How can Jiaogulan both energize and relax you? (SQ-77)
Jiaogulan (Gynostemma Penthaphullym) is a smart herb. It senses what your body needs and works accordingly. With it’s dual (bi-phasic) effects on various body systems, Jiaogulan can enhance the activity of body systems that are underperforming. At the same time, it can also suppress the activity of over-functioning systems. Eventually, jiaogulan works to re-establish the lost balance in the body. This makes Jiaogulan helpful in a wide range of health conditions.
Well, the mystery behind these ‘smart-sensing abilities’ lies in the herb’s adaptogenic properties. For today, let’s explore how Jiaogulan can be a healthy source of energy without overstimulating, as well as helping you relax when needed.
Jiaogulan: A powerful adaptogenic herb
Adaptogens are rare herbs. Only 1 in 4,000 plants will function like an adaptogen. Jiaogulan contains a very high amount of saponins, bio-active compounds that make Jiaogulan a powerful adaptogen, and may be one of the most powerful one out there.
Adaptogens, also called ‘Biological Response Modifiers’ have been effectively used in both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. It’s only recently that scientists have started looking into the amazing benefits these herbs have to offer. So, what really is an adaptogen? An adaptogen is a herb with three important characteristics.
- Has normalizing effects on all major body systems and restores overall balance in the body
- Helps the body deal with and adapt to all kinds of external and internal stress
- Is non-toxic and doesn’t cause any unwanted side effects even when used over long periods
Jiaogulan provides energy boost
The people from mountainous parts of Southern China were known to drink tea made from jiaogulan leaves to improve endurance and energy levels and to relieve fatigue and sleep better at night after a hard day of work. There is evidence that consuming jiaogulan can get you the energy boost without the crashing effects that occur when you rely on caffeine or sugar to get you through the day.
It is ‘saponins’ in Jiaogulan that are majorly responsible for the herb’s extraordinary health promoting qualities, including its power to boost your energy levels and stamina along with its antioxidant, adaptogenic, stress lowering and immune boosting benefits.
Increases stamina and energy levels: The saponins found in jiaogulan, known as gypenosides, stimulate the endothelium to release nitric oxide (NO), a chemical that maintains cardiovascular functions through various mechanisms. It works as a vasodilator, which means NO helps blood vessels to relax and improve blood flow. Better blood circulation means your muscles and tissues are now getting an increased supply of oxygen and nutrients, resulting in the increased energy levels and stamina to work effectively and efficiently.
Relieves fatigue and increases energy levels: Jiaogulan also contains polysaccharides that gives the body the extra assistance (energy and stamina) it needs to work longer. Animal studies show that this polysaccharide content in this adaptogenic herb  :
- Prevents oxidative damage in muscles often induced by exhaustive exercise
- Leads to enhanced exercise tolerance and performance
- Helps the body recover faster from exhaustion
- Increases glycogen levels in the muscle
A 2015 study on mice concluded that polysaccharides from Gynostemma Pentaphyllum (PGP) “had anti-fatigue effects, which could make mice swim for a longer time to exhaustion, with the blood lactic acid, serum urea nitrogen, serum triglycerides, and serum creatine kinase contents decreased, and the liver glycogen and muscle glycogen contents increased.” 
Jiaogulan calms nerves
Like all adaptogens, Jiaogulan normalizes the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, the major system that regulates your response to stress. By regulating the HPA axis, adaptogens control the workings of the nervous, endocrine and immune systems. Through these actions, Jiaogulan:
- Calms down an excited nervous system
- Helps you sleep better
- Reduces fatigue
- Corrects hormonal imbalances
- Strengthens adrenal glands and controls the levels of stress hormones like cortisol, thus reducing stress and anxiety levels
- Strengthens immune functions
Jiaogulan gives your body that overall energy and balance that you need to adapt to the stress. This is called adaptive energy, something very much needed in the stressful times we are living in. Today, there is a lot of instability coming from poor sleeping patterns, long and erratic work schedules, unhealthy diet (read processed food laden with sugar, refined carbohydrates, preservatives and artificial colouring) and prolonged use of antibiotics and drugs. just to name a few factors.
