Jiaogulan or Gynostemma pentaphyllum is an herbaceous crawling vine type of plant that is native in China, South Korea, Japan and north of Vietnam. It belongs to the family of Cucurbitaceae gourds. It is closely related to cucumbers, melons and gourds even if it does not possess their common characteristic which is having a fruit. The plant is called many names such as Southern ginseng, amachazuru, sweet tea vine and herb of immortality. The name jiaogulan means the twisting vine orchid.
It was used for centuries in China as an energizing and medicinal tea. The properties, functions and composition of the jiaogulan is similar to that of ginseng. It is also believed to be an immortality herb or Xiancao because of its many uses such as anti-ageing and health-giving properties. Also, it grows wildly in many parts of China.
History of Jiaogulan
The plant was first described and discovered by Zu Xiao in 1406 CE. It was written and presented in Materia Medica for Famine. The drawing and description of the plant was that of a survival food instead of an herbal medicine. Another book described the plant but as a medicinal herb. The book was written by Li Shi-Zhen in 1578. However, there was a mistake as Li Shi-Zhen had mistaken it for another herb called Wulianmei. In the book entitled Compendium of Meteria Medica, the jiaogulan was said to be a remedy for oedema, haematuria, trauma and tumours. It was in 1848 when the mistake was cleared by Wu Qi-Jun and written more descriptions about its uses in the book Textual Investigation of Herbal Plants.
Dr. Masahiro Nagai has found active ingredients similar to those of Panax ginseng, another potent and popular herb in 1970. As time passed by, more compounds are found in jiaogulan compared to ginseng.
Potent Properties and Ingredients of Jiaogulan
The jiaogulan contains many properties and actions that are beneficial to the body. Its benefits and effects are quite similar to ginseng which is a widely used herb up to this day. Some of its action includes antioxidant, detoxifier, adaptogen, hypotensive, cardiac tonic, vasodilator and immune-stimulant. It contains potent ingredients such as saponins which are more than the saponins of ginseng, gypenosides, amino acids, trace minerals, vitamins and proteins. It can increase the production of white blood cells and serum ICG.
Health Benefits of the Jiaogulan
The jiaogulan is valued for its use as an antioxidant and detoxifier of the body from harmful substances. Eliminating these free radicals help keep the body from deteriorating and prevent the symptoms of ageing. It also promotes the health of the cardiovascular system and helps maintain the normal blood pressure. It reduces the effects of stress and increase the breakdown of fat to help in weight loss. Other benefits include regulating cholesterol levels, increasing longevity and boosting the immune system.
Proper Use and Precautions
The traditional use of jiaogulan is through herbal teas. Other forms including capsules and herb extracts are also available. In order to brew a tea, infuse dried leaves of the plant to hot water for four minutes. Also, do not consume when taking blood thinning drugs.