An Ancient Herbal Medicine with Modern Medical Applications

Guggul—An Ancient Cure with Scientific Evidence for Heart Disease

Guggul may improve heart function and reduce chest pain in some people.

Scientists predict that heart disease will be the predominant illness worldwide in less than a decade. Heart function becomes impaired from inadequate blood flow that results in deficient oxygen levels to meet the cellular needs of the heart. This functional impairment and impeded blood flow can eventually lead to what is commonly called a heart attack, possibly causing severe damage to the heart muscle or even death.23

Causes of Heart Disease

Both conventional and traditional medicines attribute cardiac dysfunction to a number of related factors, including: 3, 23

  • clogged arteries
  • elevated cholesterol levels
  • high blood pressure
  • inflammation
  • obesity
  • oxidative damage at the cellular level from free radicals

Conventional and Ayurvedic Treatment of Heart Disease

Conventional treatment options typically has been some combination of pharmaceutical drugs, lifestyle changes (e.g., diet, exercise, and quitting smoking), and possible surgery or other invasive medical procedures to reverse or reduce these factors.24

In Ayurveda, recommendations for heart disease are linked to the patient's dosha. Each dosha type will exhibit different symptoms when suffering from cardiovascular conditions:25

Dosha Symptoms/Condition
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Edema
  • Heavy, stiff feeling in the chest
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Dark circles under eyes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty handling stressful conditions; anxiety
  • Dry cough
  • Fainting
  • Nervous heart conditions
  • Numbness in different parts of the body
  • Palpitations
  • Throbbing, burning chest pain
  • Tightness in chest
  • Burning sensation in the chest
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting, followed by pale and yellow-tinged skin
  • Flushed face
  • Inflammatory heart conditions (e.g., myocarditis, endocarditis)
  • Nosebleeds
  • Sudden episodes of sweating and fever
  • Vomiting of bile

Ayurveda recommends guggul as a calming herb for patients with heart disease who have a vata dosha. Although it is indicated for all doshas to loosen cholesterol, guggul is particularly effective against excess cholesterol and atherosclerosis in kapha doshas. Ayurvedic experts recommend taking one gram twice a day (morning and night) for three months to help lower high cholesterol. When combined with the herb arjuna, guggul is thought to strengthen any general cardiac weakness.25

Evidence of Guggul's Effect on Heart Health

Guggul has been studied in clinical trials that suggest it exerts a number of different protective effects in the heart:23

  • Anti-inflammatory effects
  • Antioxidant (scavenging for cell-damaging free radicals in patients after a heart attack)
  • Decreased platelet stickiness related to atherosclerosis
  • Lowers high cholesterol levels

In an animal study designed to assess guggul's effects on heart cardiac function after a heart attack, the rats given the guggul treatment (100, 200, and 400 mg/kg body weight) demonstrated significantly better functioning in several areas:23

  • Decreased blood pressure (both systolic and diastolic) in the 200 and 400 mg/kg dosage range
  • Lowered heart rate (100, 200, and 400 mg/kg dosage groups)

The study researchers showed that guggul's antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities helped lessen the damaging effects of a heart attack. Blocking the formation of oxidative free radicals that result from a heart attack helped to improve left ventricular function and blood flow, preventing further heart injury.23

A human clinical trial conducted at the University of Pennsylvania confirmed guggul's anti-inflammatory effects with a 30% decrease in hs-CRP for all study participants who took guggul in only eight weeks, an important indicator of heart disease risk.4 In another clinical trial combining guggul with the botanical Inula racemosa, 84% of the study's heart disease patients showed improvement in their initially abnormal electrocardiogram after treatment—with 26% demonstrating a normal ECG.3 All of this study’s participants also experienced decreased chest pain after treatment.3

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