Our nervous system and adrenal glands are not able to cope with this flurry of stressors we are facing today. This has led to high amounts of stress and anxiety in our lives – making us prone to developing inflammation, chronic infections and various interconnected health conditions such as depression, insomnia, poor nerves, chronic pain, obesity and heart disease. Unfortunately, it is all a vicious circle that puts further burden on our faculties that we need to deal with so much stress.
Obviously, when a body is in a balanced state – in terms of hormonal activity and how your immune and nervous systems are functioning – you are more likely to fight stress, self-heal and recover faster from a lot of disturbances. And Jiaogulan helps bring this balance and normalcy to your body systems and organs, making them better and self-equipped to deal with all kinds of emotional, chemical and physical stressors.
Also called ‘The Herb of Immortality’
When we say jiaogulan works as an anti-aging agent, it means it helps you age in a healthy way. Many factors around us cause us to age pre-maturely at the cellular level, giving rise to health conditions typically associated with getting old such as arthritis, cancer, cataracts, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
Interestingly, jiaogulan first caught the eye of scientists due to its purported role in improving the health and increasing the life span of the Chinese people living in provinces of Guizhou, Guangxi, and Sichuan. A census conducted in 1970s showed that these mountainous areas of southern China had a high percentage of people living to the ripe age of 100 and beyond. People from these regions lived relatively longer and had a disease-free life with less cases of cancer and dementia. Further investigation revealed that these people consumed tea made from jiaogulan leaves.
Over the years, scientists have found more than 170 different types of saponins in jiaogulan. As mentioned early in this article, it is this extremely high concentration of saponins that gives jiaogulan a miracle-like status among all herbs.
All adaptogens are anti-oxidants and here also jiaogulan works in a unique fashion. You need anti-oxidants to fight free radicals which your cells confront on a day to day basis. Free radicals cause oxidation of biological molecules like DNA, lipids, enzymes and mitochondria. This oxidative damage alters the bio-chemical properties and functions of these structures, leading to inflammatory reactions and further damage to cells and tissues.
Your body makes its own supply of anti-oxidants (endogenous) to control this kind of oxidative damage. But when faced with so many stressors (that cause excessive generation of free radicals), your body’s natural capacity to limit free radicals will be overwhelmed. It is great to you give your body an extra boost of anti-oxidants from food and supplements but if you let your body produce more of its own, this is likely to give you better outcomes. Endogenous anti-oxidants have higher potency in hunting down and destroying free radicals. Sadly, the body’s ability to produce these internal substances slows down with age. That’s where jiaogulan works its magic.
Jiaogulan stimulates the body to produce three of the most ferocious of internal antioxidants; superoxide Dismutase (SOD), Glutathione and Catalase. This helps the body fight its battle with free radicals with more power and efficiency. This unique property is very likely to be the reason why Jiaogulan is associated with longevity and anti-aging benefits.
Other health benefits of Jiaogulan
- Improves hearts functions
- Maintains healthy cholesterol
- Regulates blood sugar levels
- Controls blood pressure
- Helps in proper absorption of nutrients
- Provides healthy nutrition in the form of natural vitamins and minerals
- Helps in detoxification
- Chi eta al. Chemical composition of three polysaccharides from Gynostemma pentaphyllum and their antioxidant activity in skeletal muscle of exercised mice. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2012
- Shan Lin-Na, Shi Yong-Xiu. Effects of Polysaccharides from Gynostemma Pentaphyllum (Thunb.), Makino on Physical Fatigue. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2014
- The Effects of Polysaccharide from Gynostemma pentaphyllum Supplementation on Exhaustive Exercise-Induced Fatigue", Applied Mechanics and Materials, Vol. 730, pp. 241-244, Jan. 2015