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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.
Based on preliminary studies, guggul has become a popular herbal treatment for high cholesterol . 1 2 3 However, the best-designed trial failed to find benefit.
Other potential uses of guggul have no more than minimal supporting evidence. One small study hints that guggul might be helpful for acne . 4 In addition, a study in mice found potential anti-diabetic effects. 5 Recently, guggul has been promoted as a weight-loss agent. Supposedly, it works by enhancing thyroid function. However, there is little evidence that guggul actually affects the thyroid, and one small double-blind, placebo-controlled trial failed to find it effective for weight loss. 6
In clinical trials of standardized guggul extract, no significant side effects other than occasional mild gastrointestinal distress or allergic skin rashes have been seen. 7 Lab tests done in the course of these trials did not reveal any alterations in liver or kidney function, blood cell numbers and appearance, heart function, or blood chemistry.
Drugs in the statin family used to reduce cholesterol can cause a potentially serious condition called rhabdomyolysis, in which muscle fibers break down. One case report hints that this could occur with guggul, as well. 8 Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.