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Guggul, the sticky gum resin from the mukul myrrh tree, plays a major role in Ayurveda , the traditional herbal medicine of India. It was traditionally combined with other herbs for the treatment of arthritis, skin diseases, pains in the nervous system, obesity, digestive problems, infections in the mouth, and menstrual problems.
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Guggul?
Three double-blind studies performed in India found evidence that guggul can reduce cholesterol levels. However, the largest placebo-controlled study failed to find benefit.
One of the positive placebo-controlled studies enrolled 61 individuals and followed them for 24 weeks. 1 After 12 weeks of following a healthy diet, half the participants received placebo and the other half received guggul at a dose providing 100 mg of guggulsterones daily. The results after 24 weeks of treatment showed that the treated group experienced an 11.7% decrease in total cholesterol, along with a 12.7% decrease in LDL ("bad" cholesterol), a 12% decrease in triglycerides, and an 11.1% decrease in the total cholesterol/HDL ("good" cholesterol) ratio. These improvements were significantly greater than what was seen in the placebo group.
Similar results were seen in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 40 individuals. 2 A double-blind study of 228 individuals given either guggul or the standard drug clofibrate found approximately equal efficacy between the two treatments. 3 However, the absence of a placebo group makes these results less than reliable.
In contrast to these results, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 103 people failed to find guggul effective at a dose of 75 mg or 150 mg of guggulsterones daily. 4 In fact, the herb seemed to worsen levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol. The reason for this discrepancy is not clear.
A small controlled trial compared oral gugulipid (50 mg of guggulsterones twice daily) against tetracycline for the treatment of acne and reported equivalent results. 5 Unfortunately, the study report does not state whether this trial was double-blind, and it also lacked a placebo group. (For information on why this matters, see Why Does This Database Rely on Double-blind Studies? )
Guggul is manufactured in a standardized form that provides a fixed amount of guggulsterones, the presumed active ingredients in guggul. The typical daily dose should provide 100 mg of guggulsterones.
- Singh RB, Niaz MA, Ghosh S. Hypolipidemic and antioxidant effects of Commiphora mukul as an adjunct to dietary therapy in patients with hypercholesterolemia. Cardiovasc Drugs Ther. 1994;8:659-664.
- Verma SK, Bordia A. Effect of Commiphora mukul (gum guggulu) in patients of hyperlipidemia with special reference to HDL-cholesterol. Indian J Med Res. 87():356-60.
- Nityanand S, Srivastava JS, Asthana OP. Clinical trials with gugulipid. A new hypolipidaemic agent. J Assoc Physicians India. 37(5):323-8.
- 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. 290(6):765-72.
- Thappa DM, Dogra J. Nodulocystic acne: oral gugulipid versus tetracycline. J Dermatol. 21(10):729-31.