Herbs & Botanicals
Gambir (gou teng)
What is gambir? What is it used for?
Gambir is a woody, climbing shrub native to China and other parts of
southeast Asia. The plant consists of a thin, wooden stem that is reddish-brown
in color, with broad green leaves. Most of the stem branches also have
hook-like appendages, which the plant uses to attach itself to a surface.
The medicinal part of gambir is a watery extract, which is taken from
the plant's leaves and young shoots. The main ingredients in the extract
are tannins and catechins.
Gambir acts mainly as a sedative; it dilates peripheral blood vessels
and lowers blood pressure. It is also used to treat hypertension, dizziness
and anxiety. In traditional Chinese medicine, gambir is used to calm wind
to relieve convulsions; calm the liver; and remove (or clear away) heat.
How much gambir should I take?
Gambir decoctions are usually given in a dosage of 3-12 grams.
What forms of gambir are available?
Gambir is most readily available as an extract, which can be found at
specialty stores and Asian markets. The extract is made using the plants
leaves and younger shoots.
What can happen if I take too much gambir? Are
there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I
Excess amounts of gambir have been known to cause diarrhea, kidney damage,
swollen feet and nausea. Because the herb acts as a sedative, it may enhance
the effects of anesthesia. The high tannin and catechin content of gambir
can irritate the stomach and cause gastrointestinal pain. As a result,
long-term and/or excessive use of herbs that contain tannins (such as
gambir) is not recommended. As always, make sure to consult with a qualified
health care practitioner before taking gambir or any other dietary supplement
or herbal remedy.
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