It’s been around for thousands of years, but people are just now taking notice of this plant. It’s called jiaogulan, and its scientific name is Gynostemma pentaphyllum. Jiaogulan is an annual, which means that its stems and leaves die after one growing season. This plant is closely related to cucumbers and watermelons, and it is indigenous to parts of Japan, China, India, and Korea. However, it will grow in other parts of the world if growing conditions are right (meaning that the soil must drain properly and the plants must get a lot of sunlight).
The Chinese have used jiaogulan since ancient times to boost longevity – some even call it the “immortality herb”. It’s frequently boiled into a tea by the inhabitants of Guizhou, who do live to be a ripe old age. However, not much was known about jiaogulan until the 1970s, when the Chinese began to substitute it for ginseng which was rapidly being depleted. Jiaogulan plants are either male or female, and to get seeds you need one plant of each gender. Jiaogulan has no known toxic side effects and is generally regarded as safe to use.
Recent research has shown that ginseng and jiaogulan contain many of the same active ingredients. Ginseng is known to prevent stress from bodily imbalance, and jiaogulan has been discovered to help regulate blood pressure. No one really knows exactly how it works, but it is thought to improve the heart’s metabolism as well as encourage the release of nitric oxide by the body, which helps to relax the heart’s blood vessels. It may also help with the following conditions:
Fatigue or tiredness
Boosting stamina and strength. Research done on humans states that jiaogulan helps increase the contraction capability of the heart muscle, increasing its pumping functions. Other human studies have found that some compounds in jiaogulan increase endurance, making the herb worth a try for athletes and fitness buffs.
Increasing metabolism, which may aid in weight loss. It aids in digestion and helps underweight people absorb nutrients more efficiently. Jiaogulan also helps regulate levels of HDL, LDL and triglycerides.
Boosting immune response
Jiaogulan is sometimes referred to as “the poor man’s ginseng”. This isn’t fully accurate, since it’s unrelated to the other plant. Jiaogulan is an adaptogen, which merely means that it is a herb that helps us cope with fatigue, anxiety and stress- a rejuvenator. Jiaogulan is full of antioxidants, and it may help reduce inflammation by combating dangerous free radicals. Jiaogulan is also helpful in flushing toxins from the body. This plant may have still other beneficial properties that just haven’t been discovered yet.
One of the earliest known written references to jiaogulan is in an 1848 book called the Ahi Wu Ming Shi Tu Kao Chang Bian. Written by Qi-Jun Wu, it contains passages about the medicinal properties of the herb. However, it was also referenced as a food source in a 1406 text by Xio Zu.
When drinking it as a tea, it has a slightly bitter taste (but you can blend it with other herbs or teas if you wish). To get the most benefit from jiaogulan, you should use it while it is still fresh (don’t let it get stale).
There are a few side effects to be aware of, however. The herb has been known to cause diarrhea and nausea in sensitive people, and it also has blood-thinning properties. It shouldn’t be taken by anyone who is on a blood-thinning medication. Also, due to its immune-bolstering properties, it should not be used by those who have undergone an organ transplant. Even with these side effects, jiaogulan is a great addition to any supplement regimen.