorders
Stress is a normal part of your daily life. But, when this stress becomes a persistent part of your day, it can lead to a variety of ailments. The most common of these are mood disorders and digestive disorders.
Gynostemma has been found to help moderating stress because it can control the stress hormone levels of the body. And, even when stress has started to manifest in various disorders, the herb can still help as it can help control these symptoms. Research has shown that Southern Ginseng was successful in alleviating stress-related migraines, gastritis, ulcers, oxidative damage, depression, and anxiety.
5. It Increases Nitric Oxide Levels
Gynostemma pentaphyllum supplementation can increase your body’s nitric oxide production. Increased nitric oxide levels help your body to have better blood flow for erectile function, exercise performance, and muscular strength and endurance. The increased blood flow also helps you recover faster from muscle soreness and Improve nourishment of muscles and other tissues targeted after your workout.
6. It Improves Conditions of Diabetes
Because gynostemma increases nitric oxide levels, it can also help those with type-2 diabetes. This is due to type-2 diabetics having poor nitric oxide production, which causes them to have high blood pressure, and have high risk for heart and kidney disease. Supplementing with the herb to increase nitric oxide levels can go a long way for type-2 diabetics since it increases their insulin sensitivity, and improves their blood sugar control.
7. It Can Help You Lose Body Fat
In preliminary tests, test subjects that took gynostemma pentahyllum supplements lost fat without any intervention from their food intake. This is said to be due to the activation of AMPK (or AMP-activated protein kinase). The activation of this protein prompts the body to increase metabolism. Since increased metabolism requires more energy, the protein would also trigger the release of fatty acids from your stored body fat so that your body can burn it for energy.
8. It Protects Your Cells from Oxidative Damage
Gynostemma contains a variety of phytochemicals that bind to free radical molecules. Binding these molecules prevent them from running free to wreak cellular damage on the different cells and tissues of your body. Tests on animals have shown that supplementation with gynostemma reduced oxidative cell damage.
However, not all parts of the Southern Ginseng plant possess antioxidant properties. Only the seed of the plant has shown this property due to its high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids and linoleic acid. Other compounds present in the oil that help in fighting free radicals include phytosterols, squalene, and tocopherol.
Warnings on Gynostemma Use
Like any supplement, you should check for any interactions it might have with your medications or existing health conditions. You should never take Gynostemma tea, extracts, or supplements with immunosuppressing drugs because of its effect on your immune system. It should also be noted that it could increase the effect of supplements or medication that slow blood clotting.