The Benefits of Guggul

guggul
Guggul (produced from the mukul myrrh tree, native to India). Lew Robertson/StockFood Creative/Getty Images

What is Guggul Extract?

A yellowish resin secreted by the mukul myrrh tree (Commiphora mukul), guggul has been used for thousands of years in ayurveda (the traditional medicine of India). Practitioners of ayurvedic medicine often blend guggul extract with other natural substances to heal health problems such as arthritis, hemorrhoids, and urinary tract infections. Guggul is also touted as a remedy for acne, as well as a weight-loss stimulant.

Health Benefits of Guggul

So far, scientific support for the benefits of guggul is lacking.

1) High Cholesterol

Although guggul is widely used in India to combat high cholesterol, research on the extract's cholesterol-lowering effects has yielded mixed results. A 2009 study of 43 adults with moderately high cholesterol, for instance, found that those who took 2,160 mg of guggul in capsule form daily had a greater drop in total cholesterol levels than those who took a placebo pill. However, the study members who used guggul showed no significant reduction in their levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol.

Another study, published in 2003, assigned 103 adults with high cholesterol to take 1,000 mg or 2,000 mg of guggul daily for eight weeks, and found that the extract actually raised levels of LDL cholesterol.

More: natural remedies to lower cholesterol.

2) Tumors

Preliminary research suggests that guggul extract may help fight tumors.

One 2007 study on human cells found that guggulsterone (a compound found in guggul) induced the death of prostate cancer cells, while a 2008 report revealed that guggulsterone thwarted the growth of skin tumors in mice.

3) Osteoarthritis

Other research shows that guggul extract may help reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee.

Learn about natural remedies for osteoarthritis.

Caveats

Guggul extract may trigger side effects like headache, nausea, and skin irritation (usually in the form of a rash) in some individuals. Since guggul has also been found to stimulate the thyroid, anyone with a thyroid condition should consult a physician before using guggul extract.

In a 2004 study, scientists discovered that guggulsterone may inhibit the action of drugs that are metabolized by the body's CYP3A enzymes. These drugs include Lipitor, cyclosporine, and quinidine.

Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get tips on using supplements here, but if you're considering the use of guggul, talk with your primary care provider first.

 Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Sources:

Brobst DE, Ding X, Creech KL, Goodwin B, Kelley B, Staudinger JL. "Guggulsterone activates multiple nuclear receptors and induces CYP3A gene expression through the pregnane X receptor." The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 2004 310(2):528-35.

Nohr LA, Rasmussen LB, Straand J. "Resin from the mukul myrrh tree, guggul, can it be used for treating hypercholesterolemia? A randomized, controlled study." Complementary Therapies in Medicine 2009 Jan;17(1):16-22.

Sarfaraz S, Siddiqui IA, Syed DN, Afaq F, Mukhtar H. "Guggulsterone modulates MAPK and NF-kappaB pathways and inhibits skin tumorigenesis in SENCAR mice." Carcinogenesis 2008 29(10):2011-8.

Singh BB, Mishra LC, Vinjamury SP, Aquilina N, Singh VJ, Shepard N. "The effectiveness of Commiphora mukul for osteoarthritis of the knee: an outcomes study." Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 2003 9(3):74-9.

Singh SV, Choi S, Zeng Y, Hahm ER, Xiao D. "Guggulsterone-induced apoptosis in human prostate cancer cells is caused by reactive oxygen intermediate dependent activation of c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase." Cancer Research 2007 1;67(15):7439-49.

Szapary PO, Wolfe ML, Bloedon LT, Cucchiara AJ, DerMarderosian AH, Cirigliano MD, Rader DJ. "Guggulipid for the treatment of hypercholesterolemia: a randomized controlled trial." JAMA 13;290(6):765-72.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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