Today is Part 3 of our Belight Tea Wellness Benefits series. This week we’re exploring how the tea and herbs in Belight support total body wellness.
The herb we’ll discover today is an adaptogen from Chinese Medicine known as Gynostemma pentaphyllum or in Chinese as Jiao Gu Lan. It has many other colloquial names including, “grass of the immortals” for its longevity qualities, “Southern Ginseng” because it grows in southern China and has many similarities to ginseng, “miracle grass” because of its profound wellness properties, and “sweet tea vine” because it lends a sweet flavor when steeped into an herbal infusion.
In Chinese Medicine, Gynostemma is slightly sweet and bitter in taste, yet cool by nature. It targets the lung, spleen and kidney meridians.
Adaptogenic herbs, including Jiaogulan, are defined by three key characteristics:
- generally regarded as safe (eg nontoxic)
- support the body to resist the effects of stress, and
- help balance and normalize the systems of the body.
Unlike some other adaptogens, jiaogulan is calming, and is therefore appropriate for anxious people, those suffering from stress headaches or anxiety-induced insomnia, or anyone looking to reduce tension and encourage relaxation. Despite it’s calming nature, traditional cultures of Asia have drunk Jiaogulan tea as a way to get energized and increase concentration. With this two-way action, we see the adaptogenic properties in effect: the moderating and balancing action of the herb.
Gynostemma appears to have an immuno-modulating effect, which has been suggested to protect against tumors and certain types of cancer (1).
A 12-week study found than an extract of gynostemma helped to significantly reduce abdominal fat, body weight, body fat percentage, and BMI in heavy Korean adults (4).
Sources suggest gynostemma may reduce oxidative damage, particularly to the cardiovascular system, through increasing production of superoxide dismutase (SOD), while lowering blood pressure, LDL, VLDL, and triglycerides [source: Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief by David Winston and Steven Maimes (2007).]
Indigenous cultures of China used gynostemma to fight fatigue, prevent colds, enhance longevity, and increase endurance.
I’ve long been a fan of adapatogens for their safety and balancing properties. Gynostemma just happens to be one of the more easily drinkable, for its pleasant, sweet taste. In parts of China gynostemma is offered as a caffeine-free alternative to tea in the evenings, where it is sipped and savored just like a cup of tea. I had the pleasure of enjoying a few cups one evening with a community of tea producers in Fujian province of China.
None of these are claims or implied claims for tea and its ability (or not) to treat, cure, diagnose, or prevent disease. This only a summary of the research available online. It is for informational purposes only.