Gynostemma pentaphyllum

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Gynostemma pentaphyllum
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Cucurbitales
Family: Cucurbitaceae
Genus: Gynostemma
G. pentaphyllum
Binomial name
Gynostemma pentaphyllum
(Thunb.) Makino 1902
Baby jiaogulan plants

Gynostemma pentaphyllum, also called jiaogulan ((Chinese: , Pinyin: jiǎogǔlán), literally "twisting blue plant", is a dioecious, herbaceous climbing vine of the family Cucurbitaceae (cucumber or gourd family) widely distributed in South and East Asia as well as New Guinea. Jiaogulan is best known as an herbal medicine reputed to have powerful antioxidant and adaptogenic effects purported to increase longevity.[1] Pharmacological research has indicated a number of therapeutic qualities of jiaogulan, such as lowering cholesterol and high blood pressure, and strengthening immunity.[citation needed]


Jiaogulan belongs to the genus Gynostemma, in the family Cucurbitaceae, which includes cucumbers, gourds, and melons. Its fruit is a small purple inedible gourd. It is a climbing vine, attaching itself to supports using tendrils. The serrated leaflets commonly grow in groups of five (as in G. pentaphyllum) although some species can have groups of three or seven leaflets. The plant is dioecious, meaning each plant exists either as male or female. Therefore, if seeds are desired, both a male and female plant must be grown.


Gynostemma pentaphyllum is known as Jiaogulan (Chinese: in China. The plant was first described in 1406 CE by Zhu Xiao, who presented a description and sketch in the book Materia Medica for Famine as a survival food rather than a medicinal herb.[2] The earliest record of jiaogulan's use as a drug comes from herbalist Li Shizhen's book Compendium of Materia Medica published in 1578, identifying jiaogulan for treating various ailments such as hematuria, edema in the pharynx and neck, tumors, and trauma. While Li Shizhen had confused jiaogulan with an analogous herb Wulianmei, in 1848 Wu Qi-Jun rectified this confusion in Textual Investigation of Herbal Plants, which also added more information on medicinal usage.[1]:21

Modern recognition of the plant outside of China originated from research in sugar substitutes. In the 1970s, while analyzing the sweet component of the jiaogulan plant (known as amachazuru in Japan), Masahiro Nagai discovered chemical compounds identical to some of those found in Panax ginseng, an unrelated plant.[3] Afterward, Tsunematsu Takemoto reported that jiaogulan contains four saponins identical to those in Panax ginseng as well as seventeen other similar saponins. Over the next decade, 82 saponins (gypenosides) were identified in jiaogulan, compared to the 28 ginsenosides found in Panax ginseng.[1]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

G. pentaphyllum is one of about 17 species in the genus Gynostemma, including nine species endemic to China.[4] However, G. pentaphyllum has a wide distribution outside of China, ranging from India and Bangladesh to Southeast Asia to Japan and Korea as well as to New Guinea.[5] In China, it grows in forests, thickets, and roadsides on mountain slopes at elevations of 300–3,200 m (980–10,500 ft) above sea level.[5]

Jiaogulan is a vine hardy to USDA zone 8 in which it may grow as a short lived perennial plant. It can be grown as an annual in most temperate climates, in well-drained soil with full sun. It does not grow well in cold climates with temperatures below freezing.


Jiaogulan does not show toxicity.[6][7] However, several related plants in the Cucurbitaceae (cucumber) family contain cucurbitacin compounds, which are responsible for the bitter taste in some edible plants of this family and are toxic to mammals.[8]

Use in ethnomedicine[edit]

The plant is best known for its use as a herbal medicine. Jiaogulan is most often consumed as an herbal tea, and is also available as an alcohol extract and in capsule or pill form.[1]:66–70 It has not seen widespread use in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) because it grows far from central China where TCM evolved; consequently, it was not included in the standard pharmacopoeia of the TCM system. Until recently, it was a locally-known herb used primarily in mountainous regions of southern China and in northern Vietnam. It is described by the local inhabitants as the "immortality herb", because people within Guizhou Province, where jiaogulan herbal teas are consumed regularly, are said to have a history of unusual longevity.[9][10]

In the European Union jiaogulan is considered Novel Food since a controversial court ruling in 2012 that prohibited its sale as food.[11]

Pharmacological research[edit]


