Benefits, Dosage, Side Effects, and More


Guggul is the gum resin obtained from a variety of plants native to India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

Some of the major species include Commiphora wightii, Commiphora gileadensis, Commiphora mukul, Boswellia serrata, and Boswellia sacra. All species are a part of the Burseraceae family, also known as the incense family.

Guggul sap, also referred to as guggul, gum guggul, guggula, or gugulipid, is tapped from the plants similarly to how maple syrup is extracted from maple trees.

Guggul has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine, a holistic, plant-derived medical system, to treat various health conditions, such as obesity, arthritis, and inflammation (1).

Guggul contains a mixture of plant compounds, including steroids, essential oils, lignans, flavonoids, carbohydrates, and amino acids — all of which may be responsible for its various health effects.

Purported to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, it has been used in ancient medicine to protect against a variety of diseases.

Guggul is praised for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Preliminary research suggests it may help treat certain anti-inflammatory conditions, such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, and arthritis.

It has also been used to promote weight loss, treat hypothyroidism, and manage cholesterol and blood sugar levels (2).

However, clinical studies supporting all of these benefits and uses are generally limited. Here’s what research says about these claims.

Acne

Guggul has been studied for its potential to treat acne.

It has been shown to be effective in both complementary and alternative treatments for nodulocystic acne, a severe form of acne affecting the face, chest, and back (3).

One dated study in 21 people found that taking 25 mg of guggulsterone orally was as effective as tetracycline, an antibiotic commonly used to treat acne (4).

Additionally, people with notably oily skin responded significantly better to guggulsterone than the tetracycline treatment (4).

Another older study found that taking guggul orally for 6 weeks helped treat acne without causing any major adverse effects (5).

Although the results from these studies seem promising, more up-to-date research is warranted before strong conclusions can be made.

Eczema, psoriasis, and skin irritation

Eczema and psoriasis are both noncontagious skin conditions that are mainly caused by inflammation of the skin.

Most of the research on guggul’s ability to treat these and other skin irritations has investigated the effects of guggul extracted from the Boswellia serrata plant (2).

Guggul-based creams have been shown to improve itchiness, redness or skin discoloration, and inflammation in people with psoriasis and eczema (6).

A recent study also found that a guggul-based cream treated skin reactions that occurred as a side effect of radiotherapy treatment for breast cancer.

It found that the guggul-based cream improved skin symptoms, such as redness, inflammation, tenderness, and pain, as well as reduced the need for topical steroid creams for treatment (7).

Still, research is limited, and more studies are needed to confirm guggul’s purported benefits for skin health.

Hypothyroidism

Thyroid disorders are relatively common, especially among women (8).

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormones to keep your body running normally.

Animal studies, some of which are dated, suggest that guggul extracts improve hypothyroidism by increasing iodine uptake and improving the activity of enzymes produced by the thyroid gland (2, 9, 10).

One human study investigated the management of hypothyroidism employing Triphladya Guggulu tablets and a Punarnavadi Kashayam decoction.

Results showed that this treatment significantly improved signs and symptoms associated with hypothyroidism, such as weakness, fatigue, and muscle aches (11).

Yet, human studies are limited. Ultimately, more research is warranted before steadfast conclusions can be made regarding this topic.

Weight loss

Guggul is often claimed to help treat obesity by promoting fat loss and suppressing appetite. However, very little high quality evidence exists to support its use for this purpose.

One test-tube study suggests guggul may promote weight loss by inducing the breakdown of fat, thus reducing the volume of fatty tissue (12).

Another rat study found that guggul had positive effects on the appetite-regulating hormones ghrelin and leptin. However, it’s unclear whether these effects would apply to humans (13).

One older human study in 58 people with obesity noted that guggul promoted 5 pounds (2.25 kg) of additional weight loss, on average, compared with the non-treated group (14).

Additional studies have shown that herbal supplements containing guggul extract may help treat obesity by promoting weight loss and reducing both skinfold thickness and body circumference.

Although the results of these studies seem promising, they don’t examine the effects of guggul specifically on weight loss.

Ultimately, further research is warranted to confirm the link between guggul and weight loss.

Hyperlipidemia

Guggul is a popular natural treatment for hyperlipidemia, which is the medical term for abnormally high cholesterol and triglycerides levels.

Some animal research indicates that guggul may help reduce triglyceride, total cholesterol, and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels (15, 16).

However, the effects of guggul on cholesterol and triglyceride levels in humans remains unclear.

While some studies have found that guggul has cholesterol-lowering effects, other research suggests no significant benefits (17).

In fact, guggul may even raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in adults with hypercholesterolemia, though the research supporting this is dated (18).

