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Home > Jiaogulan / Gymnostemma pentaphyllum Information > 

Jiaogulan gynostemma ( gymnostemma pentaphyllum )

1. Antioxidant Qualities.
2. Adaptogenic Effects.
3. Enhance cardiovascular function.
4. Lower high blood pressure.
5. Lower cholesterol.
6. Prevent heart attack and stroke.
7. Strengthen resistance.(enhancing white blood cell formation)
8. Strengthening immunity.
9. Inhibit the growth of cancer.


1. Jiaogulan’s Antioxidant Qualities.

General Summary

According to a research study at Loma Linda University in California: “There is growing evidence that free radical damage caused by oxidation of cell membrane lipids and biological molecules is closely related to a variety of maladies such as cancer, atherosclerosis, diabetes, ischemic lesions, liver disease, arthritis, inflammation and the regressive changes of the aging process.”10 Accordingly, the antioxidant effect of jiaogulan has attracted much attention of scientists and has been confirmed by many research studies. The results of the laboratory test which follows suggest that the extensive antioxidant effect of gypenosides may be valuable in the prevention and treatment of various diseases such as atherosclerosis, liver disease and inflammation. Through the testing on animals, scientists found that gypenosides protected the experimental animals from various kinds of oxidative damage which was induced by introduction of free radicals. Also shown was an anti-senility effect of gypenosides and a correlation between the reduction of free radical damage and delaying of the aging process. Based on the results of clinical testing (human), jiaogulan/gypenosides are used to treat inflammation, ischemia and infarction of the heart and brain (infarction means destruction of tissue cells due to ischemia or lack of blood; infarction of the heart causes heart attack; infarction of the brain causes stroke), and can delay senility and retard the aging process, thus confirming the powerful antioxidant quality of jiaogulan.


Laboratory Experiments: Li Lin, et al. of Loma Linda University studied the antioxidant effect of gypenosides using various models of oxidative stress in phagocytes, liver microsomes and vascular endothelial cells. They found that gypenosides decreased superoxide anions and hydrogen peroxide content in human neutrophils and diminished chemiluminescent oxidative burst triggered by zymosan in human monocytes and murine macrophages. An increase of lipid peroxidation induced by Fe2+/cysteine, ascorbate/NADPh or hydrogen peroxide in liver microsomes and vascular endothelial cells was inhibited by gypenosides. It was also found that gypenosides protected biomembranes from oxidative injury by reversing the decreased membrane fluidity of liver microsomes and mitochondria, increasing mitochondrial enzyme activity in vascular endothelial cells and decreasing intracellular lactate dehydrogenase leakage from these cells.

Animal Studies: Dai et al. of Guiyang Medical College found that gypenosides could increase the SOD activity and lower the MDA content of the brain tissue in mice with chronic fluorosis, whose SOD activity of the brain tissue was decreased and the MDA content increased as compared with the normal control mice.12 Cheng et al. also found that in mice with chronic fluorosis, the depressed SOD activity and increased MDA content of the kidney tissue were improved to the normal range when taking gypenosides for three months.

Clinical Testing: A study of 80 patients with endemic fluorosis at Guiyang Medical College found that a 10ml dose of a gypenosides/Danshen (Salvia miltiorrhiza) recipe could increase their erythrocite SOD level and lower their serum MDA content. In their study, the patients, aged 42-55, were divided into 3 groups: Group 1-30 patients, 15 male and 15 female, were treated with gypenosides recipe, 10ml twice a day consecutively for 5 months. Group 2-30 patients, 15 male and 15 female, were treated with borax in kiwifruit juice (1g in 10ml), 10ml twice a day for 5 months. Group 3-20 patients, 10 male and 10 female, took kiwifruit juice as a placebo. Twenty other persons of the same age group served as the normal control. The results showed that in the patients with chronic fluorosis, the erythrocyte SOD lowered and serum MDA raised as compared with the normal, healthy persons. After consecutive oral administration of gypenosides/Danshen/Kiwi juice recipe for 5 months, the erythrocyte SOD raised from 847+/-214 ng/mgHb to 1136+/-203 ng/mgHg (P<0.05); and serum MDA lowered from 0.168+/-0.018 OD535/0.5ml to 0.136+/-0.023 OD535/0.5ml (P<0.05). The patients showed no significant change in erythrocyte SOD and serum MDA after using Borax/Kiwi juice or Kiwi fruit juice (as a placebo). The results indicated that the gypenoside recipe can increase erythrocyte SOD and decrease serum MDA in patients with chronic endemic fluorosis, where the former was lowered and the latter raised by fluorine intoxication.

