Southern Ginseng (Gynostemma pentaphyllum) is regarded as a ginseng based on its composition.


The herb Gynostemma pentaphyllum is botanically unrelated to Panax ginseng and other species of ginseng, but has some similar compounds (e.g., ginsenosides).


Saponins similar to ginseng are also found in it. Gingenosides and other saponins similar to ginseng are collectively known as gypenosides. This herbal adaptogen is standardized with these main active principles.


A few years ago, Gynostemma pentaphyllum was mainly used in northern Vietnam and southern China's mountainous regions. The plant is known as the "immortality herb" because residents of Guizhou Province, where herbal teas made from the plant are regularly consumed, are believed to live unusually long lives.


Gynostemma pentaphyllum was on our initial list of ingredients to research for possible inclusion in Qualia Life because of its growing reputation for activating AMPK, a molecule that acts as a “metabolic master switch” of cellular energy (i.e., ATP). AMPK was important to us because it senses and responds to low ATP levels. When AMPK is activated, it turns up processes in cells and mitochondria that enhance conversion of food into ATP. This helps restore ATP levels.


Restoring ATP is important. Being able to make more if it’s needed in the future might be even more important. The science of complex adaptive systems informs us that living systems are experts at learning and adapting: they anticipate and prepare for the future. AMPK is part of the adaptive response to circumstances that deplete ATP, like intense exercise. In addition to restoring ATP, AMPK adjusts gene expression in ways that result in increased capacity to make more cellular energy in the future. It’s this adaptive response that is why it’s so important for supporting healthy aging and cellular (and mitochondrial) function.


We read the research on Gynostemma pentaphyllum and AMPK; and then we kept reading about this herb. What did we find? It does a lot more than simply activate AMPK. Some of the responses it has produced included promoting antioxidant defenses, upregulating the sirtuin cell adaptational response, stimulating mitochondrial energy production (Krebs cycle, OXPHOS), enhancing insulin signaling, and acting as neuroprotective support. We uncovered that feeding Gynostemma to animals has shifted the gut microbiota in ways that have been associated with better shape and weight, acting a bit like a prebiotic. And, while it did this, not surprisingly, it produced a healthier metabolism. Lastly, we found a study where it showed a synergistic response with a keystone ingredient in the formulation, grape extract.*


The bottom line is that we went looking for information on one thing, but found much more to like about Gynostemma pentaphyllum than we expected. We opted for an extract standardized for gypenosides because these (1) are thought to be responsible for much of the plants functional benefits, (2) have been the focus of the majority of the research, and (3) show additive effects with grape seed extract.


We consider both Gynostemma pentaphyllum and its gypenosides to be adaptogenic, and to follow dosing principles that would generally apply to herbal adaptogens. These include principles like there being a “just right” range which produced the most favorable responses and the importance of periodically taking time off to support long-term adaptation.


* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products and information on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The information on this site is for educational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Please speak with an appropriate healthcare professional when evaluating any wellness related therapy. Please read the full medical disclaimer before taking any of the products offered on this site.


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