Jiaogulan

Scientific Name(s): Gynostemma pentaphyllum (Thunb.) Makino. Family: Cucurbitaceae (Squashes)

Common Name(s): Jiaogulan , Penta tea , Amachazuru (Japan) , Southern ginseng , Dungkulcha (Korea)

Uses

Studies on Gynostemma have found that the plant is effective in regulating blood pressure, strengthening the immune system, lowering cholesterol, and in increasing stamina and endurance properties. Gynostemma has also been found to have hyperlipidemic, lipid peroxidation, adaptogenic, anticancer, cardio- and cerebrovascular effects.

Dosing

The adaptogenic use of jiaogulan is standardized on an extract containing 85% gypenosides, with a daily dose of 60 to 180 mg gypenosides recommended; however, published studies to justify this dose are lacking.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

The side effects of Gynostemma include severe nausea and increased bowel movements.

Toxicology

No data available for human toxicity.

Botany

Gynostemma pentaphyllum is a climbing, perennial vine native to China, Japan, and parts of southeast Asia. The plant is dioecious, that is, it carries male and female flowers on separate plants. While the plant grows abundantly and is harvested from the wild, it has been brought under cultivation and tissue culture has been achieved. 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 Adulteration by Cayratia japonica has been noted. 3

History

Jiaogulan has been incorporated into traditional Chinese medicine only in the last 20 years. The plant has a history of folk use in the Guizhou province in China. Its properties are said to have been investigated when a Chinese census revealed a large number of elderly people in the province reported using the plant. Investigation as a potential sweetening agent stimulated chemical investigations in Japan. Commercialization and scientific study of the leaves have been promoted by provincial Chinese authorities, and the discovery that several ginseng saponins occur in the leaves has prompted aggressive promotion of the product as a substitute for ginseng. The appearance of jiaogulan in American commerce has been heralded by publication of a popular book. 5

Chemistry

A large series of dammarane triterpene saponins, gypenosides 1-82, have been isolated from the leaves, principally by Takemoto's group. 6 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 11 , 12 , 13 , 14 Several of these saponins are identical to those found in ginseng. Specifically, gypenoside 3 is identical to ginsenoside Rb1, gypenoside 4 is identical to ginsenoside Rb3, gypenoside 8 is identical to ginsenoside Rd, and gypenoside 12 is identical to ginsenoside F2. Many of the other gypenosides are closely related structurally to the ginsenosides and include the 6′-malonyl derivatives characteristic of ginseng. 15 The content of saponins is comparable to that of ginseng roots. However, wide variation in the amount and nature of gypenosides has made production of a product standardized with specific gypenosides somewhat problematic. Most current products are standardized on total saponin content. The reasons for this variation have been investigated but have not been fully elucidated.

Other constituents reported from Gynostemma pentaphyllum include sterols with the ergostane, cholestane, and stigmastane skeletons, 16 , 17 , 18 , 19 , 20 with several examples containing an acetylenic functionality, which is considered unusual in plants. 21 The flavonoid glycosides rutin, ombuoside, 22 and yixingensin 23 , 24 have also been identified.

The related species G. compressum Chen and Liang have yielded dammarane saponins related to the gypenosides. 25

Uses and Pharmacology

Though the plant contains ginseng and ginseng-like saponins, it has not been reported to contain the other types of biologically active compounds, acetylenes, and polysaccharides found in ginseng. Thus, while ginseng pharmacology presents a reasonable starting point for investigation, jiaogulan cannot be considered as pharmacologically identical to ginseng.

Hyperlipidemia
Animal data

Oral administration of a gynostemma decoction in combination with Nelumbo nucifera and Crataegus cuneata was found to lower triglycerides and cholesterol in rats and quail. However, a dose response was not demonstrated. 26 Administration of an aqueous extract of the whole plant to rats in chow over 12 weeks resulted in a reduction in serum levels of total cholesterol and beta-lipoproteins. 27 A second study in mice and rats given 200 mg/kg PO of the crude saponin demonstrated lower total cholesterol (TC) and VLDL but increased HDL/LDL. 28

Clinical data

A clinical study of hyperlipoproteinemic subjects also found a decrease in TC with increased HDL/TC at a dose of 10 mg given 3 times daily for 30 days. 29 A study of 105 patients confirmed these effects. 30

Lipid peroxidation
Animal data

An antioxidant effect of gypenosides was reported in phagocyte, endothelial cell, and liver microsome systems. 31 Further study by the same group 32 explored these effects in vascular endothelial cells injured by hydrogen peroxide. Rat microsome studies also have found similar effects for crude gypenosides. 33

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of jiaogulan for lipid peroxidation.

Adaptogenic

Despite the wide reputation of ginseng as an adaptogen, few studies of jiaogulan have been published on the topic.

Animal data

Chen 34 found an increased tolerance to fatigue in forced swimming and hanging models in mice, and enhanced tolerance to anoxia, along with potentiation of pentobarbital hypnosis.

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of jiaogulan as an adaptogen.

Cardio- and cerebrovascular effects
Animal data

The hot water extract of Gynostemma pentaphyllum was found to activate platelet aggregation. However, the active principle was not elucidated. 35 Gypenosides inhibited platelet aggregation in another study. 36 In rabbits, crude gypenosides decreased heart rate, increased stroke volume, dilated blood vessels, and reduced blood pressure while slightly increasing cardiac output. 37 Purified gypenosides 5 and 10 were found to lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure, decrease coronary, brain, and peripheral blood vessel resistance, raise coronary flow, and lower heart rate in dogs. 38 Crude gypenosides protected against cerebral ischemic damage in a rabbit model. 39

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of jiaogulan for cardio- and cerebrovascular effects.

Cancer and immunologic effects
Animal data

An extract of Gynostemma inhibited the growth of a rectal adenocarcinoma cell line, 40 while total gypenosides inhibited growth of A549, Calu 1, and 592/9 carcinoma cells more potently (1 to 10 mg/L) than Hela and Colo 205 cells. 41 Both callus and field grown Gynostemma increased the lifespan of mice bearing Ehrlich's ascites carcinoma, an effect attributed to immune enhancement. 42 Crude gypenosides also had activity versus S-180 cells both in vitro and in vivo. 43 Gypenosides protected against cyclophosphamide-induced bone marrow and spermatozoal mutagenesis when given orally at 40 to 160 mg/kg to mice. 44 Similar treatments enhanced immune function in another report. 45

Clinical data

Cancer patients given jiaogulan granules after chemotherapy showed improved immune function by several endpoints. 46

Other

Experimental senility in mice induced by D-galactose was attenuated by intraperitoneal (IP) injection of Gynostemma aqueous extract. 47

Dosage

The adaptogenic use of jiaogulan is standardized on an extract containing 85% gypenosides, with a daily dose of 60 to 180 mg gypenosides recommended; however, published studies to justify this dose are lacking.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Side effects reported in clinical studies included severe nausea and increased bowel movements. 48

Toxicology

The LD50 in mice for the aqueous extract has been reported as 2.8 g/kg IP. However, LD50 for the oral route could not be determined. 34 Another study found an oral LD50 of 49 g/kg for the crude extract with no organ toxicity at 4 g/kg daily for 90 days. 49 A third study of two different extracts found an LD50 of 1 to 2 g/kg IP in mice. 50 A rat LD50 of 1.9 g/kg IP has also been reported. 34

Bibliography

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