Another study of 610 healthy persons, 50-90 years of age, compared the effects of jiaogulan using young persons aged 14-17 years of age as the control. They found that with the increase of age, the serum SOD level decreased and the serum MDA content increased. Oral administration of a gypenosides/Danshen recipe, 10 ml/vial twice a day (each vial containing 20 mg of gypenosides), consecutively for 1 month, increased the SOD level and decreased the MDA content to the normal levels of young persons. The data showed: in the 70-90 year old group, a 21.4% decrease in serum MDA and a 282.8% increase in serum SOD; in the 50-69 year old group, a 15.6% decrease in serum MDA and a 116.1% increase in serum SOD; and in the 14-17 year old (control) group, no significant difference in serum MDA level or SOD level.

In order to clarify the problem of whether the above antioxidant action is due to Danshen or not, the Guiyang Medical College group performed an additional study with Danshen on 20 patients with fluorosis and 20 healthy persons aged 55-70 years old. After taking Danshen extract, 100mg/ml twice a day for one month, the patients and healthy aged persons showed no increase in erythrocyte SOD, although they exhibited a lowered MDA content. The results indicated that Danshen also exerted an antioxidant effect in synergy with the gypenosides, but its antioxidant action was not through the induction of synthesis of SOD.

The results of these two clinical studies showed that gypenosides can induce endogenous production of SOD, which can scavenge free radicals, hence preventing the lipid peroxidation of cell membrane and lowering the production of MDA.

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2. Jiaogulan’s Adaptogenic Effects.

General Summary

The stress and pressures of modern life which are caused by various strong environmental and psychological stimuli produce stress syndrome, by which the equilibrium between various organs of the body, and the interior stability of the organism as a whole (homeostasis) are disturbed, thus resulting in various diseases such as gastric ulcer, hypertension, neuralgia, psychosis, etc. In order to protect oneself from stress—daily exercise, balanced diet, regular eating and sleeping habits, and a proper balance of work and relaxation—are all important. Still, adaptogens or, as they are sometimes called, tonics have their part to play by helping the body to adapt to the stress and maintain its homeostasis. Jiaogulan/gypenosides have been proven in animal and human testing to be a highly effective adaptogenic tonic. Chinese scientists found that jiaogulan exerts a bi-phasic action on the central nervous system, calming the nerves when they were irritated and exciting the nerves when they were depressed. Through adjusting the balance of the central nervous system (including the brain, sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems) and toning the endocrine system, jiaogulan/gypenosides maintained and normalized the functional equilibrium between the organs of the body and then bolstered the stability of the organism as a whole. Hence jiaogulan has been widely used as an adaptogenic tonic for maintaining normal vital functions and heightening the endurance and resistance to various injurious stimuli.


Animal Studies: Zhou et al. showed the adaptogenic effects of jiaogulan on mice, reporting that gypenosides enhanced the endurance and resistance to hypoxia (lack of oxygen), forced overloaded exercise, electric stimulus, and high temperature.17 Song carried out a similar study and compared the effects of jiaogulan to ginseng. The results showed that jiaogulan, which functions similarly to ginseng, might be used as an adaptogenic agent.

