How many of you have dreamt of immortality? I will admit that I have and can not deny that I would like to live forever. Of course, immortality is nothing more than a pipe dream – at least for the foreseeable future. However, the next best thing is to extend your life and to make sure that you reach your old age in as good a state of health as possible.
There is a great deal of research going on into longevity at the moment and some of the studies appear promising. But did you know that there was a herb called jiaogulan that the Chinese have known about for centuries? Known as the ‘herb of immortality’, jiaogulan can help you live a longer, healthier life and so much more. Science is finding out that while it probably won’t make you immortal there are many interesting jiaogulan benefits.
What is Jiaogulan?
Jiaogulan also referred to by its scientific name Gynostemma Pentaphyllum is an herb native to Thailand and other various parts of South East Asia which made its mark in China where it has been consumed for centuries. In China, its ability to prolong life led to it being called the ‘herb of immortality’.
While immortality may be beyond us at the moment, there is little doubt that this herb can do wonders for both your life expectancy and your quality of life.
Scientific interest in Jiaogulan dates back to the late 1960s and early 1970s when it was noted that the population of a certain province in China was living considerably longer than expected. It didn’t take researchers long to figure that the locals were consuming more jiaogulan tea than other provinces and the research began in earnest.
The Chinese in certain regions had been drinking jiaogulan tea each day before going to work to increase their levels of endurance and strength while they also drank it in the evening to relieve their fatigue and to help them get a good night’s sleep.
A population study conducted by the Chinese government found that people in the area not only lived much longer than average but also experienced a far lower incidence of serious diseases like cancer, heart disease, and senility. They discovered that many of the local inhabitants drank jiaogulan tea on a regular basis and set out to investigate.
A team of 16 scientists led by Dr. Jialiu Liu conducted an extensive study of the plants in the region. After studying numerous plants, jiaogulan was singled out for being the plant with the most promise for further investigation.
“Jiaogulan is an herb from my native southern China that I believe possesses the most wide-ranging benefits for human health and wellness of any plant yet discovered. This may seem like a bold statement, but having studied this remarkable tonic herb for more than twenty years, I can assure you that there is strong scientific support to back up my passion for jiaogulan.” – Dr. Jialiu Liu, ‘The Father of Jiaogulan’
When Japanese researchers in the 1970s started to look into the health properties of jiaogulan, they found that it contained a variety of saponins which are the chemical compounds responsible for the adaptogenic effects of Ginseng.
In fact, jiaogulan contains over 80 different saponins (gypenosides) compared to the 28 found in ginseng. As well as these saponins, jiaogulan is a natural antioxidant and a rich source of healthy vitamins and minerals.
Many people suggest that jiaogulan is one of the best adaptogens found in nature and if you are unfamiliar with the term, they are also referred to as biological response modifiers. The criteria for an adaptogen was created by Russian doctors during the middle of the 20th century and include:
- The ability to help the body adapt to various stresses both environmental and psychological.
- Not causing any harm or putting additional stresses on the body.
- Having a non-specific effect on the body and the ability to support all of its major systems.
The Health Benefits of Jiaogulan
As well as its ability to prolong life, jiaogulan has numerous specific health benefits which we will look at below. If you are interested in what this wonderful herb can do for you, then read on…
1. For Energy
The Chinese have traditionally drunk tea made from jiaogulan to give them the energy that they need throughout a hard day of labor. Now whether you are faced with the prospect of a day in the fields or the office or you simply feel a bit run down, there is evidence that jiaogulan can help provide you with the energy boost you need to help you get through the day.
In fact, several Chinese studies have demonstrated that jiaogulan could help improve energy and endurance levels in athletes. One study published in 1993 showed that the subjects given an oral dose of the herb experienced improved cardiac output compared with other Chinese herbs. (1)
2. For Immunity
A strong and healthy immune system is absolutely crucial to our overall health and wellbeing. It helps protect us from bacteria, viruses, and parasite and from sicknesses ranging from the common cold to cancer.
