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Side Effects of Jiaogulan Tea

By Linda Tarr Kent

Jiaogulan tea is marketed as an aid that can help reduce cholesterol, strengthen the immune system, regulate blood pressure and increase stamina and endurance. The official name for the plant used in this tea is gynostemma pentaphyllum. It grows in Japan, China and Southeast Asia, and it was incorporated into traditional Chinese medicine in the late 1990s as a ginseng substitute, according to Drugs.com. Though not well-studied, information on some side effects for jiaogulan tea has emerged.

Nausea and Upset Bowels

Nausea and an increase in daily bowel movements are the most commonly reported side effects for jiaogulan tea, reports Drugs.com. Your nausea might be severe, warns Frank Minirth, lead author for “The Christian’s Guide to Natural Products and Remedies.”

Otherwise, few adverse side effects have been reported, according to “Wonder Herbs: A Guide to Three Adaptogens,” by J. P. MD Saleeby. Since little is known about this plant, however, you should take it with caution and talk to your doctor before using it, recommends Saleeby.

Pregnancy Concern

Jiaogulan may cause birth defects, so you should avoid it if you are pregnant or nursing, advises Saleeby. This information is based on animal studies, however, as no human studies exist to document effects, Saleeby notes.

Jiaogulan contains some of the same saponin compounds that ginseng has, including ginsenoside Rb1, according to Niramon Utama-ang, lead author for a study published in "Kasetsart Natural Science." Rb1 can cause significant developmental abnormalities, such as heart, limb and eye problems, reports Medical News Today. At high doses, it can lead to shorter body length in embryos, according to L.Y. Chan, lead author of a study published in "Human Reproduction."

Chan recommends pregnant women avoid this compound due to its direct ability to disturb development and growth in the fetuses of rats and recommends women of reproductive age approach it with caution until more is known about its effects in people.

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Bleeding and Immune System Effects

You need to consult a doctor before drinking jiaogulan tea if you take antiplatelet medication like clopidogrel or blood-thinning medicines such as aspirin or warfarin, because the tea may increase risk for bleeding or bruising, according to Saleeby.

Taking jiaogulan tea with certain herbs can have the same effect. These herbs include danshen, devil’s claw, ginger, garlic, ginkgo, ginseng, horse chestnut and papain. Other herbs, foods and vitamins to watch out for include vitamin E, angelica, anise, arnica, celery, chamomile, capsicum, fenugreek, feverfew, horseradish, licorice onion, turmeric, wild carrot and wild lettuce, Minirth says. Also, avoid jiaogulan if you take immunosuppressants, because the tea can reverse or reduce their effects due to its immune system-enhancing action, Saleeby advises.

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