Clinical Testing: Jiaogulan has been shown to increase the excitability and stability of the brain during athletic competition. The Guiyang Medical College group carried out testing on more than 300 professional athletes, including athletes of the China National Skating Team. All of the tested athletes reported that oral use of a gypenosides/Danshen recipe taken before the competition made them vigorous and alert, with quick reflexes and less nervousness. A control group taking Danshen extract alone did not feel increased stability and excitability of the nervous system during competition, although they also felt increased energy and endurance.19,20 Jiaogulan/gypenosides showed effectiveness in treating insomnia due to anxiety and irritation when the Guiyang Medical College group studied 112 cases, and showed that gypenosides could improve sleep, with the effectiveness rate being 89-95%.

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3. Jiaogulan’s ability to enhance cardiovascular function.

General Summary

Jiaogulan improved the efficiency in the pumping action of the heart musculature, so that the heart does not work so hard to produce the same amount of blood flow, as demonstrated in the animal study that follows, where jiaogulan also proved to be more effective than ginseng. The results of human studies confirm that gypenosides can enhance the contractility of the heart muscle and heart pumping function. Based on these findings, gypenosides alone or in combination with other herbs can be used as an energizing tonic for athletes, to produce an enhancement of physical performance, particularly in the area of endurance and recovery.


Animal Studies: Research has shown that jiaogulan exerted a favorable effect on the heart and blood vessels. Chen et al. of the Hunan Academy of Traditional Chinese medicine and Materia Medica investigated the effects of gypenosides on the heart function and hemodynamics in anesthetized open-chest dogs, and found that gypenosides, 5-10mg/kg i.v., significantly lowered systolic pressure, diastolic pressure and mean arterial pressure, and markedly decreased total peripheral vessel resistance, brain vessel resistance, and coronary resistance. The coronary flow was raised and the heart rate lowered by gypenosides. The lowering of myocardial oxygen consumption after the administration of gypenosides could be explained by the decreasing of the cardiac tension-time index and the slowing of the heart rate. Nevertheless, it was significant that gypenosides affected the myocardial contractility and heart pump function. In this study a comparison of the effectiveness was made between jiaogulan/gypenosides and ginsenosides from Panax ginseng. Gypenosides were shown to be more potent.

Clinical Testing: The Guiyang Medical College group also confirmed the same effect on human beings as in the animal study above. They carried out tests in 30 normal healthy persons and 220 athletes, using color DOPLER examination. They found that 30 minutes after oral administration of a single dose of gypenosides combined with other Chinese medicinal herbs, 100% of the tested subjects reacted positively; the stroke volume and cardiac output increased; the left ventricular end-systolic diameter decreased and the left ventricular end-diastolic diameter increased, while the heart rate and arterial blood pressure did not change.

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4. Jiaogulan’s ability to lower high blood pressure.

General Summary

If the arterial blood pressure at the time of contraction (systole) of the heart exceeds 140mm Hg, and during expansion (diastole) is over 90mm Hg, then hypertension is diagnosed. Hypertension will cause serious complications of the brain, heart and kidneys. On the other extreme, if systolic blood pressure is lower than 80mm Hg, and diastolic pressure lower than 60mm Hg, then hypotension is diagnosed. Hypotension will cause such bad effects as cerebral ischemia, collapse etc. Gypenosides are similar to the ginsenosides of Panax ginseng, in that they lower hypertension and raise hypotension, keeping the blood pressure at a normal range. In China, physicians use gypenosides as a supplement for treatment of hypertension. The following study is a demonstration of jiaogulan’s ability to lower high blood pressure.


Clinical Testing: Lu et al. studied the anti-hypertension effect of gypenosides in a double blind study. In this study, 223 patients with essential hypertension (Grade II) were randomly divided into 3 groups: Group 1 consisted of 76 patients; 20mg gypenosides tablets were administered orally, twice a day for three months. Group 2 consisted of 82 patients; 20mg ginsenosides tablets were administered orally, twice a day for 3 months. Group 3, 65 patients; 1.25mg Indapamide (an effective anti-hypertensive medicine, an alpha receptor inhibitor) was given orally, twice a day for three months. The results showed that the effectiveness rates were 82%, 46% and 93% for gypenosides, ginseng and Indapamide respectively.

