Shardunika (Gymnema sylvestre): Getting to Know Your Herbal Allies
Sometimes we all need a little help keeping on track with our healthy habits. It can be all too easy to seek comfort in sweet, indulgent things, and there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of temptations. A piece of cake? Yes, please. Maybe some sweet chai? Yum. And another piece of cake? Uh-oh. We went too far.
This incredible herb is known by many names—meshasringi, shardunika, madhunashini, gurmar, Australian cowplant, periploca of the woods, and of course its latin name Gymnema sylvestre. Its Hindi name "gurmar" beautifully captures the superpower of this herb, as it translates to “the destroyer of sweet.”1
What Does Gymnema Do?
Shardunika is a plant native to central and western India, tropical Africa, and Australia. It 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) or names that allude to fantastic wild beasts (like chitrak and the spotted leopard).
Even its history is practical, quiet, and straight to the point, diving right into its work on the physiology. With no pomp and circumstance, it stands to reason that shardunika has maintained popularity in the Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia based on sheer merit alone.
When Gymnema sylvestre 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. You likely won’t want more than one bite. That sugar will be tasteless and will feel a bit like chalk on your tongue.
Isn’t that encouraging? If something that is usually an indulgent temptation doesn’t even taste good anymore—that will definitely help sway those sugar cravings!
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,” an ancient way of interpreting nature’s hints about what a plant can do for you.2
In shardunika’s case, its action of neutralizing the sweet taste is its signature throughout the physiology, beyond just the taste buds.
How Gymnema Works
Gymnema sylvestre is truly unique in its ability to neutralize the sweet taste and regulating sugar cravings. Here's a look at how it works:
- The active compound of shardunika is a group of acids called gymnemic acids. These gymnemic acid molecules are similar to the structure of the glucose molecule and are able to fill the glucose receptors on the taste buds, thus blocking the taste for sweet.3
- There is a similar action in the small intestine, which is one way shardunika helps to maintain healthy blood glucose levels that are within the normal range.4
- Shardunika also supports a healthy pancreas, which in turn supports the healthy production of insulin and the body's natural metabolic process.5
- For those who took anatomy class way back in history, here’s a quick recap: glucose is sugar that comes from the carbohydrates you eat, so blood glucose is the amount of this food-derived sugar in your blood. The pancreas is an organ that produces the hormone insulin (among other functions), and insulin helps regulate glucose in the blood.
All of these components—the 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.
Beyond neutralizing and regulating sugar and sweet substances after you have ingested them, shardunika helps regulate a healthy appetite and it helps lessen cravings for sweet things.
Plus, using shardunika regularly can make sweet foods taste less palatable overall.6 Because of these properties, shardunika can be a great help when focusing on enhancing healthy eating habits and working to attain your healthy weight.
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, consult with your practitioner before introducing a new herb to your routine.
How to Take Gymnema
Drink Shardunika Tea
Tapping in to shardunika's long list of benefits is very simple. The most traditional way to use shardunika is to drink it as a tea by adding the powder to warm water. The longer you use it, the more effective it will be. Try it out for at least six months for best results.7 We recommend ¼ to ½ teaspoon, once or twice per day, or as recommended by your health practitioner.
Mix Your Own Blend
While shardunika can definitely be effective on its own, adding some herbal “friends” 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.
- Try adding guduchi and gokshura to your shardunika for some extra help in clearing kapha from your system.
- Shardunika does well with turmeric, fenugreek seeds, and black pepper to support general regulation of blood glucose to help keep it in the normal range.
- Looking to support healthy energy if you struggle from a long-term pitta or kapha imbalance? Shardunika and shilajit make a great rejuvenating pair.8
Take Sweet Ease
If you want a ready-made formula that supports healthy function of the pancreas, healthy digestion and metabolism, and the body's ability to digest sweet and heavy foods, check out Sweet Ease tablets. This formula brings forth many of shardunika’s strengths in a well-rounded blend that includes neem, turmeric, guduchi and more.
Let Gymnema Support You
Shardunika is the perfect herbal ally for those times when your sweet tooth gets the best of you or you find ourselves surrounded by indulgent temptations. You will feel great as you say no to those sugary temptations that used to lure you in—no small feat!—and instead stay committed to your health.
The more you meet your wellness goals, the easier it will be to stick to them. So enjoy all that shardunika can do for you, and remember to celebrate as you continue to succeed.