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Introduction: Gymnema sylvestre - Boosts Your Insulin

© Dr Deepak Acharya, Anshu Shrivastava and Garima Sancheti

In the following article, we will discuss the enumeration, medicinal value and conservation strategy for Gymnema sylvestre. The medicinal value of the plants is based on the information obtained from the tribals viz., Bharias and Gonds of Patalkot valley, and information retrieved from the internet and other libraries. The aim of this article is to make people aware of the herbal heritage of Patalkot. This is an attempt to inspire people to conserve the virgin land and its natives.

Location Profile:

Chhindwara district lies between latitude 21°23' and 22°49' north and longitude 78°10' and 79°24' east. Dense forest covers most of the area of the district. Patalkot is a lovely landscape located at the altitude of 1200-1500 feet in a valley near Tamia in the north of the district. Because of the great depth at which it is located, this place is christened as 'Patalkot' ('Patal means very deep, in Sanskrit). Patalkot is spread over an area of 79 Sq.Km. at an average altitude of 2750-3250 feet above Mean Sea Level. It is a treasury of forest and herbal wealth. There are 12 villages and 13 hamlets in this valley, with a total population of nearly 2000. Because of the inaccessibility of this area, the tribals of this region were totally cut off from the civilized world. Most of the people in Patalkot belong to 'Bharia' and 'Gond' tribes. This valley is situated on the Satpura plateau in the southern central part of the Madhya Pradesh.

During the survey, which was carried out from 1997 to 2004, Dr Acharya explored the area of Patalkot valley that includes- Gaildubbha, Karayam Rathed, Ghatlinga, Gudichhathri, Karrapani, Tamia Bharia Dhana, Bijauri, Pandu Piparia, Sajkui, Lahgadua, karrapani, Sidhouli.

All the co-authors of this article were involved in gathering information from various resources such as the Internet, University Libraries and oral information from traditional healers of their respective regions.

Why we select this plant?

Plants have been source of medicine since ancient times. Thousands of books and articles have been written so far. Several thousands of medicinal plants are discussed and used to cure various health disorders in India and abroad also. In India, almost 45000 plant species are growing naturally or being cultivated. There are many popular Indian herbs used in traditional practices to cure diabetes. Gymnema sylvestre has an important place among such antidiabetic medicinal herbs. It has shown experimental or clinical anti-diabetic activity {1} and it boosts your insulin level {2}.

During the early 1990's, this marvelous herb was found in abundance in Patalkot valley. But as it is a climber it could not survive well after the deforestation and cutting down of the big trees.

Nowadays, this herb is becoming rare in this valley. It prompted us to write an article and make it an issue so that, conservationists, botanists and NGO's may come forward to rescue and save this plant in the valley.

Plant Profile:

Gymnema sylvestre (Retz.) Schultes in Roem. & Schult. Syst. Veg. 6: 57. 1820; Wight, Ic. 2 (1): 3. t. 349. 1840; Hook. f. Fl. Brit. India 4: 29. 1883; Duthie, Fl. Upper Gang. Pl. 2: 53. 1911; Jagtap & Singh in Fl. India Fasc. 24: 89. 1999. Periploca sylvestris Retz. Obs. Bot. 2: 15. 1781.

Synonyms :

Periploca sylvestris Willd., Gymnema melicida Edgew.

Family:

Asclepiadaceae

English Name:

Suger destroyer, Periploca of the the woods.

Sanskrit names:

Ajaballi, Ajagandini, Ajashringi, Bahalchakshu, Chakshurabahala, Grihadruma, Karnika, Kshinavartta, Madhunasini, Medhasingi, Meshashringi, Meshavishanika, Netaushadhi, Putrashringi, Sarpadanshtrika, Tiktadughdha, Vishani.

Local Names in India:

Hindi- Gur-mar, merasingi; Bengali- Mera-singi; Marathi- Kavali, kalikardori, vakundi; Gujarati- Dhuleti, mardashingi; Telugu- Podapatri; Tamil- Adigam, cherukurinja; Kannada- Sannager-asehambu; Malyalam- Cakkarakkolli, Madhunashini;

Taxonomic Description:

Extensive, much-branched, twining shrubs. Leaves 3-6 x 2-3 cm, ovate or elliptic-oblong, apiculate, rounded at base, sub-coriaceous. Flowers minute, greenish-yellow, spirally arranged in lateral pedunculate or nearly sessile cymes. Corolla lobes imbricate. Follicles solitary, upto 8 x 0.7 cm, terete, lanceolate, straight or slightly curved, glabrous. Seeds ovate-oblong, glabrous, winged, brown. Flowering: August-March; Fruiting: Winter.

Habitat:

Grows wild in forest as a climber also found in the plains from the coast, in scrub jungles and in thickets; wild.

Distribution in India:

It is occurring in Bihar, Central India, Western Ghats, and Konkan.

Distribution in Patalkot:

Gaildubba, Harra-ka-Char, Kareyam, Raja khoh, Sajkui etc.

