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Gymnema Sylvestre - Rare Herb of Patalkot: India


Chhindwara district lies between latitude 21 Deg 23' and 22 Deg 49' north and longitude 78 Deg 10' and 79 Deg 24' east. Mostly, the dense forest covers most of the area of the district.

Patalkot is a lovely landscape located at a depth 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 height of 2750-3250 feet above Mean Sea Level. It is a treasure 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 carried out from 1997 to 2004, Dr Acharya explored the area of Patalkot valley that included- 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 like, Internet, University libraries and oral information by traditional healers of their respective regions.

Why we select this plant?

Plants have been source of medicine for the ancient time. Thousands of books and articles have been written so far. Several thousands 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 so many popular Indian herbs used in traditional practices to cure diabetes. Gymnema sylvestre is having an important place in such antidiabetic medicinal herbs. It has shown experimental or clinical anti-diabetic activity (ENVISBSI, 2004) and it boosts your insulin level (Gent et al., 1999).

During the early 1990's, this marvelous herb was found in abundance in Patalkot valley. It's a climber and 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 evokes us to write an article and make it an issue so that, conservationist, botanist and NGO's 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.


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 in 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 infected 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 various states of India use this plant in various ailments. Leaf is given in gastric troubles in Rajasthan. Traditional healers of Maharastra prescribe it in urinary problems and stomachache 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. Leaf extract and flower is beneficial for eyes. Bark is given in the diseases caused by vitiated kapha (phlegm). According the Bagbhat, rootbark useful in piles. Ayurveda tells that 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, 2004).

Chemical Composition:

The leaves contain hentriacontane, pentatriacontane, a-and B-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).

Few important companies in Product Manufacturing:

Active Ingredients Group., Inc., China

Amitco International Botanical & Nutritional Division, USA

Camden-Grey Essential Oils, Miami, USA.

Christina's Body & Fitness, USA

Dabur, India

Himalaya Herbals, India

Natural Remedies Pvt. Ltd. India

Philly Pharmacy, USA

S&D Chemicals (Canada) Ltd. Canada

(*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 would not be taken in time, there would not be single Gymnema plant in the valley. It is urged to the scientists, conservationists, researchers, NGO's and other bodies to come forward and take moves to protect this important herb. Local farmers should be encouraged to cultivate this herb. Government and policy makers are having lots of plans/ ideas but they find problems in proper implementations. It is the youth and people from literate world who should come forward to take this task in their hands.


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. Thanks are due to all the tribals of Patalkot valley for sharing their indigenous knowledge with us.



Gent JF, Hettinger TP, Frank ME, Marks LE. 1999. Taste confusions following gymnemic acid rinse. Chem Senses;24:393-403.

Gholap S, Kar A. Effects of Inula racemosa root and Gymnema sylvestre leaf extracts in the regulation of corticosteroid induced diabetes mellitus: involvement of thyroid hormones. Pharmazie 2003;58:413-5.

Grover JK, Yadav S, Vats V. 2002. Medicinal plants of India with anti-diabetic potential. J Ethnopharmacol. 81(1):81-100.

Persaud SJ, Al-Majed H, Raman A, Jones PM. 1999. Gymnema sylvestre stimulates insulin release in vitro by increased membrane permeability. 1999. J Endocrinol. 163(2):207-212.

Shanmugasundaram ER, Rajeswari G, Baskaran K, Rajesh Kumar BR, Radha Shanmugasundaram K, Kizar Ahmath B. 1990. Use of Gymnema sylvestre leaf extract in the control of blood glucose in insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. J Ethnopharmacol. 30(3): 281-94.

Holistic, 2004. (viewed on 28/10/04)

Intelegen, 2004. (viewed on 28/10/04)

Satdive RK, Abhilash P, Fulzele DP. 2003. Antimicrobial activity of Gymnema sylvestre leaf extract. Fitoterapia. 74(7-8): 699-701.

Liu X, Ye W, Yu B, Zhao S, Wu H, Che C. 2004. Two new flavonol glycosides from Gymnema sylvestre and Euphorbia ebracteolata. Carbohydr Res. 339 (4):891-895.

Mhasker KS, Caius JF. 1930. A study of Indian medicinal plants. II. Gymnema sylvestre R.Br. Indian J Med Res Memoirs. 16:2-75.

Prakash AO, Mather S, Mather R. 1986. Effect of feeding Gymnema sylvestre leaves on blood glucose in beryllium nitrate treated rats. J Ethnopharmacol 18:143-144.

Ye W, Liu X, Zhang Q, Che CT, Zhao S. 2001. Antisweet saponins from Gymnema sylvestre. J Nat Prod. 64(2): 232-235.

Ye WC, Zhang QW, Liu X, Che CT, Zhao SX. 2000. Oleanane saponins from Gymnema sylvestre. Phytochemistry. 53(8):893-899.

Sahu NP, Mahato SB, Sarkar SK, Poddar G. 1996. Triterpenoid saponins from Gymnema sylvestre. Phytochemistry. 41(4):1181-1185.

Suttisri R, Lee IS, Kinghorn AD. 1995. Plant-derived triterpenoid sweetness inhibitors. J Ethnopharmacol. 47(1):9-26.

About the Authors:

Dr Deepak Acharya: He is the Director of a herbal formulation company in Ahmedabad, India. He has been documenting ethnobotanical knowledge of tribals of Central and Western India. He has written 30 research papers in National and International journals of repute. He writes popular articles for web and magazines. Meet him on his homepage or contact via email on

Ms Garima Sancheti: She is a research scholar, working in the field of Radiation and Cancer Biology from Department of Zoology (University of Rajasthan, India). She has to her credit various research papers in scientific journals as well as articles on web. Contact her on

Dr Anshu Shrivastava: He is a Botanist and PhD from BSI- Jodhpur, currently working as Research Associate in SRISTI- Ahmedabad. He can be contacted on

Dr Sanjay Pawar: He is a botanist in Chhindwara, Madhya Pradesh. Contact him on

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