Jiaogulan: A Powerful Adaptogen To Beat Stress And Fatigue


Chronic stress leads to far more serious implications than you may think. We’re not simply referring to mental or emotional stress from financial, relationship, and work-related worries. Physical and environmental factors are also perceived by the body as stressors. For example, feeling sick, feeling cold, suffering from chronic infection, eating an unhealthy diet, taking prescription medications, or being exposed to environmental toxins such as pollution, chemicals, and heavy metals are all factors of physical stress.

When you constantly encounter these stress triggers, your body responds to them in a way that negatively impacts your overall well-being. Science has provided more than enough evidence to show that too much stress promotes inflammation, accelerates the process of aging, and causes debilitating, chronic disease over time - even leading to premature death.

This is where adaptogens come into the picture. These powerful herbs can help your body to neutralize the harmful effects of stress in more ways than one.

Jiaogulan Gynostemma capsules

What are adaptogens?


Currently, adaptogens are creating a lot of buzz. These herbs are primarily known for their ability to support the body’s natural capacity to self-heal and repair when you are under stress. Interestingly, adaptogenic herbs have been used as tonics and rejuvenators in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for centuries.

You may be familiar with herbs like Reishi, Holy Basil, Ashwagandha, Maca, Panax Ginseng, Rhodiola Rosea, and Jiaogulan. These herbs have one thing in common: they are all adaptogens. However, not all herbs are adaptogens, and only 1 in 4000 herbs can be truly classified as adaptogenic according to specific properties. That is, the herbs:

  • must be completely safe with no toxic side effects even when consumed over a long period
  • must exert non-specific action on the body; i.e. should have a wide range of health benefits across multiple body systems
  • must help the body to restore overall balance by normalizing organ and system function 
  • must increase the body’s resistance to stress
Adaptogenic herbs achieve balance and harmony within the body by regulating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and sympathoadrenal system (SAS) - composed of the endocrine, immune, and nervous systems. These systems are closely involved with how your body responds to physical, chemical, biological, and environmental stressors.

While each adaptogenic herb functions differently, its ultimate effect is to make the body resilient to stress and minimize adverse effects. These herbs can be consumed as whole leaves (for example, holy basil), brewed into teas, or taken as supplements.

In this blog, we discuss Jiaogulan: one of the most powerful adaptogenic herbs.

What makes the Jiaogulan plant so unique and how can drinking Jiaogulan tea help you take control of your health? Let’s find out.

Jiaogulan Herb: A potent adaptogen and antioxidant


Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum) is a herb known for its adaptogenic effects on the body. Grown in Asian countries such as China, Japan, and Thailand, Jiaogulan (the “immortality herb”) is believed to increase the lifespan by improving various health parameters. In short, Jiaogulan prevents premature aging at the cellular level and keeps chronic, degenerative diseases at bay - resulting in a healthy, disease-free body and a longer lifespan.

People from Southern China have been drinking Jiaogulan tea for hundreds of years as a general tonic to rejuvenate the body and mind. They also use it as herbal medicine to treat conditions such as asthma, infections, jaundice, bronchitis, and the common cold.

Jiaogulan contains a wide range of bio-active compounds called saponins, explaining the many Jiaogulan health benefits. The specific saponins present in Jiaogulan are called gypenosides and they possess significant health-enhancing properties. These saponins make Jiaogulan adaptogenic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, liver-protective, and anti-cancerous. Jiaogulan is also a source of vitamins, flavonoids, polysaccharides, amino acids and various trace minerals such as zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and selenium.

Normalizing effects of Jiaogulan


Like all adaptogenic herbs, Jiaogulan has normalizing effects on all major systems of the body, such as the endocrine system (hormones), nervous system, cardiovascular system, digestive system, immune system, and circulatory system. Just like a thermostat, jiaogulan senses where the imbalance lies and with a unique bi-directional approach, it works with the body to stabilize these disorders.

Not all herbs or natural remedies function this way as they usually have only one-directional intelligence when it comes to imparting specific health benefits. Jiaogulan, on the other hand, has a bi-phasic action, supporting and strengthening underlying systems, fine-tuning their functions and helping them to perform optimally. If a particular system is over-functioning, Jiaogulan helps to down-regulate its activity. Likewise, it also improves the performance of a system that is under-functioning.

