By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
What is Jiaogulan? Also known as immortality herb (Gynostemma pentaphyllum), Jiaogulan is a dramatic climbing vine that belongs to the cucumber and gourd family. When used regularly, tea from the immortality herb plant is believed to promote a long, healthy, disease-free life. Native to the mountainous regions of Asia, the immortality herb plant is also known as sweet tea vine. Interested in learning how to grow Jiaogulan? Read on for more information.
Growing Jiaogulan Plants
Immortality herb is suitable for growing in USDA plant hardiness zones 8 through 10. In cooler climates, you can grow the fast-growing herb as an annual. Alternatively, bring it indoors during the winter, or grow it as an attractive houseplant all year round.
Grow Jiaogulan in nearly any type of well-drained soil, or use commercial potting mix if you’re growing Jiaogulan in containers. The plant tolerates full sun but thrives in partial shade, especially in hot climates.
Propagate immortality herb by planting cuttings from a mature vine. Place the cuttings in a glass of water until they root, then pot them up or plant them outdoors.
You can also grow Jiaogulan by planting seeds directly in the garden after the last frost in spring, or plant them indoors in pots filled with moist seed-starting mix. Place the containers under a grow light for at least 12 hours per day. Watch for germination in two to six weeks, depending on temperature.
Provide a trellis or other supportive structure for this plant. Immortality herb attaches itself to supports by means of curly tendrils.
Water your Jiaogulan immortality herb regularly to keep the soil evenly moist. The plant may wilt in dry soil, but usually rebounds with a little water. Spread a layer of compost or well-aged manure around the plant to keep the roots cool and moist.
Immortality herb plants generally require no fertilizer other than compost or manure.
Immortality herb plants are either male or female. Plant at least one of each in close proximity if you want the plant to bear seeds.
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Jiaogulan, The Immortality Herb for Renewed Energy
I am excited to tell you about Jiaogulan. It is one of the herbs I began taking six months ago in my personal health path to recover after taking care of my father-in law for almost 3 years. When he passed away in April of this year, I had been putting in 24 hours a day. I had not been home with my husband for weeks. Sleep had been in bursts with his dad up and down all night. My nerves were so far gone, I did not even realize it until he passed and I just fell apart physically.
Right after he died, it was my grand daughters graduation in Colorado. Marty stayed home to take care of our plant nursery and the animals. I didn’t get much sleep there either and everyone was sick at her party. I came home very sick with bronchitis and strep throat. I took my standard regimen including echinachea, goldenseal, oregano, and Vitamin C. I did not get better. I realized then just how bad my immune system was from stress. I went to the doctor and did for the first time in several years take antibiotics, two rounds of them, two different antibiotics. They did not do much either except cause a yeast imbalance in my whole system on top of it all. I now was sicker than before I had gone to the doctor. It was serious. We were still under stress dealing with his death and all the legal and financial issues that go with that. I took care of a difficult man, extremely difficult, but I loved his father. Grief was part of the whole health imbalance. The state of your heart, mind, and soul all come into play during a health crisis.
Realizing the seriousness of the situation, I reevaluated what to do next. My usual regimen and training is in western herbs. That is my 37 years of background as a Master Herbalist. So I then investigated adaptogens and Ayurvedic medicine again. I really hadn’t looked at that healing modality in a number of years. I had forgotten how amazing Ayurvedic medicine was because it identifies your individual constitution, then gives you the herbs that fit your constitution and basic personality traits. Ayurvedic medicine is quite dense and takes years to master. Today Ayurvedic teachers are breaking down this complicated healing modality so we can understand it better. I will be taking 7 weeks of classes under a well known Ayurvedic master. That is exciting. You can use Ayurvedic medicine without becoming a master. It is well worth your health to begin reading about it and how effective it is.
Ayurvedic medicine has been used for 5000 years with success. Ayurvedic medicine gives you herbs and combinations of herbs which balances out your different body organ systems and deals with the cause of the imbalance such as stress. Ayurvedic medicine works to balance out the different elements of mind, body, soul, spiritual.
So many times when we are sick, it is because of life events that cause stress and affect us in so many profound ways. I realized I needed herbs that had the effect of re balancing and rebuilding my whole system. That is what I needed to get well. So I focused on rebuilding my immune system as well as my depleted nervous system. I did go back to my regimen of herbs such as goldenseal but I added several herbs for the immune system and nerves. Over the next articles, I will go over these herbs that are now a big part of our daily program.
