Guggul Benefits and Side Effects
Guggul (gum guggul) is a resin produced by the mukul mirth tree. Its active ingredients are plant sterols,
guggulsterones E and Z; collectively known as guggulipid. Guggul was traditionally believed to benefit
people suffered from asthma, bleeding, cold symptoms, colitis, diabetes, gingivitis, hemorrhoids, mouth
infections, nerve pain, pain, psoriasis, sore throat and sores in India. However, scientific evidence is very
limited for these uses.
Guggul benefits - Guggulsterone
Recently, researchers at Lilly Research Laboratories have found guggulsterone could behave as an
antagonist of androgen which may contribute health benefits:
The hypolipidemic natural product guggulsterone is a promiscuous steroid receptor ligand. Mol
Pharmacol. 2005 Mar;67(3):948-54. Epub 2004 Dec 15. Burris TP et al. Lilly Research Laboratories, IN
Guggulsterone behaved as antagonists of androgen, glucocorticoid, and MR, but as agonists of
progesterone receptors. Agonist activity was also demonstrated with estrogen receptor (ER) alpha;
however, the potency was very low (EC50 > 5000 nM). In addition, GS displayed activity in functional
assays in cell lines expressing endogenous androgen, glucocorticoid, estrogen receptor, and
progesterone receptors. These data suggest that the variety of pharmacological effects exhibited by GS
may be mediated by targeting several steroid receptors.
Guggul Benefits - Cholesterol
Guggulsterone (7) and cembranoids (8-12) from Commiphora mukul stem bark resin guggul were shown
to be specific modulators of two independent sites that are also modulated by bile salts (1-6) to control
cholesterol absorption and catabolism. Guggulsterone (7) antagonized the chenodeoxycholic acid
(3)-activated nuclear farnesoid X receptor (FXR), which regulates cholesterol metabolism in the liver. On
the other hand, the cembranoids lowered the cholate (1)-activated rate of human pancreatic IB
phospholipase A2 (hPLA2), which controls gastrointestinal absorption of fat and cholesterol.
Since cholesterol homeostasis in mammals is regulated by FXR in the liver for metabolism and by PLA2 in
the intestine for absorption, modulation of PLA2 and FXR by bile acids and selected guggul components
suggests novel possibilities for hypolipidemic and hypocholesterolemic therapies. [A5]
As discussed, guggul may benefit people suffered from high cholesterol and obesity. However, Ulbricht C
and coworkers at Massachusetts General Hospital reviewed a few articles and concluded that the effects
of guggul were unclear and the results from various studies were conflicting. They stated that those
studies with positive results (i.e. showing benefits of cholesterol-lowering) were small and methodologically
flawed in their review article. 
Guggul Benefits - Cardiovascular events
Guggulsterone has also been found to potently inhibit the activation of nuclear factor-kappaB
(NF-kappaB), a critical regulator of inflammatory responses. Such repression of NF-kappaB activation by
guggulsterone has been proposed as a mechanism of the antiinflammatory effect of guggulsterone. [A4]
Guggul Thyroid Relationship
Guggul has been marketed as an agent which is able to lower cholesterol and triglycerides and to
stimulate thyroid activity, while the traditional uses of guggul include treatment of arthritis, obesity and
some other disorders. It seems that it has lots of health benefits. Thus, I attempted to search articles on
how guggul affects our thyroid gland.
There are extremely limited studies about how guggul benefits on our thyroid gland. A research group
from University of Oslo, Norway studied on the efficacy of a guggul-based formulation on blood lipids in
subjects with a moderately high cholesterol level. After dosing with 2160mg guggul for 12 weeks, mean
levels of total cholesterol and HDL-C in the active group were significantly reduced compared with the
placebo group. However, the mean levels of LDL-C, triglycerides, and total cholesterol/HDL-C ratio
between the two groups did not change significantly. [A1]
Further, 10 guggul users (vs. four in the placebo group) reported side effects: mild gastrointestinal
discomfort (n=7), possible thyroid problems (n=2), and generalized skin rash (n=1). The latter resulted in
withdrawal from trial. [A1]
This study does not illustrates the cause-effect relationship between intake of guggul and thyroid issues,
nor how guggul benefits the thyroid grand, but it does demonstrates the potential issue caused by guggul
on our thyroid gland.
