Sometimes we all need a little help keeping on track with our healthy habits. We’re definitely feeling the strain as the cold season drags on (and on), and the cold, dry weather turns into cold, wet weather. Welcome, kapha season! We’re not sure about you, but with this weather, we find it increasingly easy to seek comfort in sweet, indulgent things. A piece of cake? Yes, please. Maybe some chai too? Yum. Hmm…and another piece of cake? Uh-oh. We went too far. Before we reach for that second piece of cake and make our kapha totally out of whack, let’s turn instead to shardunika (Gymnema sylvestre). Its Hindi name gurmar beautifully captures the whole focus of this herb, translating as “the destroyer of sweet.”1 Wonderfully balancing to kapha and rejuvenating to pitta, shardunika’s work in the body makes it a true super-herb.2
Shardunika is an herb that gets straight down to business. There are no embellishments dressing up shardunika—no grandiose myths connecting shardunika to the goddess-divine in plant form (like tulsi), no lofty legends, no names that allude to fantastic wild beasts (like chitrak and the spotted leopard). Nope—not for this herb. Even its history is practical, quiet, and straight to the point, diving right into its work in the physiology. With no pomp and circumstance, it goes to reason that shardunika has maintained popularity in the Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia based on sheer merit alone.
You will notice that direct quality of shardunika the moment you taste it. Try it! When shardunika touches your tongue, it will essentially make your tongue insensitive to the sweet taste. To test the theory, after eating a little shardunika, have a bite of something sweet, like a piece of chocolate. Believe us, you won’t want more than one bite. That sugar will be tasteless and will feel a bit like chalk on your tongue…It’s not pleasant.
Isn’t that encouraging? If something that is usually an indulgent temptation doesn’t even taste good anymore, that will definitely help keep us on track! But this is only the beginning of what shardunika does. Shardunika’s power to neutralize the sweet taste on the tongue foreshadows the work it does once in your body. This is a great example of “the doctrine of signatures”: while not necessarily Ayurvedic in origin, the doctrine of signatures is an ancient way of interpreting nature’s hints about what a plant can do for you.3 In shardunika’s case, its action of neutralizing the sweet taste is its signature throughout the physiology, beyond just the taste buds.
How It Works
Indeed, shardunika is all about neutralizing and regulating sugar. Because of its direct work in rakta dhatu (blood tissue layer), it maintains healthy blood glucose levels that are within the normal range. Shardunika also supports a healthy and happy pancreas, which in turn promotes the healthy production of insulin. This all leads to its support of normal glucose tolerance.4 For those of us who took anatomy class about one hundred years ago, here’s a quick recap: glucose is sugar that comes from the food you eat, so blood glucose is the amount of this food-derived sugar in your blood. The more sugar you eat, it goes to reason that you will likely have higher blood glucose levels. The pancreas is an organ that produces the hormone insulin (among other functions), and insulin helps regulate glucose in the blood. Back to shardunika: it also works in the meda dhatu (adipose tissue, or fat layer) by helping to strengthen this tissue layer, particularly its ability to metabolize sweet, heavy, and unctuous substances. All of these—pancreas, insulin, blood glucose levels, metabolizing sweet things—are all about sweet, sweet, sweet in the body. This herb takes its name as the Destroyer of Sweet quite seriously.
Shardunika goes further. Beyond neutralizing and regulating sugar and sweet substances after you have ingested them, shardunika helps regulate a healthy appetite (particularly if it tends towards excess), AND it helps lessen cravings for sweet things. Talk about a win-win! Shardunika is ensuring our success even before the sugar passes our lips—because, thanks to it, we won’t be tempted to eat sweet things in the first place. Plus, using shardunika regularly can make sweet foods taste less palatable overall.5 Because of these properties, shardunika can be a great help when focusing on enhancing healthy eating habits and working to attain your healthy weight. (At risk of stating the obvious, healthy diet and exercise are equally important parts of the equation when attaining a healthy weight—shardunika can’t do it all on its own!)
Please note, with its rather effective work supporting healthy blood glucose levels, it is best to first work with your practitioner if you are taking medications or are prone to deficient glucose in your blood. And, as always, if you are pregnant or nursing, please do first consult with your practitioner.
Tapping in to shardunika’s long list of benefits is very simple. The most traditional and incredibly easy way to use shardunika is simply to drink it as a tea by adding the powder to warm water. The longer you use it, the more effective it will be, too. Try it out for at least six months for better results.6 We recommend ¼ to ½ teaspoon, once or twice per day, or as recommended by your health practitioner.
How It's Used
While shardunika can definitely be effective on its own, adding some herbal “buddies” can certainly enhance what it has to offer. You can even blend your own formula! (Making your own formula to fit your needs can be incredibly rewarding, but if this is beyond your comfort zone, a practitioner will be able to formulate a customized blend for your situation.) Looking for some extra help in clearing kapha and keeping blood glucose levels balanced? Try adding guduchi, kutki, and gokshura to your shardunika. How about general regulation of blood glucose to help keep it in the normal range? Shardunika does well with turmeric, karela (bitter gourd), fenugreek seeds, and black pepper. Looking for an energy boost if you struggle from a long-term pitta or kapha imbalance? Shardunika and shilajit make a great rejuvenating pair.7 How much, you may ask, of each of these herbs in these suggested combinations? Well, that’s up to you, your own unique prakriti and vikriti, and what you’re trying to accomplish. We always recommend starting slow and small, and building up over time until you reach the amount that helps you feel great. And be patient. This is a great practice in learning to listen to your body, as it knows what is best for you!
If you want a ready-made formula that clears kapha, helps keep blood glucose levels balanced, supports a healthy pancreas, and more, check out Sweet Ease tablets. This formula brings forth many of shardunika’s strengths by combining it with neem and turmeric, two herbs that also support a healthy pancreas. Guduchi and amalaki are also included, two tonifying and rejuvenating herbs with a huge list of their own amazing benefits, and they help to make this a well-rounded formula.
We find its far-reaching benefits to be nothing short of inspirational, and we call on it to help us through the kapha season—or any time we find we’re tempted by a little too much sweet. Enjoy it, and pat yourself on the back as you stay committed to your health goals with a little extra help from shardunika.
How will you welcome shardunika into your life to support you? Whether you choose to use shardunika on its own or in a formula, it will work hard to support you on your path to wellness and balance. Your kapha and even your pitta are sure to thank you, as will your whole body, from your pancreas to your rakta and meda dhatus. Plus, you will feel great as you say no to those sugary temptations that used to lure you in—and this is no small feat. The more you meet your goals, the easier it will be to stick to them and work toward alignment! Enjoy all that shardunika can do for you, and remember to celebrate as you continue to succeed. Keep it up, and cheers to you on your journey through the kapha season and beyond.
1 Deepak Chopra, M.D. and David Simon, M.D., The Chopra Center: Herbal Handbook. Forty Natural Prescriptions for Perfect Health (Three Rivers Press, New York: 2000), 134-137.
2 Sebastian Pole, Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice (London: Singing Dragon, 2013), 193.
3 Chopra, The Chopra Center: Herbal Handbook.
4 Pole, Ayurvedic Medicine, 193.
6 Alan Keith Tillotson, Nai-shing Hu Tillotson and Robert Abel Jr, The One Earth Herbal Sourcebook (Kensington Publishing Corp., Twin Streams: 2001), 149.