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5. Jiaogulan’s ability to lower cholesterol.

General Summary

Jiaogulan has been shown to reduce the serum level of triglycerides, lipid peroxide, total cholesterol, phospholipids, and glutamic pyruvic transaminase in animal studies. These conditions are risk factors leading to hyperlipaemia, liver injury, and atherosclerosis. A great many human tests have confirmed jiaogulan’s ability to lower serum cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL (unhealthy blood lipoprotein), while increasing HDL (healthy blood lipoprotein which helps to metabolize cholesterol from the arteries), thus preventing and treating atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke.


Animal Studies: Kimura et al. of Ehime University in Japan reported that crude saponins isolated from Gynostemma pentaphyllum were tested for their effect on lipid metabolism in rats which were fed a corn oil and high sugar diet. The oral administration of such high sugar and fat diet caused hyperlipaemia, liver injury with increased serum level of glutamic pyruvic transaminase, and accumulation of lipid peroxide in the liver. Administration of the crude saponins reduced serum levels of triglycerides, lipid peroxide, total cholesterol, phospholipids and glutamic pyruvic transaminase.

Clinical Testing: Yu et al. of Hunan College of Traditional Chinese medicine carried out testing in 30 human cases with hyperproteinemia; the total effectiveness rate of jiaogulan to lower the high blood lipoprotein was 86.7%.

Many clinical studies on the therapeutic effectiveness of jiaogulan/gypenosides on hyperlipemia have been reported in Chinese literature. Over 20 papers were published showing an effectiveness rate ranging between 67-93% on more than 980 patients with hyperlipemia. Most of the studies showed that jiaogulan/gypenosides lowered serum cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL, while increasing HDL, thus decreasing the LDL/HDL ratio. Blood lipids include cholesterol and its ester, neutral fat (triglycerides) and phospholipids. They are not in free form but combine into various apolipoproteins, forming four types of water soluble lipoproteins: the chylomicron, very low density lipoprotein (VLDL), low density lipoprotein (LDL) and high density lipoprotein (HDL). VLDL, which is rich in triglycerides and LDL, which is rich in cholesterol ester, is closely related to the occurrence of atherosclerosis; whereas HDL, which acts as the carrier for cholesterol from the peripheral tissues to the liver and protects the endothelial cells from LDL damage, plays an important role against atherosclerosis. A rise in blood lipoprotein (mainly LDL and VLDL-hyperlipoproteinemia), that is, a rise in blood lipids (mainly cholesterol and triglycerides-hyperlipemia) is the basis for occurrence of atherosclerosis. Jiaogulan has been proven to affect the lipid metabolism by lowering the hyperproteinemia (namely hyperlipemia), thus preventing and treating atherosclerosis.

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6. Jiaogulan’s ability to prevent heart attack and stroke.

General Summary

The following tests show jiaogulan’s ability to inhibit the aggregation of blood platelets. Platelet aggregation is the basis for formation of blood clots in the blood vessels of living animals or humans (thrombosis) and accumulation of plaque in the arteries (atherosclerosis). Hence, the result of these tests suggest jiaogulan’s ability to assist in preventing cerebral thrombosis, which results in stroke, and preventing coronary thrombosis, which results in acute heart attack.


Laboratory Testing and Animal Studies: Tan et al. of the Guangzhou Medical College observed the anti-thrombotic effect of water extract of Gynostemma pentaphyllum both in vitro and in vivo, and found that it could inhibit significantly the platelet aggregation induced by ADP and compound antagonists, accelerate obviously the dis-aggregation, and inhibit effectively the experimental thrombosis. The delaying effects of Gynostemma pentaphyllum on KPTT, PT, TT, AT, RVV-RT, RVV-CT suggests that this herb could decrease the activity of multiple coagulation.

Animal Study: Wu et al. showed that gypenosides inhibited rabbits’ platelet aggregation induced by ADP through raising cAMP in the platelet and inhibiting the release of active factors from the platelet. They also reported that gypenosides could prevent thrombus formation in rats and inhibit the release of the thrombosis-related substances, 6-keto-PGF1a from the aorta and TXB2 from the platelet.

