What is guggul?
Guggul is a shrub that grows in the northern parts of India. The botanical name is commiphora mukul. It has been documented in Ayurvedic literature for its blood fat normalizing effects. The earliest references to the therapeutic properties of guggul are listed in Atharva Veda since 2,600 years ago. An entire verse was devoted to praising the herb and promising freedom from heart disease for those who consumed tears (latex) of the bark from this herb. Ayurvedic doctors had effectively cataloged more than 600 plants and plant derived medicines by 600 B.C. Guggul held a prominent position in their medical journals.
How was guggul discovered?
The discovery of guggul in modern times makes a very interesting narration. In 1966, inspired by ancient Sanskrit text, a young Indian doctoral candidate named G.V. Satyavati at Banares Hindu University, reported the cholesterol lowering effects of this herb. Intrigued by the similarities between the ancient concept of medoroga (obesity and blood fat disorders) and dalhana (artherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries), Satyavati and her advisor carried out the first laboratory testing. Their early work showed that guggul did indeed bring down cholesterol levels in rabbits. Amazingly, it protected the animals against hardening of the arteries. Other researchers became interested, and a two year study was done on test subjects fed hydrogenated vegetable oil to artificially elevate their cholesterol levels. Again, the blood fat normalized.
What is the clinical evidence?
The initial work sparked by Satyavati, entered clinical trials that further confirmed cholesterol lowering effects of this herb. In 1986, guggul was approved for sale by the Indian government as a cholesterol lowering agent following a period of intense investigation by government scientists and independent investigators. After more than 2,500 years of successful use in India, this natural herb - which clinically demonstrates a cholesterol-lowering ability rivaling any natural substance yet found - is now also available in the United States as a supplement, containing the purified and standardized form of the guggul tree resin.
A considerable volume of research, dating back to the 1960s, has clearly validated gum guggul's amazing benefits. According to James Braly, M.D., of Los Angeles, California, clinicians in the U.S. are now reporting results with their patients, which further substantiate what the studies showed.
These results stimulated a number of clinical trials which confirmed the herb's effectiveness. It has been clinically documented to reduce total cholesterol by 15% and bad cholesterol (LDL) by 17%. They can increase good cholesterol (HDL) by 12%. This in fact, can improve the cardiovascular ratios making it the only known herb documented to improve overall blood lipid profile!
One study, after finding that gum guggul lowered not only total cholesterol but also LDL and VLDL - while raising HDL - concluded that it "can serve to be of significant clinical importance. (Indian Journal of Medical Research, April 1988)."
Total blood cholesterol reduction in the range of 22 to 27% is being achieved with the use of gum guggul alone, irrespective of dietary modifications- equal to some modern day cholesterol lowering drugs. Indeed, guggul is a physician's dream come true - it brings down levels of unwanted LDL and VLDL components which clog the arteries, and at the same time raises the anti-clogging HDL. Guggul also reduces blood triglycerides (Indian Journal of Medical Research, April 1988).
Is guggul better than the conventional low fat diets?
Diets have become popular but unfortunately they usually lower the beneficial HDL along with total cholesterol. Guggul is a much better alternative than simply struggling to remove all fat from the diet - a difficult undertaking when in the extreme is not actually beneficial to health.
Does guggul have activity on the platelets?
An artery narrowed by plaque can easily become obstructed by a blood clot. Such an event may precipitate a heart attack if the clot forms in a coronary artery. In the brain, a blood clot can result in a stroke. Platelets (solid particles in the blood) form clots by clumping together. Studies in Europe have shown that guggul decreases platelet stickiness and normalizes clotting, while additionally assisting the body in breaking up clots, thus helping prevent strokes as well as heart attacks (Planta Medica, Vol. 37, 1979).
Why have I not heard of guggul before?
Guggul is a natural product. As such, it cannot be patented. As such, there is little incentive for the drug industry to promote as a remedy for cholesterol lowering. Guggul is very well established in India.
Does guggul interact with cholesterol medication?
Guggul does not directly interact with cholesterol lowering medicine. However, care is recommended with administered together.
Does guggul interact with other medication?
Guggul doesw interact with anti-clotting agents like asprin and hence should be used with caution.
How does guggul compare with modern cholesterol lowering effects?
Guggul works on a completely different mechanism which is not fully understood. However, it seems to work mostly on the thyroid gland. It also works on the liver and may impair cholesterol absorption as well.
What are the other benefits of guggul?
Guggul has been shown in animal models to make the arteries more supple even reversing hardening of the arteries! It has also been demonstrated in both animal and human trials to reduce platelet stickiness. Sticky platelets have been strongly implicated in strokes and heart attacks.
What is the recommended dose of guggul?
One to three 400 milligrams capsules are recommended depending on cholesterol levels. The actives in guggul are guggulsterones.
Are there side effects?
The most wonderful thing is that despite all the good effects, there are less side effects! This is unlike modern anti-cholesterol medications that have been implicated in muscle weakness, cancers, loss of libido and depression. It does not cost anywhere as much as well. Unpurified guggul may cause stomach upsets, rashes or headaches. However, purified and standardized and purified versions have less incidence of this. Most of the extracts are standardized to 2.5 percent guggulstrone.
How can I improve the effects of guggul?
Going low carbohydrate improves the effects of guggul dramatically. It seems that if you cut down your intake of carbohydrates, especially the grains, and at the same time increased your protein intake, you create in your body favorable conditions for the normalization of cholesterol in your body.