Gymnma sylvestre is a long, winding, multi-branched shrub that grows wild in central and southern India. It also grows in some parts of Africa, although it is not as popular in that continent. This Ayurvedic medicine is known to cure all sorts of diseases and health problems but perhaps not many know that one can use gymnema sylvestre for tooth decay. It is actually an herbal medicine for teeth, among its other functions.
Ayurveda is the ancient Hindi practice of medicine. It makes use of herbs, plants and organic materials as medicines. Needless to say, before tablets, pills and capsules were invented, there were herbal cures. Somehow, ancient medicine-men knew the medicinal and therapeutic qualities of plants. Perhaps through trial and error, they perfected the art of preparing herbal concoctions for the treatment of diseases including the arguably most nagging one – tooth decay.
There’s no real cure for tooth decay, except for extraction. Dentists may recommend pain relievers to remove the niggling pain before having the tooth extracted, but technically that is not a cure. Pain relievers are nothing but temporary remedies.
What gymnema sylvestre does as one of the natural remedies before dentists and dental chairs existed is to prevent the onset of tooth decay. Modern science now knows two reasons as to why this is possible: one, sugar causes tooth decay, and two, gymnema sylvestre causes individuals to dislike anything sweet.
After eating sugar in the form of chocolate, ice cream, or cake, sticky glycoproteins cling to the ridges and corners of your teeth to form plaques. Glycoproteins are so clingy that sometimes even brushing your teeth won’t get them off. There are millions of bacteria in the glycoprotein and the bad ones incubate in the plaque to form tooth decay.
Gymnema sylvestre can stop this before it happens. This Indian herb has anti-sweet chemicals that block sweet receptors. These chemicals are called gymnemic acids. They are so effective that a few hours after ingesting gymnema sylvestre extracts or chewing its leaves, you would feel disinterested in eating more sugar. The nagging craving for chocolates would slowly go away. This is why even the ancient Hindus called gymnema sylvestre the “gurmar”, or “sugar destroyer” in English.
While preventing tooth decay is an admirable function, the anti-sweet activity of gymnema sylvestre is best known to treat diabetes. Diabetic people cannot afford to have more sugar in their blood. This is why they take insulin so that the insulin could convert excess sugar into energy. Gymnema sylvestre may not have the functions of insulin but modern research studies have found gymnema to be truly effective in reducing the need to eat more sugar and maintaining sugar levels in the blood.
Other observed benefits of this herb through the centuries are as treatment for asthma, cough, constipation, amenorrhea, jaundice and fever. It is also considered to promote weight loss, restore pancreatic function, and stop alcoholism. While using gymnema sylvestre for tooth decay may sound farfetched, it is worth a try since the herb has no known side effects anyway.