Since antiquity, the gum resin of the mukul myrrh tree has been used in India to treat obesity and arthritis. Now, a modern purified extract called gugulipid has been found to be effective as some prescription drugs for lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood.
What it is?
Gugulipid comes from the gummy resin of the small, thorny mukul myrrh tree, native to India. The tree's resin is closely related to the richly perfumed Biblical myrrh, traditionally used for purification purposes.
Called gum guggul ('guggulu') the resin itself has been part of Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India, for thousands of years. Guggulu, however, has toxic compounds. Fortunately, modern Indian pharmacologists have devised a way to extract the active components in the resins and leave the toxic substances behind. The result is the standardized extract called gugulipid. Although not currently available in Australia and New Zealand, it may already be obtainable from some practitioners.
What it does?
The active ingredients in gugulipid, known as guggulsterones, appear to affect the metabolism of fat and cholesterol. They also have recognized anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
If you have high blood cholesterol levels, you are at increased risk of developing coronary heart disease. Studies suggest that gugulipid can lower these levels. It is the guggulsterones, in particular, that seem to stimulate the liver to break down potentially harmful LDL cholesterol. In addition, gugulipid sometimes elevates the levels of protective HDL cholesterol. A study of 205 people in India found that gugulipid, in combination with a low-fat diet, reduced total cholesterol by an average of 24% in more than three-quarters of the participants. In another study comparing the efficacy of gugulipid with hthat of clofibrate (a prescription cholesterol-lowering medication), total cholesterol dropped by 11% in the gugulipid group and by 10% in the clofibrate group. In addition, HDL ('good') cholesterol levels increased on average in nearly two-thirds of those taking gugulipid, whereas no change in HDL was seen in those using clofibrate.
In animal studies, gugulipid has been shown to prevent the formation of artery-blocking plaque, and even to help reverse existing plaque. In addition, it inhibits blood platelets from sticking together, and thus may protect against blood clots, which often trigger heart attacks.
Studies lend support to two of the traditional uses for guggul; to treat arthritis and obesity. Results from animal studies indicate that the anti-inflammatory action of guggulsterones may be as powerful as that of over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen, making it useful in treating arthritis. This action suggests that gugulipid may also be effective for acne; in fact, one study showed it had a beneficial effect on this condition.
There is some evidence that gugulipid stimulates the production of thyroid hormones, increasing the rate at which the body burns kilo joules. In one small study, Indian researchers reported that in overweight patients, gugulipid supplements sparked significant weight loss. Much of the weight loss came from a reduction in fat around the abdomen, which is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. Any effective long-term weight control program, of course, must be based on a low-fat, high-fibre diet and a regular exercise program.
- Helps to lower high blood cholesterol and high blood triglycerides.
- Reduces heart disease risk.
- Treats arthritis inflammation.
- May aid weight loss.
- Never use the crude gum guggul, or guggulu, which can cause rashes, diarrhoea, stomach pain and loss of appetite. Opt for standardized gugulipid instead.
- Pregnant women should not use gugulipid.
- Reminder: If you have a medical condition, talk to your doctor before taking supplements.
How to take it?
To lower cholesterol, take a supplement that supplies 25 mg of guggulsterones per dose, three times a day.
Guidelines for use:
Take gugulipid with or without meals. Pregnant women should avoid gugulipid. It should be used with caution by those with liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease or diarrhoea.
Possible side effects
Rarely, gugulipid may cause minor gastrointestinal problems, such as mild nausea, wind or hiccups. In a few cases, headaches have also been reported.
Gugulipid may act as an antioxidant with heart-protective qualities. Because LDL cholesterol is harmful when it's been damaged by unstable oxygen molecules called free radicals, protecting LDL from oxidation may help to prevent heart disease. In a study of 61 patients with high cholesterol levels, 31 were given gugulipid (100 mg of guggulsterones a day) and 30 took a placebo. After 24 weeks, those taking gugulipid had 13% drop in LDL cholesterol and a 12% drop in triglycerides, whereas the placebo group experienced no change. Furthermore, the researchers found that the susceptibility of LDL cholesterol to free-radical damage declined by a third in the gugulipid group, but there was no change in the placebo group.
Did you know?
As early as 600 BC, Ayurvedic physicians in India described a disease marked by the overeating of fatty goods, lack of exercise, an impaired metabolism, and the 'coating and obstruction of channels'. They called it 'medoroga'. (Today, it's known as atherosclerosis.) To treat it they used guggul, a precursor of gugulipid.