In studies of animals, gynostemma may have caused birth defects in some of the babies born to mothers given gynostemma during pregnancy. Although no reports of similar effects have been reported in humans, women who are pregnant are advised to avoid gynostemma.
Very little information is available on how gynostemma might affect an infant or a small child. Therefore, its use is not recommended while breast-feeding or during early childhood.
Gynostemma side effects to watch for?
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. If you experience unexplained side effects while taking gynostemma, you should stop taking it and tell your doctor or pharmacist about the side effects.
Gynostemma interactions to watch for...
In studies, 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 Plavix and Ticlid
Anticoagulants include heparin and warfarin
Because it can enhance 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:
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.
Should I take it?
Originally found growing wild in south western parts of China, gynostemma is a vine with leaves that most often are divided into five leaflets – usually with a larger leaflet at the end of the leaf stem surrounded by leaflets of decreasing size on either side. Gynostemma belongs to the same family of plants as cucumbers and melons, but it does not bear an edible fruit or vegetable. Instead, it has small dark berries that follow light yellow flowers. While the seeds will sprout, gynostemma ordinarily spreads by sending out runners, which are woody extensions of roots that run under the ground and produce shoots for new plants. It is now grown commercially throughout Southeast Asia. Commercial cultivation is usually done in greenhouses or under open tents because gynostemma wilts in direct sunlight. Harvested in the late summer, the leaves of gynostemma are dried and used for medicine. Due to the saponins in gynostemma, it may also be used in soaps and detergents.
Although it has long been used for medicine and beverages in southern China, gynostemma was not known to the general scientific community until relatively recently. A naturally sweet plant, gynostemma was first studied in the 1970s as a possible sugar substitute. However, during early research it was discovered to contain chemicals that are similar to those in panax ginseng. Currently, researchers are investigating the role of gynostemma in preventing and treating a wide variety of conditions.
Dosage and Administration
In the few studies conducted in humans, a common daily amount used to lower cholesterol levels was 30 mg of gynostemma extract, taken in three 10 mg doses. For treating other conditions, recommended doses vary from about 20 mg to over 150 mg per day. While even large doses (several cups of gynostemma tea per day) appear to be safe, no scientific documentation is available to confirm a maximum dosage.
Note: The active ingredients in gynostemma are known as saponins. This large group of chemicals is characterized by their general ability to make soap-like suds when they are mixed with water and the mixture is shaken. Saponins may have many effects in the body, including positive ones such as improving immune function. Saponins may also have negative effects such as blocking the digestion of some nutrients. Gynostemma may contain over 80 different types of saponins. Because the content of saponins and other chemicals in gynostemma varies greatly depending on the species of the plant and the conditions under which it grows, standardizing gynostemma products is difficult. Standardization by the manufacturer should assure the same amount of active ingredient in every batch of the commercial preparation. Standardization of herbal products is not required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so not every gynostemma product that is available contains the same amounts of active ingredients.
Gynostemma has been studied most for its effects on the heart and blood vessels. It may help to lower blood cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate. Gynostemma may also have antioxidant properties that may make it useful for treating cancer and for increasing the function of the immune system.
Because it has caused birth defects in animals, gynostemma should be avoided by pregnant women. Small children and breast-feeding women are also advised to avoid taking it, since so little is known about its possible long-term effects.
The only side effect currently attributed to gynostemma is nausea.
The antiplatelet properties of gynostemma may increase the risk of uncontrolled bleeding if it is taken at the same time as drugs or herbals that also thin the blood. Taking it may also counteract the effects of drugs used to prevent organ transplant rejection.
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