Year of Grace Day 158. More on the vine of immortality

Yesterday M and I had afternoon tea with Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum). I noticed that when the leaves steep longer than 5 minutes, the tea becomes bitter-sweet. However I didn’t detect the liquorish notes that the German herb and spice grower Rühlemann’s mentions in their description of this vine. Perhaps once my vine gets into its stride (it has just began to shoot), it will acquire some other flavours, instead of just being sweet and bitter. The herb and spice nursery lists 12 beneficial effects of Jiaogulan, which also happens to be their best-selling plant for use as groundcover, due to its rapid growth under good conditions. (I have translated the following from their website).

1. adaptogen: Jiaogulan contains saponins that have a balancing effect in the body: some are chemically identical with those in ginseng, and some are a separate class of saponins called gypenosides. Prevents stress-related illnesses.

2. antioxidant: contains the enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD), an extremely effective antioxidant.

3. cardiac tonic: improves the pumping of the heart, and thus general blood circulation.

4. against hypertension: maintains blood pressure in the normal range.

5. excess cholesterol: Jiaogulan lowers LDL levels and triglycerides, and could lead to weight loss among overweight individuals.

6. against stroke and heart attack: Jiaogulan prevents platelet clumping, thus decreasing the occurrence of life-threatening blood clots. Also a preventative against thrombosis.

7. immune system tonic: lymphocyte activity is enhanced in ill and healthy individuals.

8. blood formation: boosts the formation of white blood cells; beneficial for recovery after chemotherapy or radiological treatment.

9. against diabetes: lowers blood sugar and blood lipids.

10. cancer retardant: Jiaogulan contains the same tumor-inhibiting glycoside found in ginseng (ginsenoside Rh2), but in much greater concentration.

11. stress elimination: Jiaogulan has a balancing effect on the nervous system: frayed nerves are calmed, while listless nerves are stimulated. The results are better stress tolerance and, for athletes, increased endurance and thus better performance.

12. promotes metabolism due to better capillary and cardiac functioning, as well as improved blood count and other factors.

However, further reading uncovers precautionary warnings for those with auto-immune diseases, such as rheumatic arthritis and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (which I have). As well it is good to note that Jiaogulan could interact rather negatively with certain drugs.

So… point well taken — everything in moderation, and I intend to drink Jiaogulan tea once a week or two weeks, the same frequency as I drink other herbal teas. Besides, my plant is just waking from its winter sleep, and needs to build up its strength before I snip any more shoots.

Rühlemann’s gives more ways of enjoying the benefits of Jiaogulan. Nibbling one or two fresh leaves apparently gives some of the nursery’s workers an energy boost. The tender shoot tips can be added to salads. And a few leaves can be crushed and macerated for 1 – 2 hours in the fridge in Sekt or Prosecco (or your favourite bubbly) for an unusual health-boosting cocktail. Zum wohl! To health!