Clinical Testing: Yu et al. performed a test in 56 healthy persons and 44 patients with cardiovascular diseases. The results showed that a single dose water extract of jiaogulan (containing gypenosides 30mg/1ml), 1ml/kg of body weight orally, inhibited platelet aggregation and promoted platelet dis-aggregation, indicating the anti-thrombotic effect of jiaogulan.

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7. Jiaogulan’s ability to strengthen resistance.(enhancing white blood cell formation)

General Summary

Recovering from various illnesses and disease requires the strong assistance of the white blood cells. Jiaogulan affects the hematopoetic process, or the blood production process. Research has shown that it can increase the white blood cell count in leucopenic (white cell deficient) patients. Both of the following human tests confirm jiaogulan’s ability to increase the white blood cell count of patients who were receiving both chemotherapy and radiation therapy, thus improving a patients ability to recover.


Clinical Testing: Wang et al. treated 30 leucopenic patients with gypenosides and got marked effectiveness. The white blood count (WBC) of the peripheral blood before using gypenosides was 2.4 - 3.5 X 109 / L; after oral administration of gypenosides tablets (20mg) three times a day for one month, the WBC raised to 5.4 - 6.2 X 109 / L (P < 0.001).30 Liu et al. used gypenosides to treat 90 cancer patients with leucopenia due to chemo-and/or radiotherapy and found marked effectiveness. They divided the patients into 3 groups: Group 1, 31 patients, were treated with jiaogulan and a traditional Chinese herb compound to treat leukopenia; Group 2, 31 patients, were treated with leukopoetic herb compound only; Group 3, the control group , 28 patients, were treated with a traditional Chinese health tonic. The overall WBC before using the recipes was 1.7 X 109 /L. In Group 1, the time it took the WBC to increase to over 4 X 109 /L averaged 4.69 days; the total effectiveness rate was 93.55%. In Group 2, the time it took the WBC count to rise above 4 X 109 /L averaged 7.22 days; the total effectiveness rate was 70.97%. In Group 3, the time it took the WBC to increase to over 4 X 109 /L averaged 22.82 days; the total effectiveness rate was 57.14%. (P <0,05, all the data compared with the data before treatment; the data of Group 1 compared with the respective data of Group 2. P < 0.01, the data of Group 1 compared with the respective data of Group 3).

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8. Strengthening immunity.

General Summary

The following laboratory experiment and animal studies indicate that jiaogulan can enhance the immunity of immuno-deficient organisms (due to irradiation), as well as that of a normal, healthy organism. The mechanism by which jiaogulan acts is through modulating lymphocyte transformation and enhancing lymphocyte activity, since the lymphocyte activity and function are responsible for immunity of the organism. These tests suggest that jiaogulan can be used as an immunity enhancer for treatment of patients with immuno-deficiency due to irradiation, chemotherapy, and other causes. Human testing confirmed that jiaogulan/gypenosides enhance the cellular immunity (protective activity by lymphocytes) and humorous immunity (protection by antibody formation) of cancer patients whose immune function is lowered due to radiation or chemotherapy as well as due to the cancer growth itself.


Laboratory Experiment: Liao et al. of Hengyang Medical College studied the effects of gypenosides on mouse splenic lymphocyte transformation and DNA polymerase ll activity in vitro, and found that gypenosides, 2.5-20mg/L enhanced splenic T- and B-cell transformation, increased the DNA synthesis, and potentiated the activity of DNA polymerase ll. This suggested that gypenosides regulated lymphocyte transformation and DNA synthesis by regulating DNA polymerase ll activity.

Animal Study: Chen et al. of the Institute of Radiation Biology, National Tsing-Hua University in Taiwan studied the effects of gypenosides on cellular immunity of gamma ray irradiated mice and found that gypenosides were effective to enhance the recovery of body weight, splenic weight and immunocompetence in gamma ray irradiated mice from radiation damage.