Nevertheless, more research is needed to understand the effect of guggul on cholesterol levels in humans.

Osteoarthritis

Early research suggests guggul may alleviate symptoms associated with osteoarthritis.

One older study in 30 people with knee osteoarthritis who were treated with guggul showed improvements in knee pain and knee swelling, as well as increased knee flexion (19).

Additionally, those treated with guggul increased their walking distance (19).

Another older human study confirmed similar findings. Though additional studies are warranted, guggul appears to help treat osteoarthritis in humans without any significant side effects (20).

Diabetes

You may come across claims online about guggul’s purported ability to lower blood sugar and manage diabetes.

However, recent evidence is lacking, and much of the research on guggul and its effect on blood sugar levels was conducted in animals (21).

Additionally, one recent double-blind, placebo-controlled study found guggul statistically ineffective at lowering blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes (22).

More research is needed to determine what effect, if any, guggul has on blood sugar control in humans.

Guggul is considered relatively safe when taken at the typically recommended dose.

Mild side effects may include skin rash, diarrhea, mild nausea, hiccups, and irregular menstrual cycles (23).

Furthermore, when taken in high doses, guggul has been linked to liver damage. For this reason, it’s recommended that people with liver disease exercise caution when using guggul (1, 24, 25).

Due to the lack of human studies regarding the safety and efficacy of guggul, you may experience some side effects that have not been widely reported.

If you have any concerns, consult your healthcare provider.

Guggul supplements are available in a wide range of forms, including capsules, extracts, powders, and lotions, which can be found online or in some health food and supplement stores.

Dosage recommendations vary drastically amongst brands and products. Typically, oral supplement dosages range from 6.25–132 mg per day (25).

Dosage guidance is typically based on the amount of active guggulsterone, a plant steroid, that’s present in the guggul extract or supplement.

Guggul may also be sold in combination with other natural herbs or extracts.

Due to a lack of research, there’s no available recommendation on the most beneficial dose for guggul.

As a rule of thumb, follow the dosing instructions on the back of your supplement packaging and only take guggul if your healthcare provider has recommended it to you.

It’s currently unknown what dosage of guggul would cause an overdose, as well as what effects would occur in the event of one.

Over-the-counter dosages of guggul appear to be relatively safe, as long as they’re taken as directed on the packaging.

Due to a lack of evidence, there’s little to no information on the toxicity or potential detrimental effects of larger doses in humans (1).

Guggul may increase how fast your liver metabolizes some medications.

Taking guggul along with medications that are metabolized by liver enzymes may decrease the effectiveness of these medications (24).

Due to guggul’s effect on estrogen receptors, it may also interact with hormonal medications, such as birth control pills or hormonal medications used to prevent estrogen-sensitive cancers, such as breast cancer (26, 27).

Older studies have noted that guggul decreases the absorption of certain blood pressure medications, such as propranolol and diltiazem. Therefore, taking guggul in conjunction with these medications may decrease the drugs’ effectiveness (28).

Guggul may have additional drug or herbal interactions that have not yet been studied.

As with any supplement, if you’re currently taking medications, consult your healthcare provider before starting to take guggul.

Guggul supplements, lotions, extracts, and powders should be stored in their original containers at room temperature in a cool, dry place.

Avoid exposing the product to light, heat, and moisture.

It has been documented that guggul may act as a uterine stimulant, potentially causing uterine contractions and premature labor (1, 29).

This has led researchers to recommend that pregnant and breastfeeding women avoid guggul (17).

Generally, guggul is safe for most populations that are not pregnant or breastfeeding.

Some older evidence suggests that guggul may decrease blood clotting ability. Therefore, those with bleeding disorders, as well as people undergoing surgery or taking medications that affect blood clotting, should avoid its use (30).

Due to guggul’s possible effect on estrogen and progesterone receptors, those with hormone-sensitive cancers, such as breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer, may need to avoid its use as well (26).

Additionally, people with liver disease should be cautious when using guggul, as high doses have been linked to liver damage.

There’s limited research regarding the use of guggul in children and adolescents. Therefore, supplementation in this population should be avoided unless it’s directed by a healthcare professional.

Some alternative Ayurvedic supplements may provide benefits similar to those of guggul, including Triphala and brahmi.

Triphala is a polyherbal medicine consisting of amla, bibhitaki, and haritaki — three dried fruits from plants native to India.

Animal studies show that Triphala may also have anti-inflammatory properties and reduce inflammation caused by arthritis (31, 32).

Meanwhile, brahmi is another Ayurvedic herb native to Eastern India.

It may also have strong anti-inflammatory properties similar to those of guggul. However, research is limited to dated animal and test-tube studies (33, 34, 35).



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