A comparative study of the effects and side-effects of caffeine and Gynostemma Pentaphyllum (jiaogulan) would surely put to rest the ongoing debate on which is better between the two. Here are some salient points of comparison between caffeine and Gynostemma that you should take note:
As an Antioxidant:
Caffeine is the number one source of antioxidants for Americans, while Gynostemma appears to be the main source of antioxidants for many people in the East. Antioxidants are bodily molecules that prevent oxidation of other bodily molecules. Oxidation produces free radicals that could damage cells. Caffeine, as an antioxidant, is known to protect against liver cirrhosis, colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. The antioxidants of caffeine include cafestol, trigonelline, chlorogenic acid, phenols, and caffeine. Moreover, in the Journal of Physical Chemistry B, a study was published in 2011 about how caffeine acts like a good scavenger of free radicals. However, the study is non-conclusive on how caffeine does it.
On the other hand, Gynostemma or Jiaogulan contains gypenosides that inhibit the synthesis of nitric oxide, and thus it increases the expression of this molecular compound. It also contains saponins—chemical compounds that aid in nutrient absorption and digestion, protect against microbes and fungi, and enhance the penetration of proteins into cell membranes. It is also found to increase the effect of superoxide dismutase, a powerful cellular antioxidant enzyme.
Effects of Caffeine and Gynostemma on Physiological Homeostasis:
Gynostemma Pentaphyllum helps in maintaining physiological homeostasis. It is called “adaptogen” for a reason because it adapts and balances the different physiological processes. First, it has bidirectional effects on blood pressure level by increasing blood pressure when it is low, and decreasing it when it is high. Its chemical compound—triterpenoid saponins gypenoside—is known to regulate blood pressure and immune system. On the other hand, the homeostatic effect on the body of caffeine is highly questionable. Since caffeine is a stimulant and a psychoactive substance, it tends to tip off physiological homeostasis and can cause the following side effects:
- It increases blood pressure and may occasion vasoconstriction
- It can cause chronic arterial stiffness
- It affects gastrointestinal motility and may influence gastric acid secretion
- It can cause weak bronchodilation
- It can speed up bone loss in postmenopausal women
- It can have a diuretic effect on the body
- It can cause mild anxiety, insomnia, and reduced coordination
- It can aggravate anxiety disorders
- It can cause mild withdrawal syndrome
- It can increase intraocular pressure among those who have glaucoma
Effects on Cardiovascular System and Blood Pressure:
Gynostemma is found to improve circulatory and heart functioning. Studies on animals have shown that it improves heart stroke volume, cardiac output, coronary flow, and reduces heart rate without increasing arterial pressure. Regular intake of caffeine, however, can cause vasoconstriction and increased blood pressure. It can likewise cause chronic arterial stiffness.
Effects on Diabetes:
Caffeine is known to protect people from developing diabetes. However, caffeine has also been known to increase glucose and insulin levels; hence, it is not advisable for people with diabetes to take more caffeine. Moreover, coffee sweeteners readily cancel the protective capability of caffeine against diabetes. On the other hand, Gynostemma is known to regulate the glucose level of the blood serum. Hence, it can prevent the onset of diabetes and is an effective treatment for diabetes.
Effects on Liver:
Caffeine is known to have protective properties against liver cirrhosis. Gynostemma, on the other hand, has various antioxidant compounds that help prevent liver cirrhosis. It is known to cure nonalcoholic fatty liver disease likewise.
Effects on Eyesight:
If you have glaucoma, you better not drink coffee for the caffeine in coffee is known to increase intraocular pressure which is surely the last thing that you would like to happen if you have glaucoma. Moreover, if you have diabetic retinopathy, you should refrain from taking in more caffeine, for caffeine can have a negative effect on your retinal blood vessels. Gynostemma, on the other hand, is known to promote homeostasis. Although its effect on the intraocular pressure may necessitate further study, its capacity to improve blood flow along the retinal blood vessels is generally an accepted fact.