Guggul—An Ancient Herbal Medicine with Modern Medical Applications

Guggul (guggulu in Sanskrit) is the yellowish resin extracted from the mukul tree (Commiphora mukul or Commiphora wightii). Widely used for thousands of years in Ayurveda and other traditional medicines for a variety of health conditions and as an incense in holy ceremonies, guggul has attracted the attention of Western science for its possible ability to treat high cholesterol, obesity and acne 1-2

After two decades of modern scientific research of guggul’s health benefits and safety in India, in 1986 it was approved in that country to be marketed as a drug to treat high cholesterol. Although a vast amount of laboratory and many human and animal clinical studies on guggul have been conducted in India, only a few have been conducted in western populations and only since the 1990s. However, much of the current research is beginning to validate guggul’s traditional uses in modern medicine. 3

Despite the widely publicized negative results of guggul on cholesterol from a 2003 clinical trial at the University of Pennsylvania, that trial demonstrated that guggul dramatically lowered hs-CRP, an important indicator of heart disease risk. 4 Ongoing research continues to uncover promising and potent antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory effects of guggul. 3

Results of pre-clinical studies and clinical trials suggest that components of guggul or gugulipid may be an effective natural herbal treatment for inflammatory conditions like those found in arthritis, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, ear infections, obesity, and psoriasis. It has also demonstrated properties that can break down kidney stones, stimulate the thyroid gland, protect and improve heart and brain and memory function, heal wounds and improve skin appearance, and even exert anti-cancer effects. 3,5

Guggul has been used in clinical trials for as long as six months, and other evidence suggests that using it even for years may be safe with minimal adverse side effects. However, because of its potency there are some precautions that need to be taken—especially with certain prescription medications and if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. 6

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The system of natural medicine in India.