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Jiaogulan, also called the herb of immortality, is associated with anti-aging benefits. Research suggests that the herb’s ability to improve life span and health is related to its antioxidant powers. While Jiaogulan is not an antioxidant in itself, what it does is even far more amazing and helpful. Let’s find out.
What are anti-oxidants? Why do we need them?
Antioxidants are substances that neutralize free radicals and prevent these highly unstable and reactive molecules from oxidizing cellular structures, which could damage their functions. Some free radicals are naturally produced during energy metabolism. In addition, your immune system also spurs the production of free radicals to destroy invading pathogens. These molecules also play a central role in cell to cell communication and signalling processes.
So, free radicals are not bad when present in small concentrations. But the problem starts when there are more free radicals than the body can reasonably deal with, which usually happens with excessive exposure to air pollution, radiations, pesticides, heavy metals, drugs and chronic stress. Even our food, cosmetics and personal care products today are laced with toxic chemicals, which further increases the burden of free radicals in the body.
Free radicals damage cells and vital structures within (DNA, lipids and mitochondria) through oxidation, and trigger inflammation that persists in the body. This kind of oxidative damage and chronic inflammation is known to contribute to advance aging and a long list of health issues such as atherosclerosis (for example caused by oxidation of LDL cholesterol), heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, age-related eye disorders, impaired immunity and brain degenerative disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Endogenous versus exogeneous antioxidants
The good news is your body is naturally designed to counter some of these damaging free radicals. It makes its own supply of anti-oxidants, also known as endogenous anti-oxidants. There are other types of anti-oxidants that are obtained through diet or supplements (exogenous). These are the ones we are more familiar with; for example, anti-oxidants present in fruits, vegetables and other foods like green tea and cacao.
Unfortunately, your body produces lesser amounts of internal antioxidants as we age. Secondly, endogenous antioxidants are much more potent and effective in fighting the free radicals than the ones received from outside sources. When we eat foods high in anti-oxidant minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients, some of these important ingredients are degraded and lost during digestion, and thus are not fully absorbed.
So, these external anti-oxidants are not as bio-available to the body as you would like them to be. However, the anti-oxidants produced within the body are not destroyed by gastric enzymes and acids, and hence are more bio-available.
That’s where sipping tea made of Jiaogulan leaves could be useful. Now, let’s see how Jiaogulan fits in this scheme of things.
Jiaogulan increases the production of endogenous antioxidants
Superoxide Dismutase (SOD), glutathione and catalase are three of the most important endogenous anti-oxidants that the body produces on its own. And Jiaogulan boosts the production of these anti-oxidants in the body. This is very important, as not many foods can claim to increase the production of these ‘free-radicals busting’ substances in the body.
Studies also support that Jiaogulan shows amazing antioxidant powers and results in increased content of glutathione and improved activity of SOD.   Through these effects, Jiaogulan helps to:
Protect brain, heart and other tissues from oxidative damage
Prevent chronic inflammation to develop
Delay the onset of chronic, age-associated diseases
Support healthy ageing and help in achieving a long, healthy life
In fact, this trio of antioxidants does much more than just fighting free radicals and protecting cells and DNA from oxidative stress. Glutathione, in particular, helps the body to detoxify and plays a crucial role in all the detoxification processes that occur daily within the body. It chelates (bonds) to heavy metals and poisonous chemicals and pushes them out of the system.
Saponins in Jiaogulan: The magic behind its anti-oxidant powers
The herb Jiaogulan is loaded with saponins or gypenosides, special bio-active compounds that are responsible for the herb’s anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. What it means is that saponins in Jiaogulan help the body to make more of its own stock of anti-oxidants, which are far more bio-available and active than those you get through food. In fact, it is because of these saponins that Jiaogulan is known as one of the most powerful adaptogenic herbs found in nature.
Jiaogulan has many other amazing health benefits. It supports the body in its ability to self-heal, maintain balance, reduce fatigue, boost immunity and fight all kinds of stress.
- Schild et al. Preconditioning of brain slices against hypoxia induced injury by a Gynostemma pentaphyllum extract—stimulation of anti-oxidative enzyme expression. Phytomedicine, vol. 19, no. 8, pp. 812–818, 2012.
- P. Wang, L. Niu, L. Gao et al. Neuroprotective effect of gypenosides against oxidative injury in the substantia nigra of a mouse model of parkinson's disease. Journal of International Medical Research. 2010