Gum Guggul–New Benefits for Heart Health from an Age-Old Herb
|Guggul – New Benefits for Heart Health||Darrell Miller||05/11/05|
May 11, 2005 09:00 PM
Author: Darrell Miller (email@example.com)
Subject: Guggul – New Benefits for Heart Health
Gum Guggul–New Benefits for Heart Health from an Age-Old Herbby Richard Conant, L.Ac., C.N.
The 1990's have seen a growing interest in herbs from India's ancient Ayurvedic tradition. One Ayurvedic herb in particular, "gum guggul," stands at the forefront, thanks to its rather remarkable benefits for the heart and cardiovascular health. A relative of myrrh and frankincense, gum guggul is a resin tapped from India's Commiphora mukul tree. Known more commonly in the Far East as simply "guggul," the herb has proven to be one of the most effective natural cholesterol-lowering agents ever discovered. Cholesterol reductions with guggul can be twenty percent or higher, and the herb also raises HDL, the more beneficial form of cholesterol. Studies also show guggul may help prevent atherosclerosis, by retarding the formation of fatty, cholesterol-laden deposits in blood vessel tissues.
Recent research on guggul has revealed that guggul also blocks the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, by acting as an antioxidant. LDL, which carries cholesterol from the liver to the rest of the body, is generally regarded as a key element in the development of atherosclerosis. But only when it is oxidized by free radicals does LDL accumulate in arteries. It its unoxidized or "native" state, LDL is more or less benign. Checking LDL oxidation is vital to keeping blood vessels free of plaque.1 (This is one of the major reasons why antioxidants are so important.) Guggul, by both lowering blood cholesterol and acting against LDL oxidation, now stands out as one of the world's most valuable herbs for heart health.
Guggul first caught the attention of the scientific world in1966, thanks to an Indian medical researcher who submitted a doctoral thesis on gum guggul.2 Her interest had been kindled by references to the herb in a centuries-old Ayurvedic text. Apparently, poor cardiovascular health and atherosclerosis were a problem back then just as they are today. Translated from Sanskrit, this text describes, in elegant detail, a condition called "coating and obstruction of channels." The cause, according to the ancient writers? Faulty metabolism due to overeating of fatty foods and lack of exercise. Death was said to be the end result of leaving this condition uncorrected. The recommended treatment plan emphasized diet and herbs, chiefly gum guggul.3
References to guggul in ancient literature actually go back even farther. The herb is mentioned in the Vedas, the holy scriptures of India believed to be anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 years old. One stanza is translated as follows: "Disease (consumption) does not afflict and the curse never affects whom the delicious odor of the healing Guggul penetrates (spreads). The diseases also flee away in all directions from him like horses and deer, O Gugulu! Either born from Sindhu or from the sea. I chant your name for the removal of diseases."3
Struck by the obvious similarity between "coating and obstruction of channels" and atherosclerosis, the Indian researcher decided to study gum guggul's effect on blood fats in rabbits. Over a two-year period, the animals were fed hydrogenated vegetable oil to artificially raise their cholesterol levels. Guggul was administered to one group of rabbits, while the rest served as controls. At the end of the study the rabbits given guggul had normal cholesterol and blood lipid levels. Their arteries showed no fatty streaks or plague deposits. This caught the attention of the Indian scientific community, and numerous clinical trials ensued, both on animals and humans. In study after study, guggul consistently produced substantial reductions in cholesterol and triglyceride levels, while raising HDL.
The active ingredients in guggul are a group of natural plant sterols. Among these, substances called "guggulsterones" are the most important ingredients for the cholesterol and blood fat lowering properties of guggul, with the other sterols acting as a synergistic supporting cast.4 A number of mechanisms are suggested, although not definitely proven, for how the herb works; these include reducing the synthesis of cholesterol in the liver, enhancing cholesterol removal from the gut, stimulating thyroid function and increasing the number of receptors in the liver for uptake of LDL.3,5
Guggul extracts are now standardized for guggulsterone content. The herb naturally contains about 2 percent guggulsterones. Quality extracts contain a minimum of 2.5 percent, which assures the user is getting a product potent enough to produce results. Since the late 1980's clinical trials have used the standardized extract.6,7,8 The product is readily available in the U.S.
The ability of guggulsterones to prevent oxidation of LDL was discovered in a 1997 study done by scientists at the Central Drug Research Institute in Lucknow, India.9 This study sheds light on how guggul works against "coating and obstruction of channels." Remember that oxidized LDL forms the plaque that coats and eventually obstructs blood vessels. The researchers mixed LDL from human blood with a free radical promoting agent, either alone or in combination with guggulsterones. Samples were then analyzed for the presence LDL oxidation byproducts. The results showed that guggulsterones strongly protect LDL from being oxidized. Guggulsterones block the formation of hydroxyl radicals, a potent type of free-radical that attacks cell membranes.
Guggulsterones may also help keep the heart muscle itself healthy. When the heart muscle is deprived of oxygen, a condition known as "myocardial ischemia," it can be severely damaged by free radicals. The body tries to counter this with SOD, a key enzyme present in cells that neutralizes free radicals. SOD levels are significantly reduced in damaged heart tissues. Guggulsterones have been found to reverse this decrease by more than two-fold.10
Like the writer of that age-old verse found in the Vedas, contemporary herbalists hold gum guggul in the highest regard. Backed as it is by scientific research linked to centuries of traditional use, gum guggul has a bright future as a natural resource for maintaining normal cholesterol and blood fats, and for protecting heart health.
1. Heinecke, J.W. Free radical modification of low density lipoprotein: mechanisms and biological consequences. Free Radical Biology & Medicine 1987;3:65-73.
2. Satyavati, G.V. Effect of an indigenous drug on disorders of lipid metabolism with special reference to atherosclerosis and obesity (Medoroga) M.D. thesis (Doctor of Ayurvedic Medicine). Banaras Hindu University, varanasi, 1966.
3. Satyavati, G. Gugulipid: a promising hypolipidaemic agent from gum guggul (Commiphora wightii). Economic and Medicinal Plant Research 1991;5:47-82.
4. Dev, S. A modern look at an age-old Ayurvedic drug-guggulu. Science Age July 1987:13-18.
5. Singh, V. et. al. Stimulation of low density lipoprotein receptor activity in liver membrane of guggulsterone treated rats. Pharmacological Research 1990;22(1):37-44.
6. Nityanand, S., Srivastava, J.S., Asthana, O.P. Clinical trials with gugulipid. J. Ass. Physicians of India 1989;37(5):323-28.
7. Agarwal, R.C. et. al. Clinical trial of gugulipid-a new hypolipidemic agent of plant origin in primary hyperlipidemia. Indian J Med Res 1986;84:626-34.
8. 'Gugulipid' Drugs of the Future 1988;13(7):618-619.
9. Singh, K., Chandler, R. Kapoor, N.K. Guggulsterone, a potent hypolipidaemic, prevents oxidation of low density lipoprotein. Phytotherapy Research 1997;11:291-94.
10. Kaul, S. Kapoor, N.K. Reversal of chnages of lipid peroxide, xanthine oxidase and superoxide dismutase by cardio-protective drugs in isoproterenol induced myocardial necrosis in rats. Indian Journal of Experimental Biology 1989;27:625-627.