Jiaogulan (“gee-ow-goo-lan”), or Gynostemma pentaphyllum is a climbing 5-leafed vine of the cucumber and gourd family and found in parts of South and Southeast Asia. Because of its endless benefits, it is also known as “cure all” and “herb of immortality.” In 1972, Japanese researchers came across a Chinese province where the people have a history of unusual longevity as a result of drinking tea made of Jiaogulan. It has a powerful anti-aging effect and possibly provides the widest spectrum of health benefits of any plant known.
Jiaogulan was actually first described and sketched in 1406 CE by Zhu Xiao. In his book Materia Medica for Famine, he referred to jiaogulan as a survival food rather than a medicinal herb. It wasn’t until 1578 that herbalist Li Shizhen identified jiaogulan for treating various ailments in his book Compendium of Materia Medica. He described jiaogulan as treatment for hematuria, edema in the pharynx and neck, trauma, and tumors. However, he had confused jiaogulan with the herb Wulianmei, but Wu Qi-Jun corrected this in 1848 with his book Textual Investigation of Herbal Plants.
Discovery from Japan:
In 1970s, Masahiro Nagai, while searching for sugar substitutes, discovered chemical compounds in jiaogulan that were identical to some found in Panax ginseng, an unrelated plant. His findings led to the start of research into the health properties of jiaogulan.
Dr. Tsunematsu Takemoto, a Japanese scientist and herbal medicine research specialist, reported that jiaogulan contained 4 saponins identical to those in Panax ginseng. Over the following decade 82 saponins (gypenosides) were identified as jiaogulan, compared to 28 found in Panax ginseng. (As of today, scientists have identified jiaogulan as having 174 different saponins.)
Discovery from China:
In 1970, the results of China’s first nationwide population census revealed an unusually high percentage of people living beyond 100 years of age. There was also an extremely low occurrence in cancer, senility, and other serious diseases. The Chinese government sent a preliminary team to investigate, and they concluded the common thread as an herbal tea.
In 1987 the government sent Dr. Lialiu Liu, later known as the “Father of Jiaogulan“, to lead a group of 16 scientists to find more about the properties of this plant. Dr. Lialiu Liu stated:
I am happy to take this opportunity to introduce myself, and also to introduce you to jiaogulan, an herb from my native southern China that I believe possesses the most wide-ranging benefits for human health and wellness of any plant yet discovered. This may seem like a bold statement, but having studied this remarkable tonic herb for more than twenty years, I can assure you that there is strong scientific support to back up my passion for jiaogulan.
Dr. Lialiu Liu also stated:
My own experience with jiaogulan began in 1987, when I was asked by the Guizhou government to lead a team of 16 scientists to investigate the properties of plants from the Mt. Fanjing rainforest in southern China. After many years studying hundreds of herbs, we ultimately came to the realization that jiaogulan was not only the rainforest’s most precious gift, but was in fact nature’s greatest treasure. We began to use jiaogulan in our medical university hospital with great success for a wide variety of conditions, and before long, it was also being used at numerous other hospitals throughout China. This attracted the excited attention of scientists around the world, and today there are more than 300 studies and research papers on jiaogulan from China, Japan, Ireland, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, and even the United States.