Spiny shrub or tree, growing to 6½ ft (2 m), with oval, serrated leaves, brownish-red flowers, and red fruits. Guggul, the gum resin obtained from the bark, forms pale yellow to brown “tears” on the stems.
Habitat & Cultivation
Guggul thrives in dry, semi-arid and desert environments across much of the Indian sub-continent and the Middle East.
Guggul is an oleo-gum resin, its main active constituents being fat-soluble steroids (guggulipids), in particular guggulsterones E and Z.
History & Folklore
Early Ayurvedic texts describe guggul as being effective in treating obesity. This has led to research into whether the gum resin might be useful for problems associated with fat metabolism, such as raised blood cholesterol levels.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Guggul has anti-inflammatory, blood-thinning, and cholesterol-lowering activity, and—true to ancient understanding of the herb—can be helpful in treating obesity. In Ayurveda, guggul is principally used to treat arthritic problems, such as osteoarthritis, though it is also considered to have tonic and rejuvenating properties.
As a result of research in the 1980s and 1990s, guggul is now most commonly used to lower raised blood cholesterol levels and to improve blood fat profiles in general. It reduces the stickiness of platelets and thins the blood, and may have a protective activity on the heart. Guggul is also useful in the treatment of acne. The normal dose of guggulipid extract is 1–1.5 g a day (equivalent to 50–75 mg of guggulsterones).
Extensive research has shown that the guggulipids have anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic activity and prevent or reverse raised blood cholesterol levels. In several clinical trials, patients showed an average fall in cholesterol levels of about 12%, and in triglycerides of about 14%. The overall blood-fat profile was also shown to improve. Some clinical trials recorded weight loss for patients taking guggulipids.
Avoid if breastfeeding.