Jiaogulan – Weight Loss Miracle or Another Broken Promise ?

Separating the facts from the hype

lose_weightWeight loss seekers are greeted nearly monthly with another herbal weight loss formula. Early last year White Mulberry Leaf was all the rage only to be overtaken by Garcinia cambogia late in the year.

Recently, followers of the weight loss scene have been bombarded with news about a previously little known herb from China called Jiaogulan. Today we try to sort out fact from fiction about this latest weight loss phenomenon.

For help, we turned to long time Jiaogulan enthusiast, Ralph Kenney. Kenney founded a company 11 years ago with the primary purpose of introducing Jiaogulan to the West. His company, Immortalitea, has participated in multiple scientific studies on the effectiveness of jiaogulan, As a former Bell Labs researcher, Kenney is familiar on the herbal medicine scene for his science-based approach to Traditional Chinese Medicine.

After more than a decade of promoting jiaogulan you must be a bit surprised by the sudden prominence of Jiaogulan?

Kenney – Of course, surprised, gratified and worried. Jiaogulan is an herb a lot more people should know about and make part of the routines. It feels like a sort of vindication to see all this sudden interest. On the other hand, I’m worried because the area of herbal medicine where there is the most disinformation is weight loss.

People tend to jump on the latest fad and if they don’t see instant results they move on to the next big thing and last month’s super-food is back to obscurity. I don’t want that happen to jiaogulan. It is about so much more than weight loss.

So why all the sudden new interest?

Kenney – It primarily stems from a Korean weight loss study in January of last year. It was one of the first human studies of Jiaogulan and weight loss. It appears to be a commercially sponsored study so I assume the sponsors were primed to promote the findings.

The actual study is relatively small and fairly short-lived. The entire test group was just 80 people and they were split into two groups of 40, a placebo group and a jiaogulan group. They study was 12 weeks. The jiaogulan group lost an average of about 3 lbs., improved their BMI, improved their waist and hips size and had lower cholesterol.

That all sounds pretty promising…

Kenney – Yes, promising is the right word. It’s a small study, small enough that you can’t say anything definitive except that it warrants more research. But, the findings are consistent with what I expected. I designed a weight loss tea blend that included jiaogulan several years ago. Based on that experience, I personally think that when larger studies are done we’ll see similar results. But, what I “think” isn’t important. The research is what counts.

One of the more important findings was the bit about cholesterol. There have been many Chinese studies of Jiaogulan and its benefits for lowering cholesterol. I think the validation of that research in a human study that is bigger news than the weight loss.

Do we know why the participants lost weight taking jiaogulan?

The authors of the study point to the stimulation of an enzyme called AMPK. AMPK serves as a sort of metabolic regulator. There are prior studies that link genetic problems with AMPK production to obesity and diabetes.

The authors of this study had prior research that showed in lab tests saponins in jiaogulan stimulate AMPK. This new study was a follow up to see if that lab result could be confirmed in human population.

Interestingly, they were not able to measure AMPK levels directly. So their case for AMPK stimulation is not as strong as I’d like. We know from other research that there are many active ingredients in jiaogulan. We can’t conclude from this study that the weight loss seen was the result of AMPK stimulation or some other mechanism.

We can say that in lab tests some components of jiaogulan stimulate AMPK. We can say that AMPK is important to weight loss. And, now with this new study, we can say that jiaogulan seems to produce weight loss in humans. But there’s a jump to conclude that the sole mechanism at work in the human study was AMPK activation. I tend to suspect that there are synergistic mechanism at play here.

For example, the study identified no difference in caloric intake between the two groups. One sign of improved AMPK activity should be a reduced appetite. That does not seem tot be the case here.

We know, among other things, that jiaogulan stimulates improved blood flow through increased Nitric oxide production. That has also been linked to weight loss.

The study seems to confirm that jiaogulan is beneficial to weight loss. But the jury is still out regarding the mechanism.

So what’s next for jiaogulan?

Kenney – I’m hopeful there will be more widespread interest in researching jiaogulan. When I see a commercially sponsored study I’m naturally skeptical. So, I’d like to see some neutral research. I’m not criticizing the authors. I’m sure they are sincere in their findings, but commercial research is what it is.

Meanwhile, supplement retailers are not waiting. There are already several large supplement companies out with jiaogulan based weight loss products. We are in for the inevitable waves of hype and promotion. I just hope that when the smoke clears there will be a core population consuming jiaogulan regularly, not just for the weight loss benefits but for all the other health benefits as well.

You mentioned other health benefits earlier. Briefly, what are those?

Kenney – Jiaogulan is known in China as “The Immortality Herb,” that’s the reason my company is called Immortalitea. Besides weight loss there are three main benefits, cardio-vascular health – including lowering cholesterol and reducing blood pressure, immune system and anti-aging benefits – jiaogulan also stimulates an enzyme called SOD that is a powerful anti-oxidant and finally, adaptogenic benefits – jiaogulan helps your neuro-endocrine system establish maintain a state of balance.

There are many other benefits, but you said “briefly”. Those are the big three.

Thank you.

To learn more about jiaogulan we recommend  visiting Ralph Kenney’s jiaogulan blog at www.immortalitea.com/store/blog/3-Immortal-Musings.aspx?categories=7






What is Jiaogulan?

What is Jiaogulan?

