Sweet Tea Vine
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Sweet Tea Vine
P Native Photo: N Arun Kumar
Common name: Sweet Tea Vine, Jiaogulan • Sanskrit: अत्याम्लपर्णि Atyamlaparni
Botanical name: Gynostemma pentaphyllum    Family: Cucurbitaceae (Pumpkin family)
Synonyms: Vitis pentaphylla, Gynostemma wightianum, Gynostemma laxum

Sweet Tea Vine is a perennial climbing herb with stem and branches slender, angular-grooved, hairless or sparsely velvet-hairy. Leaves are pedately 3-9-foliolate, usually 5-7-foliolate, membranous or papery, velvet-hairy or hairless. Leaflets are ovate-oblong or lanceshaped, median leaflets 3-12 x 1.5-4 cm, lateral leaflets smaller, both surfaces sometimes bristly, lateral veins 6-8 pairs, base narrowed, margin rounded toothed, tip pointed or shortly tapering; leaflet-stalk 1-5 mm. Tendrils are thread-like, 2-split. Male flowers are borne in panicle; flower-cluster-stalk thread-like, 10-15 cm, many branched; flower-stalks thread-like, 1-4 mm; bracteole subulate; sepal-cup tube very short; segments triangular, about 0.7 mm, tip pointed; flowers pale green or white; segments ovate-lanceshaped, 2.5-3 x about 1 cm, 1-veined, tip long tapering. Female flowers: panicle shorter than that of male flowers; sepal-cup and flower as in male flowers; ovary spherical, 2- or 3-loculed; styles 3; stigmas 2-lobed; staminodes 5, short. Sweet Tea Vine is found in the Himalayas, east to China and Japan, Malaysia, and also Ceylon, at altitudes of 1500-2600 m. Flowering: March-November.
Medicinal uses: Jiaogulan is rated among the ten most important tonic herbs in China. The whole plant is a tonic herb that improves the circulation, stimulates liver function, strengthens the immune and nervous systems, and reduces blood sugar and cholesterol levels. It also has sedative effects, relieving spasms and lowering the blood pressure. It is used internally in the treatment of nervous tension and exhaustion, peptic ulcer, asthma, bronchitis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Identification credit: N Arun Kumar Photographed in Yuksom, West Sikkim.

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