For example, Jiaogulan simultaneously calms as well as energizes the body without causing overstimulation, unlike caffeine. What’s more, it regulates metabolism, offering both weight-loss and weight-gain benefits.

Reishi Mushroom capsules

In a nutshell, Jiaogulan does what needs to be done to align the body towards its centre and restores homeostasis.

Given that it can stabilize the HPA axis, Jiaogulan prevents stress by taking root in the body, thereby avoiding serious damage. Jiaogulan empowers the body with the adaptive energy it requires to handle stress of any kind. It is clear that a well-balanced body is much better at dealing with internal and external stressors and can more successfully recover from diseases and heal itself.

Jiaogulan has yet another impressive property that is central to why it is referred to as the “herb of immortality”. Jiaogulan stimulates the body to produce its own army of endogenous antioxidants – Superoxide Dismutase (SOD), Glutathione, and Catalase. These are some of the most powerful antioxidants in the body, limiting the damage caused by the excessive production of free radicals. Unnatural stress levels (caused by biological, physical, environmental, and emotional factors) lead to the production of free radicals in amounts that are too difficult for the body to neutralize on its own.

Free radicals cause cellular damage, chronic inflammation, and premature aging, leading to the onset of age-associated health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, cataracts, cancer, arthritis, and dementia. What’s more, your body’s ability to make its own supply of antioxidants declines with age. Ironically, age, as well as chronic stress, increases your body’s need for antioxidants. Jiaogulan can increase levels of endogenous antioxidants that have other important health-enhancing benefits. For example, glutathione is a master antioxidant that fights free radicals as well as helps to detox your body from a wide range of toxins.

Jiaogulan and overall homeostasis


Jiaogulan’s adaptogenic and antioxidant qualities help the body modulate its response to stress. Jiaogulan works in many ways to bring an overall balance to the body while reducing stress and boosting longevity:

  • Supports adrenal health
  • Modulates stress response by reducing the levels of stress hormones like cortisol
  • Relaxes a hyper-excited nervous system
  • Improves mood and lowers anxiety
  • Promotes sound, healthy sleep
  • Lowers inflammation and reduces the risk of chronic disease
  • Boosts immune functions
  • Supports heart health
  • Relieves fatigue and improves energy levels
Other health benefits of Jiaogulan

  • Reduces signs of aging
  • Regulates cholesterol levels
  • Regulates blood pressure and strengthens arteries
  • Helps with weight loss [1]
  • Balances blood sugar levels and improves insulin sensitivity [2] [3]
  • Supports liver functions, prevents inflammation and protects the liver from damage caused by free radicals, toxins, and alcohol
  • Detoxifies the body as it stimulates the production of master antioxidant, glutathione
  • Assists in the fight to prevent cancer and reduces damage caused by chemotherapy and radiation therapy
  • Improves digestion and gut health
  • Reduces inflammation in the urinary bladder, thus beneficial for diabetic patients prone to developing urinary tract infections [4]
  • Supports lung function and works as an effective expectorant and decongestant, thus helpful in treating asthma, bronchitis and the common cold
  • Promotes brain health


Jiaogulan loose leaf tea


When not to take a Jiaogulan supplement


As an adaptogen, Jiaogulan is generally a very safe herb to use. However, it is not recommended for:

  • Very young children
  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Individuals who are taking blood thinners (jiaogulan functions as an anticoagulant and prevents clot formation in the blood)
  • People on immune-suppressant drugs (jiaogulan boosts immune functions)
  • ¦People on drugs that lower blood pressure
References:
  1. Park et al. "Antiobesity effect of Gynostemma pentaphyllum extract (actiponin): A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial." Obesity (Silver Spring, Md). 2013
  2. Huyen et al. Gynostemma pentaphyllum Tea Improves Insulin Sensitivity in Type 2 Diabetic Patients. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. 2013
  3. Huyen et al. “Antidiabetic Effects of Add-On Gynostemma pentaphyllum Extract Therapy with Sulfonylureas in Type 2 Diabetic Patients,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2012
  4. Petra Lüthjea, Ezarul Faradianna Lokmanb, c, Corine Sandströmd, Claes-Göran Östensonb, Annelie Braunera. Gynostemma pentaphyllum exhibits anti-inflammatory properties and modulates antimicrobial peptide expression in the urinary bladder. Science Direct. Journal of Functional Foods. Volume 17August 2015