Guggulsterone is a key ingredient of guggul. I found a report about guggulsterone's thyroid stimulating
action in an animal study. The isolated ketosteroid showed a strong thyroid stimulatory action when
administered to albino rats. Its administration (1 mg/100 g body weight) brought about an increase in
iodine-uptake by thyroid and enhanced activities of thyroid peroxidase and protease as well as oxygen
consumption by isolated slices of liver and biceps muscle. [A2]
More studies are needed to conclude how guggul affects our thyroid activities.
SIDE EFFECTS OF GUGGUL
Guggul side effects include allergies, skin rash, stomach discomfort, including diarrhea, nausea, vomiting,
hiccup or burping.  It should be avoided in pregnant or breat-feeding women and in children.
Many people are struggling with weight loss; they have tried many methods. Fat burners are marketed as
agents to raise metabolism, burn more calories and hasten fat loss. Some supplements may be free of
side effects, while some are linked to serious adverse side effects. A case has just reported (2011 Mar) a
weight loss supplement associated with severe hepatotoxicity. The report describes a young healthy
woman who presented with fulminant hepatic failure requiring emergent liver transplantation caused by a
dietary supplement and fat burner containing usnic acid, green tea and guggul tree extracts. Thorough
investigation, the doctors could not find other cause of hepatotoxicity. [A3] It is unknown if the cause is
related to individual ingredient, or its impurities or the formula as a whole. Users must consult with their
medical doctors before taking any supplement, especially weight-loss supplement.
References Szapary PO et al. Guggulipid for the treatment of hypercholesterolemia: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA
2003;290(6):765-772. Singh RP et al. Use of Pushkar-Guggul, an indigenous antiischemic combination, in the
management of ischemic heart disease. Int J Pharm 1993;31(2):147-160. Antonio J, Colker CM, Torina GC, et al. Effects of
a standardized guggulsterone phosphate supplement on body composition in overweight adults: a pilot study. Curr Ther
Res 1999;60:220-227. Bhatt AD et al. Conceptual and methodologic challenges of assessing the short-term efficacy of
guggulu in obesity: data emergent from a naturalistic clinical trial. J Postgrad Med 1995;41(1):5-7. Bianchi A et al.
Rhabdomyolysis caused by Commiphora mukul, a natural lipid-lowering agent. Ann Pharmacother 2004;Jul-Aug,
38(7-8):1222-1225. Gaur SP et al. Gugulipid, a new hypolipidaemic agent, in patients of acute ischaemic stroke: effect on
clinical outcome, platelet function and serum lipids. Asia Pacif J Pharm 1997;12:65-69. Singh BB et al. Usefulness of
guggul (Commiphora mukul) for osteoarthritis of the knee: an experimental case study. Altern Ther Health Med
2001;7(2):120, 112-114. Singh RB et al Hypolipidemic and antioxidant effects of Commiphora mukul as an adjunct to
dietary therapy in patients with hypercholesterolemia. Cardiovasc Drugs Ther 1994;8(4):659-664. [A1] Nohr LA,
Rasmussen LB, Straand J. Resin from the mukul myrrh tree, guggul, can it be used for treating hypercholesterolemia? A
randomized, controlled study. Complement Ther Med. 2009 Jan;17(1):16-22. Epub 2008 Aug 15. [A2] Tripathi YB, Malhotra
OP, Tripathi SN. Thyroid Stimulating Action of Z-Guggulsterone Obtained from Commiphora mukul. Planta Med. 1984
Feb;50(1):78-80.  Ulbricht C et al, Guggul for hyperlipidemia: a review by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration.
Complement Ther Med. 2005 Dec;13(4):270-90. Epub 2005 Sep 23. [A3] Yellapu RK, Mittal V, Grewal P, Fiel M, Schiano T.,
Acute liver failure caused by 'fat burners' and dietary supplements: a case report and literature review. Can J Gastroenterol.
2011 Mar;25(3):157-60. [A4] Deng R. Therapeutic effects of guggul and its constituent guggulsterone: cardiovascular
benefits. Cardiovasc Drug Rev. 2007 Winter;25(4):375-90. [A5] Yu BZ, Kaimal R, Bai S, El Sayed KA, Tatulian SA, Apitz RJ,
Jain MK, Deng R, Berg OG. Effect of guggulsterone and cembranoids of Commiphora mukul on pancreatic phospholipase
A(2): role in hypocholesterolemia. J Nat Prod. 2009 Jan;72(1):24-8.
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