Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum) is a member of the gourd or Cucurbitaceae family of plants that also contains squash, cucumbers, melons, pumpkin and zucchini. Jiaogulan is native to parts of East Asia including Vietnam, Korea, China and Japan. The plant is a creeping climbing vine, which is characterised by serrated leaves and a purple gourd (inedible fruit). Jiaogulan is used in traditional Chinese medicine for its adaptogenic properties, and in this respect can be thought of as similar in effect to other adaptogenic herbs including Panax ginseng, Withania (ashwagandha), mimosa, sour date, rhodiola, Siberian ginseng, brahmi, and gotu kola. Some of the health effects of jiaogulan include general antioxidant and anti-stress effects, which are common to most adaptogens. Studies also indicate that Jiaogulan has blood pressure normalising, cardioprotective, cholesterol normalising, and anti-diabetic effects. As with other adaptogenic herbs, jiaogulan may also have particular anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects. These effects may relate to the triterpene saponins and flavonoids contained within the plant.
For example, in one study mice were exposed to a number of forms of experimental stress. The stress caused significant changes in the behaviour of the mice, but these changes were reversed in a group of mice who were administered jiaogulan extract for 14 days. In addition, the stress caused a reduction in the dopamine and serotonin levels in the brains of the mice, and again these effects were reversed in a group of mice who were administered jiaogulan extract for 14 days. The authors observed that jiaogulan extract was able to significantly reduce the cortisol levels in the animals. Jiaogulan extract was also able to reduce elevated levels of a protein called c-fos in the brains of the mice. Elevated levels of c-fos are associated with poor cellular and health outcomes. Therefore the beneficial mood elevating effects of jiaogulan may derive from a general effect that lowers the response to stress. This normalisation of stress may then lead to normalisation of disrupted neurotransmitter levels, including dopamine and serotonin.
In another study, researchers exposed experimental mice to chronic stress which increased their anxiety levels. This reduced their grip strength, the amount of movement they exhibited and increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. However administration of jiaogulan extract significantly reduced these negative effects in the mice. Experimental evidence also suggests that jiaogulan can protect from neurotoxicity and against experimentally induced Parkinson’s disease. For example, in one study study, jiaogulan extract was shown to be protective of neurotoxicity and to normalise dopamine levels in rats. A similar study also showed that jiaogulan extract was shown to have similar neuroprotective effects in mice. In another study, jiaogulan significantly reduce the anxiety experienced by mice exposed to chronic stress and protected dopamine containing neurones from degeneration. In a further study, dopamine containing neurones were protected from stress induced cell death by administration of jiaogulan extract in rats.
Eat Well, Stay Healthy, Protect Yourself