Imagine mountains and valleys where an herbal tea has the power to give you near-immortality. For some believers in the power of jiaogulan, such a place exists.
Jiaogulan is also known as sweet tea vine, fairy herb, and southern ginseng. It’s a climbing vine native to the mountainous regions of southern China and other parts of Asia. It’s a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, which includes cucumbers and melons.
The vine’s leaves were first used as a food. They could be eaten by themselves or used in a salad. They’re also used as a sweetener. Tea made from the leaves is caffeine-free and has a slightly bittersweet taste.
The Chinese call jiaogulan an “immortality” herb and claim it has rejuvenating properties. Many say it can help the body resist stress as well as boost cardiovascular health. Practitioners of herbal medicine classify it as an adaptogen because it’s believed to help the body without causing harm or imbalance.
Chinese medicine first described it during the Ming Dynasty as a folk treatment for conditions such as peptic ulcers. Jiaogulan tea is also thought to help relieve coughing, colds, and other respiratory issues such as chronic bronchitis.
Jiaogulan wasn’t used widely in the traditional Chinese medicine system. Regardless, some people believed that teas made from jiaogulan in the Guizhou Province could help you live longer. There is no scientific proof of its benefits as an antiaging herb. If there were, you’d probably have heard about the key to immortality by now!
Traditional Chinese medicine uses ginseng to treat stress, insomnia, colds, and flu. It’s also said to improve concentration and memory, physical stamina, and endurance. In Western medicine it’s used as a stimulant.
Jiaogulan advocates writing for the website jiaogulan.org say that it offers many of the same benefits as ginseng and can be used as a substitute for ginseng. It doesn’t contain many of the other chemical compounds found in ginseng, and it can’t be considered identical.
Advocates of jiaogulan writing for the website jiaogulan.org claim that it can improve your circulation and lower your blood sugar. According to a study published in the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, it can help in the treatment of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Jiaogulan contains saponins. These compounds can bind with bile acids and help reduce cholesterol. They also may help lower the risk of colon cancer, according to a study in the World Journal of Gastroenterology.
Researchers are testing jiaogulan’s cancer-fighting abilities. A study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences found that it could help block some of the cell changes needed for tumors to grow.
Jiaogulan may help boost endurance, according to a study published in the Journal of Animal and Veterinary Advances. When rats were fed crude polysaccharides, which are found in jiaogulan, they swam longer during a swimming test after 30 days.
Talk to your doctor first if you want to try jiaogulan as a complementary health approach. It’s best to use herbal medicines under the supervision of a doctor or someone trained in herbal medications. Information on the credentials and licensing of herbalists is available from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
There are no proven effective doses of the herb for adults or children. Herbalists usually recommend 2 to 4 cups of jiaogulan tea per day. Jiaogulan has few known negative side effects. In some people it causes nausea and increased bowel movements. In addition to tea it’s available as an extract and in pill form.