Are you looking to try health supplements made from natural ingredients? There are many herbs and plants incorporated into health supplements, and it is overwhelming. In this article, we will discuss one plant used in some of these health supplements called guggul. Have you ever heard about it? Let's look into the history and health benefits of guggul.
What is Guggul?
Guggul is derived from an oily sap (a fragrant gum resin) of the Mukul myrrh tree. This tree is a shrub with thin, shiny bark and thorny branches. It is commonly found in India and other dry regions such as Northern Africa and Central Asia.
It is considered as an Ayurvedic medicine in India. Ayurveda is a system of holistic healing that was developed hundreds of years ago in India. This health system is centered on a belief about the balance between the mind, body, and spirit. Its main goal is to promote good health rather than fighting the disease.
Today, the use of guggul is considered as a form of complementary alternative medicine.
Traditional Use of Guggul
As mentioned, the health benefits of guggul are traced back hundreds of years ago in India. The people in the past used it as Ayurvedic medicine, and its claimed effectiveness has been passed down to generations. Today, several research types are still ongoing to prove the effectiveness of guggul, but how was it used in the past?
Traditionally, guggul was used for treating joint pain, reducing weight, and is included in treating a wide range of disease and conditions such as:
In 1986, India had approved the commercial sale of guggul to lower cholesterol levels. However, there is yet clinical evidence to support this claim.
The next part of this article will reveal the health benefits of guggul and details about its effectiveness, which is backed by research.
Health Benefits of Guggul
Alternative medicine specialists claimed that guggul could help with a variety of conditions. This include:
Treating Acne and Promoting Skin Health
Researches reveal that taking guggul orally can help treat severe acne in the face, chest, and back. It can also alleviate pain, inflammation, and prevent acne outbreaks. Its effectiveness has been proven for patients with oily skin.
Guggul further promotes skin health by providing skin cells strength through developing type 1 collagen production. It also restrains the growth of skin-damaging enzymes.
Helping with Weight Loss and Obesity
Guggul is marketed to aid in weight loss by burning fat and boosting metabolism. Laboratory findings in 2008 show that guggulsterone, an active ingredient of guggul, can breakdown fat cells (lipolysis) and spontaneously eliminate specific fat cells (apoptosis). However, when it comes to fat metabolism (adiponectin), guggul did not affect as revealed in a 2018 study in India.
Although studies are claiming that guggul can aid in weight loss, further studies are needed to establish its effectiveness. The next claimed health benefits could somewhat be linked to the weight-losing effects of guggul.
Managing High Cholesterol
People in India have been claiming that guggul has properties that can lower cholesterol levels. Since 1986, guggul has been commercially approved for this reason. It was contended that guggul could reduce fat and cholesterol absorption in the intestines, eliminate bile acids and cholesterol, and increase good cholesterol (High-density lipoprotein, HDL) acceptance of liver cells and hinder cholesterol production in the liver.
Even if it is widely accepted in India, medical evidence is still lacking. A study in 2009 revealed that there is a more significant drop in cholesterol levels in adults that had taken guggul than those who had taken a placebo.
On the other hand, some research reveals that there is no decrease in bad cholesterol (Low-density lipoprotein, LPL) nor an increase in good cholesterol. These studies were conducted on those who have a Western diet. The diet may be a consideration for this matter since Indian and Western food has a huge difference.
Research that may prove guggul's effectiveness against cholesterol may be because of its ability to block a bile acid receptor called the farnesoid x receptor. It is a significant component that is responsible for maintaining cholesterol and bile acid.
Lowering of Blood Sugar
There has been promising effectiveness of the antidiabetic potential of guggul. Just recently, this year 2020, an animal study was conducted on diabetic rats. The results revealed a significant reduction in blood sugar levels and an increase in insulin levels.
There were no side-effects recorded in the kidney, liver, and adipose tissue. This study had brought praise to the promising antidiabetic properties of guggul and may be proven useful for diabetes treatment. However, more research is still required to establish this medical claim.
Lowering of Inflammation
Guggul has been claimed to have properties that can lower inflammation caused by a variety of inflammatory diseases. Some studies conducted regarding guggul's anti-inflammatory properties include:
An animal study about mice colon cells. This study revealed that the enzymes that cause the inflammation are suppressed and resulted in reduced severity of the colon inflammation. This shows the promiseof guggul's effect on inflammatory bowel disease.
Another study revealed a decrease in eye inflammation by reducing endotoxins in the eye. Endotoxins are bacterial toxins that cause inflammation.
Helping with Joint Pain
A study revealed that taking guggul capsules for two months improved mobility and reduced joint pain for those with osteoarthritis. Another study showed that a daily intake of 3 grams of guggul helps improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Helping with Vitiligo
There are further claims of the health benefits of guggul when it comes to skin health. Guggul has properties that are antipruritic, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory. These properties made guggul a choice by alternative medicine specialists when treating skin diseases like vitiligo, a condition characterized by the depigmentation of the skin.
Eliminating Intestinal Worms
Traditionally, guggul is claimed to eliminate intestinal worms. In Egypt, its properties to eradicate intestinal worms and other parasites are currently being studied.
