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Immortal Musings

Jiaogulan FAQs

by Ralph Kenney

September 09, 2010

Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum) the Chinese Super Herb

Jiaogulan (gee-ow-goo-lan), or gynostemma is a green leaf herb famous as the “immortality tea” in highland villages in southern China. This is where the plant naturally grows wild and people reported they lived long lives from drinking this tea daily.

It also grows in other countries of Thailand and Vietnam in smaller amounts. It has a sweet taste similar to stevia.

Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum) is a five leafed climbing vine that is in the same family as Cucurbitcae, such as cucumbers, gourds and melons. Although this plant does not produce the edible fruit, this genus is composed of 20 different species.

Gynostemma is recognized for its medicinal quality due to extremely high saponin compounds. It is an adaptogenic herb, meaning it is a substance that brings the whole body back into balance.

In 1970 after a Chinese nationwide population census was conducted; its survey showed a high percentage of people living to be 100 years of age in the Guizhou province. This area is where Jiaogulan grows prolifically in the wild.

A team of scientists from the Chinese Academy of Medical sciences attributed this centenarian population was due to the daily intake of the herbal tea, Jiaogulan tea.

  • Increases strength and endurance, so it is very popular with athletes and bodybuilders.
  • Reduces fatigue since it is an adaptogen, it improves the body’s ability to build up resistance to traumas, anxiety or stressors, when consumed on a daily basis.
  • Treats bronchitis and breathing difficulties, In Chinese Medicine, its properties are bitter and cool which helps the lung and heart organs. It reduces inflammation and moistens the lungs.
  • Reduces stress caused by emotional, mental and physical stressors.
  • Aid for depression and anxiety; the saponins, have neuroprotective effects of nerve transmitters in the brain.
  • Maintain or lose weight by increasing fat metabolism. Gynostemma, is commonly used in China, for treatment of elevated cholesterol, hyperlipidemia, diabetes and obesity.
  • Anti-cancer protection due to recent research; inhibition and apoptosis (cancel cell death) in certain types of tumors.
  • Improve sexual function by helping with erectile dysfunction by producing nitric oxide; similar to what Viagra does. Nitric oxide increases blood flow to the penis and helps with sperm motility and production. For females it helps with ovulation and placenta formation.
  • Maintain normal sugar levels by exerting an anti-diabetic effect by improving insulin sensitivity.
  • Increase coronary blood flow and helps normalize blood pressure. It improves cardiac function and decreases risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Enhances the immune system by boosting under activity or suppressing over activity.
  • Anti-aging and longevity properties due to ability of Jiaogulan to increase anti-oxidant SOD (superoxide dismutase) amounts. SOD helps prevent oxidation damage from harmful free radicals. It also has glutathione, another anti-aging antioxidant.


Nutrient Compounds of Gynostemma

Since this Jiaogulan is an adaptogenic herb it restores balance to all five body systems; cardiovascular, immune, nervous system, digestive and reproductive. It also assists the pulmonary (lung) breathing system.

Gynostemma contains many great compounds, saponins, ginsenosides plus amino acids, minerals and vitamins.

Saponins are what give this plant adaptogenic qualities, it has 4 times higher levels of saponins as what Panax Ginseng has!

Gypenosides help cognitive function enhancement and performance. They also have hypoglycemic, chemo preventative, neuropreventative functions. The newest compound is gintonin, both of these are being studied for their health benefits.

In Chinese medicine (TCM), this herb functions like Yin and Yang. They are opposing and complementary forces at the same time; they combine and form a whole, creating balance.

Amino acids in Gynostemma include cysteine, lysine, histidine, glycine, serine, glutamic acid, isoleucine and many others.

Minerals include calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc and selenium.

There is no biological relationship between jiaogulan and ginseng. Chinese herbalists sometimes call jiaogulan 5-leaf ginseng or poor man’ s ginseng because according to Chinese Medicine both herbs have a similar tonifying effect on the body.

Scientist have determined that the active ingredients in both ginseng and jiaogulan are chemicals called saponins. Researchers found that jiaogulan has nearly 5 times as many beneficial saponins as ginseng (128 vs 26).Many compare Jiaogulan to ginseng, even though the plant is not related, but is very similar in its adaptogenic and antioxidant properties.

Often used by the common people in China, Jiaogulan grew wild and was easy to find and not costly. Research is now showing that Jiagulan is more powerful than ginseng.

It’s like Ginseng on steroids.

Many of these Saponins act like antioxidants, supporting the energy production process in the body. Studies are suggesting that the polysaccharides are what help with endurance, stamina and fatigue.

How Do You Take Jiaogulan (Gynostemma)

Jiaogulan or Gynostemma is available as a loose leaf tea, you may find it under either herbal name. Use it as either decoction or an infusion, let it steep for minimum of 5 minutes or more to get more benefits. You can drink as many as 3 or more cups a day.

It is also great as a cold tea.

You can also take Gynostemma in capsule form.

