Guggul extract is a purified form of gum resin derived from a small thorny tree, called Commiphora mukul. It is commonly found in the semi-arid plains of India. The guggul extract, also called guggulolipid, is used in the treatment of a wide range of diseases and is a component of many weight loss supplements. It is considered as an effective herbal drug in treating heart disease and arthritis, and in controlling obesity and lowering cholesterol.
The medicinal properties of guggul are chiefly attributed to the steroid compound guggulosterone present in the resin. Guggul extract is believed to play an important role in controlling atherosclerosis. Guggul reduces the low density lipoproteins (LDL) in the bloodstream.
Atherosclerosis, which is a condition where the blood vessels become thickened, occurs due to the accumulation of fat or cholesterol in the vessels. Cholesterol, which is insoluble in water, is naturally transported through the blood by the LDL. Excess intake of fat leads the LDL to react with the oxygen free radicals present in the blood. This damages the artery walls, triggering a series of immune reactions by the body. The body subsequently responds to the damage in the arteries by releasing white blood cells to absorb the oxidized LDL.
White blood cells and platelets are generally incapable of absorbing these LDL molecules, so they expand and burst, depositing more cholesterol on the artery walls. This deposition of cholesterol inside the arteries leads to the narrowing of blood vessels and can result in high blood pressure. This is considered as a major cause of stroke, heart attack, and most cardiovascular diseases.
Guggul extract is believed to bring down the platelet stickiness considerably by reducing the amount of cholesterol deposits in the body. This is done by converting the cholesterol into bile acids and allowing it to be excreted from the body. Guggul extract blocks the activity of a protein, FXR, that inhibits the conversion of cholesterol in the liver to bile. Blocking of the FXR leads to the rapid conversion of cholesterol to bile.
Guggulosterone also stimulates the thyroid gland and increases the metabolism. Though guggul extract is more widely used for its cholesterol reducing and weight control properties, gugullolipid has also been proven to be effective in the control of rheumatoid arthritis and related inflammation. It is widely used in the treatment of nodulocystic acne, excema, and other skin diseases, too. Guggul extract should be taken with caution by those under medication for heart diseases, liver disorders, and irritable bowel syndrome.