When seeking healthy cholesterol levels, we often overlook factors like stress, poor digestion, and sluggish lymphatic drainage. Instead, we focus only on removing the cholesterol from the blood, or eating foods with less cholesterol.
Using a drug or herb to remove cholesterol from the blood may decrease cardiovascular risk, but doesn’t address how the cholesterol became high in the first place.
There is an Ayurvedic herb that has been shown to support healthy LDL (low density lipoprotein) levels, (1) support weight loss, (3) joint health, (4) and thyroid function. (5)
Stress – The Silent Killer
Stress causes the body to produce stress-fighting hormones, which are actually made from cholesterol. The more stress you are under, the more your liver is required to use cholesterol to make these stress-fighting hormones.
While these stress hormones keep you alive, they are also toxic and degenerative, partly because they create damaging free radical waste products, such as lipid peroxides. These lipid peroxides oxidize and damage the LDLs, which carry cholesterols and triglycerides through the arteries into the cells. These oxidized fats (LDLs) may be responsible for much of the arterial damage that is so chronic today.
Reducing stress and free radicals from the blood may be a viable approach to healthy cholesterol levels.
Stress Stores Fat
Stress also interferes with the body’s natural ability to burn and detoxify fat. As stress forces the body to store toxic fat, we may gain weight, get stiff joints, unstable moods, and out of balance cholesterol.
Fat is a stable and long-lasting fuel. Without it, stress levels continue to rise, the adrenals work overtime, and eventually the thyroid may be forced to up-regulate and boost energy into a tired body. Soon the thyroid may fatigue, metabolism slows, blood sugar de-stabilizes and, again, cholesterol levels may rise.
Guggul: An Ayurvedic Herb
Perhaps the most famous Ayurvedic herb known for cholesterol and supporting a healthy stress response is Commiphora mukul, more commonly known as Guggul. It is a small, thorny tree that produces a yellow resin in its stem. This resin is rich in extremely active guggulsterones. Traditionally, Guggul was most popular for supporting healthy weight and stress. (6)
Guggul Supports Thyroid Function
Ayurvedically, obesity has often been linked to sluggish thyroid function. Guggul has been found to support the thyroid’s uptake of iodine, healthy thyroid function and healthy fat metabolism. (5) For this reason, I always consider Guggul for the thyroid.
Guggul Supports Healthy Detoxification of Fat Cells
For millennia, Ayurvedic physicians have understood that the body stores fat-soluble chemicals, such as heavy metals, preservatives and pesticides in the fat cells for years. Guggul was traditionally used to support healthy detoxification, support thyroid function, and support joint function. (4, 5) Guggul is still used for joint health.
Support Healthy Cholesterol Levels Naturally
In another study, when treated with 500mg of Guggul for 12 weeks, support for healthy cholesterol (24% average) and serum triglycerides (23% average) was observed in 80% of patients. (9)
In the same study, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (also known as HDL and “the good cholesterol”), which takes cholesterol away from the arteries, was supported in 60% of the patients on gugulipid therapy. (9)
How Guggul Works
The results suggest that guggulsterones may support healthy oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Guggulsterones may slow the formation of hydroxyl radicals, which is a potent type of free radical that attacks cell membranes. (2)
In addition, stress may cause the body’s lymphatic system to become sluggish. This may cause the blood to become more viscous, cholesterol levels to rise, and platelets to start clumping together. (10) Guggul may decrease the stickiness of platelets.
In one other study, guggulsterones were found to support healthy cellular replication and apoptosis (healthy death of abnormal cells). (11)
Clearly, this very powerful herb is just beginning to be understood in the West.
How to Use Guggul
Because of Guggul’s multi-faceted therapeutic range, it can interact with medications at high dosages. To be safe, use low dosages and do not use this while on other medications until consulting with your doctor.
Note: While there are many studies that show significant support for healthy cholesterol with Guggul, it should be mentioned that some studies do not show these same benefits. Personally, I feel that any cholesterol-lowering regime must be accompanied by dietary changes, exercise, and, of course, improving one’s digestive function. The lack of such a comprehensive approach to healthy weight and healthy cholesterol may explain these varied results.