There have also been references to using it directly on the skin.

Are there any side effects from Jiaogulan?

"Nausea, sometimes described as serious, has been associated with taking gynostemma. Also reported is a possible increase in the number of bowel movements. No other side effects have been reported consistently from using gynostemma. Since few reliable studies of its use have been conducted in humans, however, it may have side effects that are not yet known. Individuals who experience unexplained side effects while taking gynostemma should stop taking it and tell a doctor or pharmacist about the side effects.” Quoted from Drug Digest (all rights retained).

Are there any drug interactions I should be concerned about?

“Prescription Drug Interactions: Gynostemma has been shown to increase the time blood needs to clot. When it is taken with antiplatelet or anticoagulant drugs, the effect of the drug may be increased, resulting in uncontrolled bleeding. • Antiplatelets include clopidogrel and ticlopidine • Anticoagulants include heparin and warfarin.

Because it can affect immune system function, gynostemma may interfere with the effects of drugs used to suppress the immune system after organ transplants or in other conditions. Taking gynostemma is not recommended for patients who take drugs such as: • azathioprine (Imuran) • CellCept • cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune) • Prograf • Rapamune • Zenapax

Non-prescription Drugs: Gynostemma may reduce the ability of blood to clot after an injury. Aspirin may also decrease clotting, so gynostemma should not be taken at the same time as aspirin.

jiaogulan tea Herbal Products: Theoretically, if gynostemma is used with other herbs that affect blood clotting, bleeding may occur. Some of the most common herbal products that might inhibit blood clotting are: • Danshen • Devil's Claw • Eleuth

Some interactions between herbal products and medications can be more severe than others. The best way for you to avoid harmful interactions is to tell your doctor and/or pharmacist what medications you are currently taking, including any over-the-counter products, vitamins, and herbals. For specific information on how gynostemma interacts with drugs, other herbals, and foods and the severity of those interactions, please use our Drug Interactions Checker to check for possible interactions.” Quoted from Drug Digest (all rights retained).

When should I be careful about consuming Jiaogulan?

“In studies of animals, birth defects occurred in some of the babies born to mothers given gynostemma during pregnancy. Although no reports of similar effects have been reported in humans, pregnant women are advised to avoid gynostemma.

Precautions: Very little information is available on how gynostemma might affect an infant or a small child. Therefore, its use is not recommended while breastfeeding or during early childhood.” Quoted from Drug Digest (all rights retained).

How much Jiaogulan should I consume?

For most people, the simple answer is, "as much as you want". Please note the exceptions mentioned above. We recommend 4 to 8 cups per day of tea. If taking jiaogulan in capsule form the recommendation is usually 2 to 6 capsules twice daily.

I don't care for hot tea in the warm weather. Can I prepare Jiaogulan as an iced tea?

Jiaogulan tea is a refreshing iced tea. Just prepare the tea as normal and then chill or try preparing it as a sun tea

What is an adaptogen?

Russian scientist N. V. Lazarev coined the term adaptogen in 1947 to describe herbs that have "a normalizing action on various bodily functions regardless of the direction of the pathological condition." In other words, an adaptogen is an herb that helps the body self- regulate. If something is out of balance, either too much of something or too little of something, an adaptogen helps the body return to the ideal state.

My tea is bitter, what went wrong?

Our sweet variety of jiaogulan tea will only taste bitter in the case of over-brewing. Over-brewing is the result of either too much dried leaf being used, too long of brewing time or water temperature being too high. Please see our brewing tips page for our recommendations.

Can I eat the leaves?

Yes. Most people find they have a pleasant taste.

Where does Jiaogulan come from?

Jiaogulan is indigenous to Southern China but now grows throughout most of Asia. We grow ours in the foothills of Northern Thailand where we find that the clean air and good soil produces a superior sweeter tasting jiaogulan.


Knowing more about Gynostemma(aka Jiaogulan):

Thе Health Benefits of Gynostemma
What Is Jiaogulan?
History of Jiaogulan
Other names for Jiaogulan
Sweet Science of Jiaogulan
Benefits of Jiaogulan (Gynostemma)
Jiaogulan: Vasodilatory Benefits
Jiaogulan Smoothie Recipe
Gynostemma may help prevent stroke-related brain damage
Is my Jiaogulan “really” that good?…………Yes!
Running at Optimum – Jiaogulan for Athletes
HIV researchers tout Gynostemma in the fight against HIV


  • We are now growing the plant at home. Is eating the raw leaves as beneficial as making tea? Like if we put them in salads or cook them in food?

    Jay on

  • I was wondering I have one jiaogulan plant and it is s few feet long. I have tried the leaves and stem and it tastes bitter. Does it get sweeter with age or does it get sweet when you steep it? Or will it not get sweet unless I have both male and female plants? Thanks for your time.

    Susan on

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The information provided on our site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice nor to replace medical advice from your physician.
* Our products have not been evaluated by the United States Food and Drug Administration and are not approved to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.

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