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Guggul: An Ayurvedic Herb for A Healthy Life
According to Ayurveda, guggul is a powerful kapha/spring-balancing herb that supports the body’s ability to detoxify. It is known as a ‘scraping’ or lekhana herb, suggesting that it attaches to fat-soluble toxins and escorts them out of the body. As the lion’s share of the 67 tons of environmental toxins dumped into our atmosphere each year is fat-soluble, guggul may play an important role in supporting the body’s natural detox channels. Guggul’s role in encouraging fat metabolism, weight management, and detoxification only scratches the surface of the abilities of this unique herb that Ayurvedic doctors could not be in practice without.
Is Guggul Right for You?
Guggul balances vata, pitta, and kapha, making it one of the few tridoshic herbs. A tridoshic herb means that it can be used for all body types in all seasons. The one caveat is that using guggul in excess can increase pitta. This means if you are a pitta body type in the pitta season (summer) with a penchant for pitta-aggravating alcohol, spicy food, or coffee, guggul would not be the ideal choice for you. This herb is best taken in the fall, winter, and spring as it is good for detoxifying kapha and balancing vata.
Guggul is known for its ability to detoxify stagnant kapha and toxins lodged in the deep tissues while offering deep rejuvenation to vata and the nervous system. The active ingredient is thought to be the guggulsterone (a plant steroid), although many Ayurvedic practitioners believe that it is the whole plant (and all of its constituents together) that explain its impressive resume. Because guggul is a heavy, warm herb, at LifeSpa we combine it with amalaki and shilajit. These are two herbs that lighten guggul’s properties and boost its ability to be quickly assimilated by the body.
The Many Benefits of Guggul
- Support Joint Health
- Support Healthy Weight Management
- Support Healthy Cholesterol Levels
- Support Healthy Liver and Gall Bladder Function
- Support Thyroid Health
- Support Skin Health
Guggul May Support Joint Health
Guggul has been linked to healthy joint function—specifically, higher levels of collagen and protein in the cartilage of aging knees. In one study on guggul, the group of participants with higher blood levels of guggulsterone (the plant steroid found in the resin of the guggul plant) also had thicker cartilage and higher bone density.
In another study, 30 adult females with knee stiffness took 500 mg of guggul 3 times per day for one month. They saw a significant reduction in stiffness and increased endurance (measured by the ability to walk greater distances, compared to testing before supplementing guggul).
Guggul May Support Successful Weight Management
As one of Ayurveda’s most revered kapha-balancing herbs for boosting fat burning, guggul has been studied to support healthy weight management. In a test tube study, guggul was shown to support lipolysis (the breakdown of fat cells), suggesting that it may support healthy fat metabolism. It was also indicated in another study that it has the ability to reduce kapha by naturally reducing food intake.
In an older study, 58 weight management patients with a BMI of over 25 were divided into two groups. The first group ate a low-calorie diet of 1200-1600 kcal per day and took a brisk 30-minute daily walk. The second group did the same, but they also received guggul supplementation (500mg 3x/day) for 30 days. While both groups lost weight, the guggul group lost 2.25 kgs more weight than the first group, suggesting that the combination of diet, exercise, and supplemental guggul may support healthy weight management.
In another study, after 15 days of taking guggul, participants found their food intake was reduced suggesting that it may reduce the stomach’s hunger hormone, ghrelin. It may also support healthy levels of glucose, triglycerides, serotonin, and dopamine.
Guggul May Support Healthy Cholesterol Levels
In a double-blind, randomized study, researchers separated 61 patients into two groups and monitored them for 24 weeks. Both groups ate a primarily plant-based diet. The first group was given 50 mg of guggulipid extract twice daily while the other group was given a placebo. Compared to the placebo group, the group that took guggulipid showed decreased total cholesterol levels that were already in the normal range.
Guggul has also been shown in numerous studies to block the farnesoid x receptor, which reduces kapha by balancing healthy cholesterol levels (within the normal range) and bile acids.
Finally, in another study, guggul supplementation was linked to a decrease in lipid peroxidation (a toxin-producing process that causes the oxidation or aging of the liver and fats in the liver).
Guggul May Support Healthy Liver + Gall Bladder Function
The tree resin of guggul is tapped from November to May (winter-spring), making it both balancing for vata in the winter and kapha in the spring. Guggulsterone has been found to boost healthy liver and gall bladder function by supporting the bile salt export pump, which is a detoxing transporter of old and congested cholesterol and bile acids from the liver. A breakdown of this pump, along with toxic and processed food, is linked to a condition traditionally called “black bile,” which has been connected to melancholy, weight gain, lack of vigor, and moodiness.
Guggul May Support Proper Thyroid Function
It is understood that most harmful chemicals in our environment are fat-soluble, and the body’s ability to rid itself of them requires good fat metabolism, which research shows can be supported by guggul supplementation.
Fat-soluble chemicals are hazardous to the heart and the arteries, as well as the thyroid – which may be the most chemical-sensitive organ of all. In research situations where people were exposed to oxidizing chemicals, people supplementing guggul saw a significant increase in the natural production of important antioxidants, including glutathione, super-oxide dismutase, catalase, and lipid peroxidase in the arteries of the heart. The guggul-supplemented group also saw an increased concentration of thyroid hormone (T3) and enhanced T3/T4 ratios.
Guggul has also been found to support healthy thyroid function in mice by increasing the liver and thyroid-protecting enzymes superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase (CAT). In another study, guggul supported healthy iodine uptake by the thyroid. It also stimulated the activity of thyroid peroxidase and protease (which support the thyroid’s natural detoxification processes).
Guggul May Support Healthy Skin
Perhaps the most unsung benefit of guggul is its ability to improve the appearance of the skin. In one study, participants who supplemented guggul saw a boost of the elastin protein within their skin by more than 50% (compared to participants who did not supplement guggul). In a study previously mentioned, guggul supplementation provided a boost in collagen production. In another study, 20 patients with blemishes were given a 25mg extract of guggul twice per day for 3 months. They experienced a 68% reduction in blemishes! The researchers also found that patients with oily skin responded better to the guggul than those with dry skin, suggesting that the guggul has a strong anti-Kapha effect even on the skin.
To access guggul’s great benefits, take 1 capsule of LifeSpa’s Guggul Lean three times per day after meals (or as directed by your health care practitioner). As stated above, it is best to take guggul with other herbs to boost absorption, such as Dr. John’s suggestion of shilajit, amalaki, and black pepper.