Jiaogulan is able to boost the body’s immune system because of its antioxidant properties and its ability to regulate the production of Nitric Oxide. If you are prone to catching colds or cases of flu or if you feel that your immune system has been compromised in any way, then jiaogulan might help strengthen your system and protect you from illness.
3. For Digestion
There is little in the way of scientific evidence but proponents of jiaogulan say that it works wonders for their digestive system. I have to admit that since I started drinking it around a month ago that my stomach has felt more at ease but I am also happy to admit that there may be other factors in play.
Experts say that jiaogulan can protect the gastrointestinal tract from damage caused by toxins and protect against ulcers. Drinking jiaogulan tea may also be a natural remedy for constipation and it might help balance the bacteria in your gut leading to better overall health.
4. For Heart Health
With coronary heart disease being one of the major modern killers, it is good to know that you can offer your heart the protection it needs naturally. Numerous animal studies have demonstrated that jiaogulan can reduce LDL cholesterol while raising the good HDL cholesterol in the blood. (2)
As well as helping to regulate cholesterol, there is evidence that jiaogulan can have a positive impact on blood pressure levels. The exact mechanism by which it works is still not fully understood but it is believed to help relax and dilate the blood vessels and improve the flow of blood through the arteries.
Studies have also shown that it can prevent the build-up of damaging plaque in the arteries which left untreated can lead to heart disease like atherosclerosis, stroke and heart attack. (3) (4)
5. For Mood and Stress
Like many herbal teas, a nice cup of warm jiaogulan can help restore balance to your mind and take away the anxiety and stresses of the day.
As an adaptogen, jiaogulan is one of those wonderful plants which can increase your body’s ability to deal with environmental, physical, chemical and emotional stressors by increasing resistance to such stress. Adaptogens like jiaogulan decrease the body’s susceptibility to illnesses by letting it adapt to stressful situations.
I am personally very interested in the ability of adaptogens to calm down the mind and ease stress and anxiety. I have suffered a great deal during my life from crippling anxiety attacks and finding it difficult to deal with stress. However, like many other people, I would prefer to avoid powerful, pharmaceutical medications and the side effects that they tend to bring.
If you suffer from anxiety or stress and would like to try a natural remedy, then why not give jiaogulan a go. Try drinking a few cups a day and you may just start to notice the difference.
6. For a Good Night of Sleep
The Chinese have traditionally drunk jiaogulan tea to help them relax after work and to settle down to a good night’s sleep. There are no scientific studies that can confirm this use of the herb benefits sleep.
However, given its long history of use and the number of positive anecdotes that I have come across, I don’t think it should be dismissed lightly. If you have trouble getting to sleep, then it is certainly worth giving jiaogulan a chance, Drink a cup 30 minutes or so before bedtime and see how it works for you.
7. For Weight Loss
I know what you are thinking … here comes another herb which promises to help you lose weight. However, like most healthy teas, they can certainly help you to control your weight in the long term.
As a replacement for calorie-laden sodas, jiaogulan can help you cut the calories which will benefit your waistline if you drink it over the long term. It is also known to give you the energy that you need to get out and exercise.
One clinical study published in 2006 actually showed that it could help people with fatty liver disease and also help reduce their body mass index. (5)
There are no simple shortcuts to dramatic weight loss, but as part of an overall diet and exercise plan, jiaogulan may help you in the long run.
8. For the Skin
Jiaogulan is an excellent source of natural antioxidants which help prevent skin damage caused by free radical damage. Drinking jiaogulan regularly may help reduce some of the signs of cellular damage as well as slowing down those unwanted signs that we are getting older.
When applied topically, jiaogulan can actually help protect the skin from UV damage caused by overexposure to the sun’s rays. According to Chinese research, even drinking jiaogulan or taking it in capsule form can also help prevent UV damage.
Jiaogulan is called the immortality herb for good reason. It was originally brought to scientific attention because population studies revealed that those who consumed it regularly were living longer and significantly healthier lives.
Researchers believe that the main reason for this general benefit is that it contains two very important antioxidants – glutathione and superoxide dismutase.