Clinical Testing: Hou et al. of the Academy of Medical Science of Hebei Province studied the effects of jiaogulan on the immunological function of cancer patients. Forty patients with various cancers were randomly divided into three groups after operations, chemo- and radiotherapy. For a period of three weeks, 13 patients were treated with 30 g per day of jiaogulan decocted in water; 11 cases were treated with jiaogulan plus small amounts of Pericarpium Citri Reticulatae (chenpi), Fructus Crataegi (shanzha), Massa Fermentata Medicinalis (shenqu) and Endothelium Corneum (jineijin); and 16 cases treated with 30g of Radix Astragali seu Hedysari (huangqi), also known as Astragalus, another adaptogenic herb, with the same additional ingredients as for the second group. Examination found that the LTT and IgG levels were significantly lower in the cancer patients than in the healthy subjects. The LTT level was significantly enhanced in the jiaogulan-treated group, which was quite similar to the results in the group treated with Radix Astragali seu Hedysari, well-known as an effective immuno-potentiator. The increase of LTT when chemotherapy was combined with the jiaogulan treatment suggested that the latter might possess a prophylactic effect for immunosuppression of chemotherapy.34 Qian et al. of Shanghai Medical University studied the protective effect of jiaogulan on cellular immunity of patients with primary lung cancer treated by radiotherapy plus chemotherapy. One group received 80mg three times per day of jiaogulan tablets, the other group was the control. They found that jiaogulan could help the patients to maintain their cellular immunity as compared with the control group patients whose cellular immunity was further suppressed by radiation and chemotherapy, during the therapy period of sixty days. Comparing the jiaogulan group with the control group after a year, a trend appeared, showing that the prognosis of the jiaogulan-treated patients was superior to the control patients in terms of the medial time of distant metastasis, local tumor control rate and length of survival time. This study showed that jiaogulan could protect patients’ cellular immunity when the patients were receiving radiation and chemotherapy.

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9. Jiaogulan’s ability to inhibit the growth of cancer

General Summary

Ginsenoside Rh2 from ginseng is known to be effective in combating cancer cells. But only a very small amount of this type of saponin (0.001%) can be extracted from ginseng. The similar saponins, gypenosides 22-29 extracted from jiaogulan (also being more abundant than in ginseng) have been shown to be effective in controlling various types of cancer cells.36,37 The following laboratory experiment shows the direct inhibitory effect of gypenosides from jiaogulan on tumor cells, indicating possible inhibitory effects in a living body. Animal tests have confirmed that jiaogulan can inhibit or prevent the malignant growth which was induced by introduction of a carcinogen. However, the effect of jiaogulan on cancer is still in the experimental stage up to date and its effect on human cancer needs further testing.


Laboratory Experiment: Using the flow cytometry method, Han et al. of Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese medicine studied twenty-four Chinese medicinal herbs in a compound recipe on proliferation index, DNA index, protein index, and ratio of various phases in the cell cycle of the human lung adenocarcinoma cell. They found that Chinese medicinal herbs, such as jiaogulan, Glehnia littoralis (beishashen) and Panax ginseng, could strengthen the body resistance. They are not only useful as conventional tonics, but also as tumor cell inhibitors.

Animal Study: Wang et al. of West China University of Medical Sciences performed an experiment on rats. The animals were given a 2% Gynostemma pentaphyllum boiled aqueous solution to drink freely for two weeks before administration of a carcinogen. Subsequently, the rats were injected with the carcinogen (MANA) for eighteen weeks and were sacrificed at intervals. The results showed that the number of tumors and the incidence of esophageal cancer in the experimental group were lower than those in the control group (MANA only), and the initiation of cancer was delayed for six weeks. This indicated that Gynostemma pentaphyllum might have some preventive and blocking effect on esophageal cancer in rats.

Clinical Testing: Wu et al. reported that the effect of gypenosides enhanced the NK cell activity in patients with uro-genital cancers.

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