 Jiaogulan (Latin name: Gynostemma pentaphyllum) is a low-lying
vine from the Cucurbiticeae family of plants. Jiaogulan is indigenous to Southern China but is now cultivated widely throughout Asia, most notably in Thailand and Vietnam.Jiaogulan is produced primarily as an herbal tea and is also available as both whole leaf
and extracted supplement.

Traditional Chinese Medicine recommends Jiaogulan as a general health tonic and in some regions of china it is called Xian Cao (the Immortality Herb) due to its association with longevity and robust health.

The plant first came to the attention of modern researchers
in the 1970’s as a result of China’s first nationwide census. Demographers noted a statistically significant higher percentage of centenarians in two small Southern provinces. The Chinese
government dispatched a team of researchers whom ultimately conducted a ten-year study.The researchers attributed the unusual longevity in those areas to the regular traditional consumption of jiaogulan tea in those areas. Following these findings,  Dr. Jialiu Liu of Guiyang Medical College conducted extensive research including human clinical studies into the plant. His research identified active ingredients in Jiaouglan that provided a broad range of health benefits, including, cardiovascular health, improved immune systems, protection from and faster recovery from oxidative stress, cancer protection and improved blood flow
resulting in better mentation and organ health. Dr. Lu authored a book with American researcher Michael Blumert extolling jiaogulan as the Herb of Immortality.

Jiaogulan was also the subject of extensive research in the 1980’s by Japanese researchers who, noting the natural sweetness of jiaogulan, hoped jiaogulan could be developed as a natural sweetener. While the project was unfruitful, Japanese researchers also compiled an impressive list of provenhealth benefits.

Today herbalists recommend jiaogulan for three main health

1) Put your body in
the optimal state of balance –

Adaptogens are a class of herbs identified by herbalists as helping the human body maintain a state of “homeostasis”, i.e. balance. The mechanisms vary from herb to herb but primarily adaptogens work by supporting the neuroendocrine system. The neuroendocrine system is the combined systems of hormones and nervous system. Modern researchers have proclaimed jiaogulan the world’s most potent adaptogen. One theory is jiaogulan’s stimulation of Nitric
Oxide production improves the overall function of the neuroendocrine system

2) Reduce blood pressure
and improve cardiovascular health
– Chinese research has proven that jiaogulan stimulates the human body to increase production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a natural vasodilator. Increased vascular size makes it easier for the heart to pump blood throughout the body and reduces blood pressure. The increased blood flow also mitigates the  harm from arterial build up due to arteriosclerosis.

Jiaogulan also reduces cholesterol. Since high cholesterol is the number one cause of clogged arteries, there is a double benefit to cardiovascular health. Blood vessels are less likely to develop obstructions and, when they do occur, the impact is mitigated by increased blood vessel size.

Increased Nitric oxide production is also the reason jiaogulan is popular with endurance athletes. The increased blood vessel size increases oxygen flow which directly result sin greater endurance. This increased blood flow is also believed beneficial to sufferers of Erectile Dysfunction and to improved mentation in the elderly.

3) Fight the effects
of aging and strengthen the immune system –
Most people have read about the
health benefits of antioxidants. One can hardly visit the grocery store without being bombarded by marketing messages on products touting their high antioxidant content. Marketers have gone so far as to co-op a formerly scientific measure of antioxidant called the ORAC scale. ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. It is a measure of the anti-oxidant levels in a food. Marketers engage in heated debate over whose product as the higher ORAC value.

But the reality is that most of the health benefit of antioxidants consumed in food is wasted. When we digest food only a small
percentage of the antioxidants present actually survive the digestive process and enter the blood stream where they can be distributed throughout the body and help destroy free radicals and boost the immune system.

However, there is a solution. The human body does produce
it’s own natural antioxidants, two enzymes Super-Oxide Dismutase (SOD for short) and catalase.

These internally produced antioxidants are crucial to all
animal life as they are the main mechanism of cleansing and protecting the body from free-radicals created during the metabolization of foods. Increased productions of these
internally produced antioxidants is far more effective than consumption of antioxidants because the internally produced antioxidants to not undergo digestion and are therefore 100% bioavailable.

Research proves jiaogulan increases SOD production in
humans. Researchers speculate this is the primary reason the herb is so strongly associated with longevity is Traditional Chinese Medicine. There has also been substantial research in Canada using jiaogulan to support the compromised immune systems of chemotherapy patients. This improved immunity has resulted in jiaogulan’s popularity as a immune support supplement during cold
and flu season.

Recent media attention has been focused on jiaogulan for
weight loss. Researchers in Korea have determined that jiaogulan is a potent activator of the AMPK enzyme in humans. AMPK plays a crucial role in the regulation of human metabolism. In one Korean study, obese men were given jiaogulan extract for 14 weeks. The placebo group experienced no significant change. However the jiaogulan group lost an average of 2Kg., saw reduction in their waistlines, improved body mass index and lower cholesterol levels.

Jiaogulan is a perennial and can be harvested throughout the
year. Jiaogulan Tea is produced by a three-stage process. The plant is
harvested and stems removed by hand. The plant is quickly pan dried to form the typical 5 leaf clusters of dried tea and then air dried on raised platforms with forced air. The resulting tea is simultaneously slightly bitter and slightly sweet. The tea is popular in Southern China often consumed as a substitute for tea from Camelia sinensis. Jiaogulan can also be consumed as a supplement,
in extract form, as a tincture and the raw leaves may be added directly to foods.

We recommend http://www.immortalitea.com/store/p/27-Premium-Jiaogulan-Gynostemma-Tea.aspx for the purchase of Jiaogulan.