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Botanical name: Gynostemma phentaphyllum
Common name: Gynostemma, Sweet tea vine
Family: Cucurbitaceae, gourd family
Part used in Chinese medicine: leaves and stems
Major Chinese medicine actions:
Clears heat, eliminates toxin, moistens Lungs,
generates fluids, dispels phlegm
Jiao Gu Lan is rarely mentioned in traditional Chinese medicine texts until recently when it has received a good deal of attention due to clinical studies suggesting that it may help maintain healthy cholesterol, triglyceride and other lipoprotein levels. It has also been shown to improve cardiovascular function and lower blood pressure by decreasing vascular resistance and increasing coronary blood flow. It is rich in amino acids, antioxidants, and minerals.
Gynostemma pentaphyllum is native to the mountainous regions of China, Japan and Korea, growing in forests, thickets and the sides of mountain slopes, at elevations of 100 to 10,000 feet. The plant is hardy to USDA zone 8, tolerating temperatures down to between 15 and 23 degrees F. In warmer regions it is grown as a short-lived perennial, while in colder regions it can be grown as an annual.
Growing and Propagation
The plant is a herbaceous vine growing up to 26 inches long, attaching itself to a trellis or supports by tendrils. The plant grows best in rich, well drained but moisture retentive soil, in a warm but sheltered location in part shade. The flowers are dioecious, so the plant is not self-fertile. Both male and female plants must be grown if seed is desired.
Propagation is by seed, best pre-soaked in warm water for 24 hours prior to planting. They should be planted in rich compost in a greenhouse in the spring, and then seedlings can be transplanted to the garden after the last expected frost.
Harvesting and Preparation
For medicinal use, the leaves and stems are harvested and dried in the sun.