One clinical study revealed that jiaogulan taken each day for a two month period reduced many of the signs of aging including fatigue, insomnia, memory loss, diarrhea and poor balance. (6)
10. Respiratory Conditions
Jiaogulan is an excellent natural remedy against a number of respiratory issues including coughs, asthma, and bronchitis. One clinical study on its effects on chronic bronchitis revealed that it was effective in treating over 90% of the 86 subjects.
It has traditionally been used in China as an expectorant as it helps to clear a build-up of mucus from your airways meaning you can breathe much easier.
11. For Diabetes and Blood Sugar
Vietnamese researchers tested to see if Jiaogulan Tea had any effects on blood sugar and insulin sensitivity. The 2013 study was done with type 2 diabetics given 6 grams of Jiaogulan Tea for 1 month. The researchers concluded that Gynostemma pentaphyllum tea (Jiaogulan Tea) improved insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes. (7)
12. Anti-Cancer Potential
In late 2016, Chinese researchers did a meta-analysis of research to try and determine possible anti-cancer benefits of Gynostemma pentaphyllum and its components. The researchers found that jiaogulan contained many gypenosides which exhibited anti-cancer effects ranging from preventing the spread of cancer to killing cancer cells directly. The research concluded by noting that many potential curative effects could be found from the “GpM formula” (Gynostemma pentaphyllum). (8)
Jiagulan is believed to work against cancer in several different ways:
- It enhances your body’s defenses by boosting your immune system to protect against cancer and tumor formation.
- It has exceptional antioxidant properties which can help protect against DNA mutations and cellular damage that can lead to cancer.
- The flavonoids, saponins (gypenosides) and polysaccharides found in jiaogulan all have anticancer effects.
- Studies have revealed that jiaogulan helps inhibit the growth of tumors, reduce their size and metastasis. Laboratory studies have shown that jiaogulan can cause cancer cell death or apoptosis.
Studies also indicate that jiaogulan can prove an excellent ally for people undergoing traditional chemotherapy treatment. According to research, it bolsters the immune system and protects the body from the devastating side-effects of chemotherapy treatment. (9) Other studies have also found that jiaogulan helps reduce the effects of toxicity people get from chemotherapy while it also boosts the effectiveness of the treatment. (10)
Available forms of Jiaogulan
Jiaogulan is traditionally drunk in tea form. It has a slightly sweet flavor much like stevia and a slightly bitter aftertaste.
You can buy Jiaogulan Tea here
There is insufficient evidence regarding the best amount to drink but side effects are rare and many proponents recommend drinking 3 or 4 cups each day for general well-being.
Making the Perfect Cup of Jiaogulan Tea
The most popular traditional method of preparing this herb is to brew up a tea. Decoctions and infusions are two common methods of preparing jiaogulan and both will provide you with just the same benefits. A decoction is made by boiling your herbs in water while an infusion is made by steeping the herbs.
- Boil your water and add some fresh jiaogulan leaves to the cup.
- Use about a teaspoon of leaves for each 250 ml cup of water.
- Infuse the leaves for at least 5 minutes but preferably longer to get the best benefits.
- You don’t need to strain the infusion before drinking it down several times a day.
- Add two teaspoons of jiaogulan leaves to two cups of water and hard boil it for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Turn down the heat and allow the leaves to infuse for ten minutes before drinking.
Tips and Facts about Jiagulan Tea
- Jiaogulan tea is best made with pure spring water.
- The chemicals found in tap water can compromise its taste.
- Jiagulan tea does not become bitter when its infused and the longer you let it sit, the sweeter it tends
- Jiagulan tea makes a very refreshing chilled drink so make up a batch, refrigerate it and
whenever you feel the need to quench your thirst.
Jiaogulan is also available in capsule and pill form.
You can buy Jiaogulan in capsule form here
Jiaogulan Side effects
- Jiao-gu-lan is non-toxic and the risk of side effects is very low.
- There have however been some reports of side effects including severe nausea and increased bowel movements.
(1) Zhou, Ying-Na et al. Effects of a gypenosides-containing tonic on the pulmonary function in exercise workload. Journal of Guiyang Medical College 1993 18 (4):261.