Jiaogulan has been found to increase the expression of superoxide dismutase (SOD), which is a powerful endogenous cellular antioxidant enzyme. Studies have found that it increases the activities of macrophages, T lymphocytes, and natural killer cells, and that it acts as a tumor inhibitor.[12][medical citation needed]


Jiaogulan is known as an adaptogen, which is an herb reputed to help the body to maintain optimal homeostasis.[13] Its chemical constituents include the triterpenoid saponins gypenosides which are closely structurally related to the ginsenosides which are present in ginseng.[14] Most research has been done since the 1960s when the Chinese realized that it might be an inexpensive source of adaptogenic compounds, removing pressure from the ginseng stock. Purported adaptogenic effects include regulating blood pressure and the immune system, improving stamina and endurance.[15] Jiaogulan is also believed to be useful in combination with codonopsis for jet lag and altitude sickness.[10]

Blood pressure[edit]

The adaptogenic nature of gypenosides have been found to keep blood pressure in a normal range. In vitro studies indicate that jiaogulan stimulates the release of nitric oxide in isolated heart cells; this is one proposed mechanism by which jiaogulan reduces high blood pressure.[16] In a double-blind study, gypenosides administered to those with Grade II hypertension showed 82% effectiveness in reducing hypertension, compared to 46% for ginseng and 93% for indapamide (a hypertension medication).[17]

Cardiovascular functions[edit]

Animal studies as well as clinical testing on humans suggest that jiaogulan, when combined with other herbs, has beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system, increasing heart stroke volume, coronary flow, and cardiac output while reducing the heart rate, without affecting arterial pressure.[18][19]

Cholesterol reduction[edit]

Numerous clinical studies in Chinese medical literature have shown that jiagolan lowers serum cholesterol,[20] triglycerides, and LDL (the "bad" cholesterol) while raising HDL ("good" cholesterol) levels, with reported effectiveness rates ranging from 67% to 93% on over 980 patients with hyperlipemia.[1]:42[unreliable medical source?]


Gynostemma pentaphyllum tea has been studied in a randomized controlled trial in type 2 diabetic patients.[21] It may have potential as a hypoglycemic treatment to reduce blood glucose.[22]

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease[edit]

A small scale study found Gynostemma pentaphyllum can be an effective adjunct treatment to diet therapy for patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.[23]

Alternate names[edit]

Western languages such as English and German commonly refer to the plant as jiaogulan. Other names include:

  • English: five-leaf ginseng, poor man's ginseng, miracle grass, fairy herb, sweet tea vine, gospel herb, Southern Ginseng
  • Japanese: amachazuru (kanji: ; hiragana: あまちゃずる; literally 甘いamai=sweet, tasty 茶 cha=tea, 蔓 zuru=vine, creeping plant)
  • Korean language: doroe (돌외); literally "stone cucumber/melon"; dol (; "stone") + oe (; "cucumber/melon")
  • Latin: Gynostemma pentaphyllum or Vitis pentaphyllum
  • Tay language: zan tong
  • Thai: jiaogulan (เจียวกู่หลาน)
  • Vietnamese: giảo cổ lam or bổ đắng (bổ= nutritious, đắng=bitter)
  • Portuguese: cipó-doce