Did these herbs work? I am writing again with energy and excitement. I wrote little the past 3 years with little time and stress beyond the breaking point. Writing projects just sat on paper with little progress. I did not feel like doing any of it, running on Adrenalin, taking care of his father who was one difficult Commander who at 94 was still dictating that everything be done his way or the highway. I am up at 4.00 am writing without fatigue. The way I feel is the best I have felt in a number of years. So these next articles are written from the viewpoint of being at breaking point to feeling full of life. I owe that to Adaptogen and Ayurvedic herbs which are what I have been taking since May of this year. That is what is so wonderful about herbal medicine, that there are a whole world of herbs to utilize given by our creator above. If one regimen does not solve the health problem, there are others to try.
Jiaogulan, The Immortality Herb for Renewed Energy
In our nursery, Greatly Blessed Medicinal Herbs, I grow this plant. It is one of the Adaptogen herbs that is easy to grow yourself. It is a vine where all you do it cut the leaves and stems and make a tea. You don’t have to dig up the root as Ginseng. It does not have to be grown for 5 years before you can harvest the leaves. It is a pretty vine that can be grown in a hanging pot or basket. It is a pleasing tasting tea as well. You can drink the tea, take capsules, or use it in hot medicinal herbal chai. Every morning I make a drink with milk, Jiaogulan, tumeric, gotu kola, nutmeg and cinnamon. It takes good and it wake my mind up with no caffeine in any of these herbs. I take Jiaogulan in capsule form as well as part of my regimen to rebuild my immune system and nerves. This chai drink does not taste bad and you can add stevia for a sweetener if you wish.
Jiaogulan is an herb that most people may not know. You may be familar with the amazing benefits of ginseng but it is expensive and hard to grow yourself. It takes 5 years in the ground, before you harvest your ginseng root. Jiaogulan is so much easier to grow and use. It is less expensive, even if you buy it. Jiaogulan contains 82 healing constituents to ginseng’s 28. Jiaogulan should be in everyone’s daily regimen for good health.
These compounds occurring in Jiaogulan have multiple affects on all the different systems of your body. These effects normalize imbalances. If your blood pressure is too high, it brings it down. If it is too low, it brings it up to balance. It does not work on just one system but works generally over all the systems to help them to work more effectively. It works to help your body to work as God designed it, efficient and effective.
Important Note to readers taking prescription drugs:
Now I have to note here that if you are on prescription drugs, taking Jiaogulan can correct things like high blood pressure so you could end up needing less of your prescription drug. If on prescription drugs you need to be monitored by your doctor. This goes for anyone on blood thinners, heart or cholesterol medicine. If you are taking Jiaogulan and blood pressure medicine, you could end up with an overdose of the medicine. You must have a doctor supervise your health. Drugs and herbs taken at the same time can be real dangerous. Ask your doctor to help you reduce your medicine safely. Ask him for his help. He may tell you herbs don’t work but you can try it. He has no education other than standard medicine so his knowledge base is usually zero. He has no idea on the hundreds of quality double blind studies available on different herbs including Jiaogulan.
This is the introductory lesson into the world of Adaptogen and Ayurvedic herbs. The next article will cover Jiaogulan in depth.
Kate Freer, the Herbladyisin
Contact me in the spring, I may have some plants to sell. We are a licensed plant nursery.
I am including a link to Amazon for the tea. I use Immortiatea Brand and feel it is really great quality. I have been drinking this brand of tea for several months daily.
Parts Used: Primarily leaves, may include small amounts of stem, flowers, and fruit
Medicinal Preparations: Tea, tincture, infused oil, nibble, infused ghee, milk decoction, powder, broth, poultice, compress, green smoothie, and fresh juice
Medicinal Uses: Gotu kola, also known as brahmi, has been used medicinally in Asia for over two millennia as a rejuvenative tonic in the treatment of memory loss, stress, worry, and foggy thinking.
It is often combined with ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) to improve memory and concentration, while simultaneously promoting a calm nature. I add gotu kola to herbal formulas for people who have trouble concentrating or who feel scattered or indecisive, including those who experience ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder).
Gotu kola can be used, both internally and topically, in healing wounds. Famous for its use in treating leprosy in India, it is now used by contemporary herbalists to treat burns, minimize scarring, and promote tissue repair after injury or surgery.
Gotu kola is also used topically as an infused oil, compress, and poultice to heal a variety of skin conditions, including insect bites, rashes, seborrheic dermatitis, herpes sores, eczema, psoriasis, and dry, irritated skin. 1
*Most herbalists recognize gotu kola as a secondary adaptogen, or “almost-adaptogen.” In my experience, it clearly has adaptogenic properties: it’s helpful for increasing vitality, reducing stress, balancing the immune response, and acting as a tonic for overall well-being.
Cultivation: Personally, I find that gotu kola makes one of the most luscious herbal houseplants, and I enjoy its presence in my office where it keeps me company as I write about medicinal herbs.
The key to growing this verdant herb is to provide moist soils with good drainage. Some people grow brahmi in an old whisky barrel or retired bathtub. If your space is more limited, try planting it in a shallow, broad pot with a saucer underneath to help keep it moist.