Medicinal Property:

The plant is stomachic, stimulant, laxative and diuretic. It is good for cough, biliousness and sore eyes. If the leaves of the plant are chewed, the sense of taste for sweet and bitter substances is suppressed (Gent, 1999, Persaud et al., 1999, Intelegen, 2004). The leaves are said to be used as a remedy for diabetes (Prakash et al., 1986; Shanmugasundaram et al., 1990; Grover et al., 2002; Gholap & Kar, 2003}. It has been included among the most important herbs for all doshas (Mhasker & Caius, 1930; Holistic, 2004). It has shown effective activity against Bacillus pumilis, B. subtilis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus (Satdive et al., 2003). Tribals in Chhindi rub the leaves on affected body parts to cure infections.

The leaf powder is tasteless with a faint pleasant aromatic odour. It stimulates the heart and the circulatory system, increases the secretion of urine, and activates the uterus. Tribals of Central India prepare decoctions of Methi/ fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum), Gudmar (Gymnema sylvestre), Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna), Ajwan (Trachyspermum ammi), gokshura (Tribulus terrestris), vayu-vidanga (Embelia ribes), Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia), Harra (Terminalia chebula), and chitrak (Plumbago zeylanica) to cure diabetes and stress related disorders.

Traditional healers from diverse parts of India use this plant in various ailments. The leaf is given in gastric troubles in Rajasthan. Traditional healers of Maharastra prescribe it in urinary problems and stomach-ache whereas in Madhya Pradesh, tribals and local healers apply the leaf extract in cornea opacity and other eye diseases. In Andhra Pradesh it is used in glycosuria.

Gymnema in Vedas:

According to Charak Samhita, it removes bad odour from breast milk. It is aperitive. This plant is useful as purgative, in eye troubles. The leaf extract and flower is beneficial for eyes. Bark is given in the diseases caused by vitiated kapha (phlegm). According the Bagbhat, the rootbark is useful in piles. According to the Ayurveda it is acrid, alexipharmic, anodyne, anthelmintic, antipyretic, astringent, bitter, cardiotonic, digestive, diuretic, emetic,expectorant, laxative, stimulant, stomachic, uterine tonic; useful in amennorrhoea, asthma, bronchitis, cardiopathy, conjunctivitis, constipation, cough, dyspepsia, haemorroids, hepatosplenomegaly, inflammations, intermittant fever, jaundice and leucoderma. Root emetic and removes phlegm; external application is useful in insect bite (ENVISBSI, 30/10/04).

Chemical Composition:

The leaves contain hentriacontane, pentatriacontane, a-and β-chlorophylls, phytin, resins, tartaric acid, formic acid, butyric acid, anthraqui-none derivatives, inositol, d -quercitol and "gymnemic acid". The leaves give positive tests for alkaloids. Flavonol glycosides, kaempferol and quercetin have been isolated from the aerial parts of the plant (Liu et al., 2004). Three new oleanane-type triterpene glycosides were isolated from the leaves of the plant. Six oleanane-type saponins (Ye et al., 2000, 2001). Few new tritepenoid saponins, gymnemasins A, B, C and D were also isolated from the leaves of Gymnema sylvestre (Suttisri et al., 1995, Sahu et al., 1996).

Companies in Product Manufacturing:

(*Names arranged alphabetically)

Concluding Remarks:

It is the need of the hour to save this highly important medicinal plant of Patalkot valley. If proper initiatives are not taken in time, there will not be a single Gymnema plant left in the valley. Scientists, conservationists, researchers, NGO's and other bodies are urged to come forward and take steps to protect this important herb. Local farmers should be encouraged to cultivate this herb. Government and policy makers have lots of plans and ideas, but find problems in proper implementation. It is the youth and people from the literate world who should come forward to take this task into their hands.

Acknowledgement:

Author (DA) is grateful to Dr S A Brown, Principal, Danielson College, Chhinwara for kind counsel time to time. Thanks are due to Dr MK Rai, Head, Department of Biotechnology, Amaravati University, Amaravati for supporting and encouraging me all the way. How can I forget to thank Dr Vipin Kumar (SRISTI, Ahmedabad) and Dr Sanjay Pawar (Chhindwara) for their moral support to me.

Authors Profile:

Dr Deepak Acharya - He was an Asst. Professor in Department of Botany, Danielson College, Chhindwara, MP, India. Recently, he has joined SRISTI (www.sristi.org). His research interests include: Microbiology, Microbial activity, Ethno botany and Environmental Education. He has done herbal research among the tribal community of Patalkot for 6 years. He has Published nearly 25 research papers and more than 125 popular articles in various Journals/ Magazines/ News Papers of repute. Find more about Dr Acharya on http://dracharya.tripod.com .

Anshu Shrivastava- He was Senior Research Fellow at Botanical Survey of India- Jodhpur. He has now joined SRISTI (www.sristi.org) as a Plant Taxonomist. He is expertise in the field of plant identification. Currently he is also working on ethnobotany.

Miss Garima Sancheti- She is a Senior Research Scholar at Department of Life Sciences, Rajasthan University, Jaipur.

References

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