  1. ^ a b c d e Blumert, Michael; Jialiu Liu (2003). Jiaogulan: China's "Immortality" Herb. Badger, CA: Torchlight Publishing. p. 12. ISBN 978-1-887089-16-6.
  2. ^ Cheng JG, et al. (1990). "Investigation of the plant jiaogulan and its analogous herb, Wulianmei". Zhong Cao Yao. 21 (9): 424.
  3. ^ Nagai, Masahiro (November 1976). Abstracts of Papers, 23d Meeting of the Japanese Society of Pharmacognosy. Japanese Society of Pharmacognosy. p. 37.
  4. ^ Shukun Chen & Charles Jeffrey. "Gynostemma Blume, Bijdr. 23. 1825". Flora of China. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  5. ^ a b Shukun Chen & Charles Jeffrey. "Gynostemma pentaphyllum (Thunberg) Makino, Bot. Mag. (Tokyo). 16: 179. 1902". Flora of China. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  6. ^ Attawish A, Chivapat S, Phadungpat S, Bansiddhi J, Techadamrongsin Y, Mitrijit O, Chaorai B, Chavalittumrong P (September 2004). "Chronic toxicity of Gynostemma pentaphyllum". Fitoterapia. 75 (6): 539–51. doi:10.1016/j.fitote.2004.04.010. PMID 15351107.
  7. ^ Choi HS, Park MS, Kim SH, Hwang BY, Lee CK, Lee MK (2010). "Neuroprotective effects of herbal ethanol extracts from Gynostemma pentaphyllum in the 6-hydroxydopamine-lesioned rat model of Parkinson's disease" (PDF). Molecules. 15 (4): 2814–24. doi:10.3390/molecules15042814. PMID 20428081.
  8. ^ Sharma A, Sharma JP, Jindal R, Kaushik RM (April–June 2006). "Bottle Gourd Poisoning" (PDF). Research Letter. 8 (2).
  9. ^ Winston, David; Steven Maimes (April 2007). Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief. Healing Arts Press. ISBN 978-1-59477-158-3. Contains a detailed herbal monograph on jiaogulan and highlights health benefits.
  10. ^ a b Bensky, Dan; Andrew Gamble; Steven Clavey; Erich Stöger (September 2004). Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica (3rd ed.). Eastland Press. ISBN 978-0-939616-42-8.
  11. ^ "Jiaogulan ist als Lebensmittel in Deutschland und somit auch in der ganzen Europäischen Union nun offiziell verboten!". (in German). Retrieved 2016-04-27.
  12. ^ Liu; et al. (1992). "Therapeutic effect of jiaogulan on leukopenia due to irradiation and chemotherapy". Zhong Guo Yi Yao Xue Bao. 7 (2): 99.
  13. ^ David Winston; Steven Maimes (2007). Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief. Healing Arts Press. ISBN 978-1-59477-158-3.
  14. ^ Liu SB, Lin R, Hu ZH (February 2005). "Histochemical localization of ginsenosides in Gynostemma pentaphyllum and the content changes of total gypenosides [Chinese]". Shih Yen Sheng Wu Hsueh Pao: Journal of Experimental Biology. 38 (1): 54–60. PMID 15839207.
  15. ^ "Complete Jiaogulan information from".
  16. ^ Tanner MA, Bu X, Steimle JA, Myers PR (1999-10-03). "The direct release of nitric oxide by gypenosides derived from the herb Gynostemma pentaphyllum". Nitric Oxide. 3 (5): 359–65. doi:10.1006/niox.1999.0245. PMID 10534439.
  17. ^ Lu, GH, et al. (1996). "Comparative study on anti-hypertensive effect of Gypenosides, Ginseng and Indapamide in patients with essential hypertension". Guizhou Medical Journal. 20: 19–26.
  18. ^ Chen LF, et al. (1990). "Comparison between the effects of gypenosieds and ginsegnosides on cardiac function and hemodynamics in dogs". Chinese Journal of Pharmacology and Toxicology. 4 (1): 17–20.
  19. ^ Zhou NY, et al. (1993). "Effects of gypenosides-containing tonic on the pulmonary function in exercise workload". Journal of Guiyang Medical College. 18 (4): 261.
  20. ^ la Cour B, Mølgaard P, Yi Z (May 1995). "Traditional Chinese medicine in treatment of hyperlipidaemia". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 46 (2): 125–9. doi:10.1016/0378-8741(95)01234-5. PMID 7650951.
  21. ^ Huyen VT, Phan DV, Thang P, Hoa NK, Ostenson CG (May 2010). "Antidiabetic effect of Gynostemma pentaphyllum tea in randomly assigned type 2 diabetic patients". Hormone and Metabolic Research. 42 (5): 353–7. doi:10.1055/s-0030-1248298. PMID 20213586.
  22. ^ Hoa NK, Phan DV, Thuan ND, Ostenson CG (April 2009). "Screening of the hypoglycemic effect of eight Vietnamese herbal drugs". Methods and Findings in Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology. 31 (3): 165–9. doi:10.1358/mf.2009.31.3.1362514. PMID 19536359.
  23. ^ Chou SC, Chen KW, Hwang JS, Lu WT, Chu YY, Lin JD, Chang HJ, See LC (2006). "The add-on effects of Gynostemma pentaphyllum on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease". Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 12 (3): 34–39. PMID 16708768.

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