To increase the drainage of your soil mix, add coarse sand or pine bark fines. Water the plants so the soil is continuously damp but not waterlogged. You may have to water your containers every two to three days, and gotu kola will readily communicate with you through the ancient plant code of wilt.
Gotu kola can be placed in full sun if it’s well-watered or if summertime temperatures are mild. But if your summer is sweltering, gotu kola relishes some cover. In hot climates, morning sun and afternoon shade are ideal. I bring my potted gotu kola plants inside every winter to an east-facing window and then return them to the outdoors when the temperatures warm in the spring.
I harvest gotu kola with the “haircut method”: using scissors to cut off all the leaves. (See the photo above of gotu kola receiving a harvesting haircut.) It quickly grows a new batch of tender leaves, typically offering at least three cuttings per growing season.
Safety and Contraindications: Avoid in pregnancy or if attempting to conceive. 2 Although rare, some people react with dermatitis to topical use. In Ayurveda, there are precautions that high doses may lead to headaches and loss of consciousness, but it is important to remember that gotu kola is widely consumed as a food plant without incidence in much of tropical Asia. 3
Spilanthes (Acmella oleracea) note the profusion of seedlings in the front—spilanthes rapidly spreads, or self-sows
I discovered Jiaogulan while living abroad in Thailand, not long after my father was diagnosed with pre-diabetes 2 years ago.
Like many people today, my dad wanted to avoid taking pharmaceutical drugs for as long as possible.
Despite his doctor’s recommendation to start on Metformin, my father wanted to try a natural approach first.
He knew that pharmaceutical drugs have many side-effects, can be potentially detrimental to overall health, are expensive, and that they are a one-way street – once you start taking them, it is usually for life.
I wholeheartedly agreed with him, so I set out to find out if there were any home or herbal remedies that the Thai locals were using to fight diabetes.
Thailand is a country where traditional and herbal medicine is widely practiced, and Thai people in general tend to use herbal remedies to treat a variety of diseases.
I started asking around and soon enough came across a herb called Jiaogulan, or Gynostemma pentaphyllum, which is virtually unknown around the world, yet was very highly regarded by the locals.
They called it the “Herb of Immortality”, because of its many health benefits and a folk legend that people who drink it on a regular basis tend to live to very old age and in excellent health.
One of the claimed benefits was that it is successful in treating, and possibly even reversing diabetes.
What I heard intrigued me and so I started to research this plant both on the Internet and in the scientific literature.
I was surprised to find that there has been a lot of scientific interest and research on Gynostemma since its modern-day discovery over 40 years ago.
This interest was mainly due to the fact that Jiaogulan contains the largest variety of a class of plant chemicals known as saponins of any other plant in the world.
These saponins give many medicinal plants, like Ginseng for example, their therapeutic properties.
However, while Panax ginseng (one of the richest in saponins plants) contains around 28 different saponins, Jiaogulan is known today to contain at least 174 of them – over 6 times as many!
After 3 months of research and examining over 300 published scientific studies on the plant’s medicinal properties, I realized that Jiaogulan would be very beneficial to people suffering not only from diabetes, but a large number of other conditions and diseases.
It became obvious that it is one of the healthiest, if not THE healthiest, plants on the planet.
While the results from these studies are already very encouraging, please keep in mind that the longest human study duration was of only 12 weeks.
Taking Jiaogulan on a daily basis for longer periods is very likely to give even better results.
It is important to note that Jiaogulan is a home remedy for diabetes that may be as effective as pharmaceutical drugs, like Metformin, but without any of their drawbacks:
Jiaogulan has NO negative side effects aside from rare cases of temporary nausea. It has been repeatedly shown to be completely non-toxic and safe for long-term use. It does not cause hypoglycemia (below normal blood glucose level), because it is an adaptogen that has a strong balancing effect on the body. It will act to lower blood glucose only if your level is above normal.
In addition to attacking diabetes on multiple levels, protecting your body from diabetic damage, and increasing your energy levels, Jiaogulan is VERY beneficial to ALL aspects of your health, including the cardiovascular system, brain and nervous system, liver, kidneys, immune function, lungs, and skin. It was also found to have strong anti-cancer, anti-aging, anti-stress, and anti-anxiety effects, to promote weight loss, to balance blood pressure and cholesterol, help with depression, and more.
Jiaogulan is inexpensive – a single pack is usually enough for one month of daily usage. However, if you are a diabetic and want to see quicker results, the dosage/concentration should be increased. In that case, 3 packs of tea should be sufficient for 2 months of use. That still adds up to less than $30 per month.
Using Gynostemma is as easy as brewing a tea that is pleasant and mild, in taste similar to that of green tea. Life for a diabetic is already difficult enough and we want to make it easier, not harder!