Helping with Urinary Tract Infections
The first use of guggul to treat urinary tract infections dates back hundreds of years ago. Today, there are supplements that market guggul for a healthy flow of urine. It is also claimed to reduce urinary tract problems and promote overall health.
Promoting Thyroid Health
In an animal study, guggul excites the thyroid glands by increasing iodine absorption and thyroid enzyme activity. It also showed positive effects on thyroid functions, including tissue oxygen absorption.
Promoting Kidney Health
In an animal study, it is revealed that guggul can hinder the inflammatory signals resulting from drugs and infections. It prevents damage to be done in the kidneys by confining interleukins (which regulate immune responses) and prostaglandins (which control processes such as inflammation and blood flow). Guggul also suppresses other known inflammatory molecules.
Promoting Liver Health
In an animal study, guggul increased the levels of sulfhydryls, which are compounds that can protect liver cells. It also protects the liver by suppressing harmful enzymes.
Promoting Heart Health
Another promising potential of guggul is its ability to promote heart health. A study shows that guggul can lower chest pains for those with heart disease and protect the heart from the low blood supply.
Promoting Brain Health
In an animal study, it is revealed that an extract of guggul can restore brain activity. It can also lower memory loss and nerve damage caused by drug and medication intake. Antioxidant levels are also seen to increase.
Acting as an Antioxidant
In the animal study about the effects of guggul in the brain, it was revealed that it could increase antioxidant levels. Guggul can obstruct the creation of oxygen free radicals and prevent tissue damage. It has also shown promise to be helpful against oxidative stress and the diseases it causes in the heart and nerves. Guggul further promotes heart health by lowering the levels of these free radicals.
While guggul's effectiveness in treating or preventing cancer has yet to be established, several animal studies show the potential effects of guggul.
It is mainly focused on the fact that guggul can eliminate cancer cells. Depending on the type of cancer, guggul revealed positive effects. This include:
Leukemia: The spread of human leukemia cells was prevented.
Head and neck cancer.The growth of cancer cells was stopped and was killed through an inhibition process.
Breast cancer. Tumor invasion was reduced, and it also reduced the production of certain hormones and new blood vessel formation in the endothelial cells.
Esophageal cancer.The apoptosis (cell death) of esophageal cancer cells was increased, and there is a reduction in tumor formation.
Lung cancer.There is a degradation in lung cancer cells through suppression and apoptosis.
Pancreatic cancer. There is a decrease in cell migration and invasion in the human pancreatic cancer cells.
Prostate cancer. Apoptosis is produced in human prostate cancer cells.
Colorectal cancer.The apoptosis (cell death) of colon cancer cells was increased, and there is a reduction in tumor formation.
What is the Recommended Dosage?
Guggul is taken orally through health supplements. There is yet an established, precise dosing guideline. Further research and clinical trials are required for this matter. However, the following dosages have been claimed effective in some studies, but new research is still needed:
75 to 150mg of guggulsterone daily to lower cholesterol.
500mg of gum guggul three times a day for anti-inflammatory effects.
25 mg of guggulsterone twice daily for treating acne.
Intake of guggul is claimed to be possibly safe when taken correctly. Research suggests that it is safe to take up to 24 weeks. Long-term use of up to 75 weeks is also advised to secure by other studies.
There have also been reported side-effects of guggul. These were common for higher doses, which were labeled as 6 grams or more senior. The next part of this article reveals the possible side-effects of guggul.
What are the Side-Effects of Guggul?
The following shows the possible side-effects of guggul.
Effects on Pregnancy
Researchers worry that the intake of guggul may cause miscarriage or early labor. It is because guggul can boost menstrual flow and excite the uterus.
Effects on Breastfeeding
There is yet any credible and reliable information that guggul is safe when breastfeeding. To ensure the safety of both the baby and the mother, avoid using it when breastfeeding.
Effects on Bleeding
Guggul has properties that can slow blood clotting. It can also further cause bleeding or bruising.
Effects on Cholesterol Level
While some researchers praise guggul for its positive effects on high cholesterol levels, some investigations reveal a possible side effect. Guggul might increase the level of bad cholesterol instead of good cholesterol.
Effects on Hormone-sensitive Conditions
This may include cancer, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids. Guggul tends to act as an estrogen. Those who have conditions that can worsen due to exposure to estrogen should avoid the use of guggul.
Effects on Surgery
With the mentioned side-effects of guggul when it comes to bleeding, it may further increase the risk of bleeding during and after surgery.
Effects on Thyroid
Guggul tends to interfere with the treatment of thyroid conditions: hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. As mentioned, there are positive effects of guggul for thyroid health; however, further research is needed. It is best to consult first with a healthcare specialist before trying to use guggul.
Guggul also poses risks when it is combined with certain medications. It can cause interactions and interfere with the treatment these medications give. It is best to be cautious or avoid the use of guggul altogether when taking other medications. Known drugs that should not be combined with guggul include:
Birth control pills
Guggul has been around for many years now and has many claimed positive effects. While some of the health benefits of guggul are still debatable since most are only done with animal studies, there are commercially available health supplements infused with guggul. Consult a healthcare provider and ask expert opinions first if you are unsure. It is also best to carefully read labels and follow the dosage instructions to avoid side effects and complications.