The Benefits of Guggulu
Guggul is the common name for the flowering mukul myrrh tree (Commiphora mukul). It is a small, thorny tree that is most commonly found in India, in the arid climates of states such as Rajasthan and Gujarat.1, 2 Guggul also refers to the resin formed from the sap of the guggul tree, which has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for over two thousand years.3 Guggul is known by the Sanskrit name “Guggulu,” which means, “protects from disease”4 and because Banyan tends to offer herbs according to their Sanskrit names, Guggul is offered as Guggulu. There are many varieties of guggul—each with different uses—determined in part by the color and age of the gum.1 It is said that the potency of guggul lasts 20 years.4 Guggul is a very important herb in the Ayurvedic tradition and while it is rarely taken by itself, an entire class of medicines has been built around the use of guggul.1 Banyan Botanicals carries several of these traditional Ayurvedic formulas, known as guggulus—compounds made from a base of purified guggul in a synergistic combination of other herbs.
Benefits of Guggul
- Promotes detoxification and rejuvenation*
- Purifies the blood*
- Helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels already within the normal range*
- Kindles agni (digestive fire)*
- Promotes healthy weight management*
- Supports comfortable movement of the joints*
- Is a natural source of antioxidants*
- Supports the immune system*
- Helps engender vibrant, healthy skin*
- Supports a regular menstrual cycle*
Guggul has very subtle and penetrating qualities and because of this is considered a yogavahi, meaning that it is often employed specifically to carry other substances deep into the tissues.1 Further, its combination with other herbs actually lends direction to its powerful detoxifying and rejuvenating qualities. Guggul pacifies vata, pitta, and kapha, though it is especially renowned for alleviating vata aggravations.1 In general, guggul has an affinity for all of the tissues in the body as well as the circulatory, digestive, nervous, and respiratory systems.1 Guggul is very scraping, which enables it to clear toxins from the tissues and channels while rejuvenating them.1 In fact, it is this scraping quality that gives guggul a number of its beneficial attributes.
Guggul and Cholesterol
Guggul has a remarkable ability to support balanced cholesterol levels.1 In Ayurveda, different parts of plants are seen to work on different tissues in the body. As we have seen, guggul is made from the sap of the mukul myrrh tree and sap has a strong connection with rakta dhatu (the blood).1 It is therefore not surprising that guggul is praised for its ability to improve blood flow and enhance the quality of the blood.1 Guggul works very effectively to purify blood, promoting healthy cholesterol levels and scraping toxins from the circulatory system.1 In addition, guggul promotes supple arteries and tonifies the heart.1,3
Guggul and Weight Loss
In Ayurveda, excess weight is the result of a kapha imbalance. Guggul helps to clear excess kapha from the system with its pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes, its heating energy, and its pungent post-digestive effect.1 Guggul also supports healthy thyroid function, ‘scrapes’ fat, and improves meda dhatu agni (the metabolic principle within adipose tissue).1 Guggul simultaneously kindles agni (the digestive fire) and promotes proper elimination.1 It is an appetizer, a liver stimulant, and it assists with the digestion of oils and fats, thereby supporting weight management in a number of ways.4
Guggul and the Joints
When it comes to ailments of the joints, the accumulation of ama (toxic residues) within the tissues is often at the root of the problem. Guggul’s scraping and detoxifying qualities act to clear these toxins from the joints. Its simultaneous ability to lubricate and rejuvenate the tissues within and around the joints helps to promote strength and proper movement within these delicate spaces.1
Traditional Guggulus Available From Banyan Botanicals
This synergistic combination of herbs is particularly adept at clearing excess vata from the body, especially when it is lodged in the musculoskeletal system. It is powerfully detoxifying and rejuvenating and it has a special affinity for the joints, muscles and nerves. Guggul helps this preparation to scrape and eliminate natural toxins from the joints and muscle tissues as it rejuvenates and strengthens the skeletal and neuromuscular systems overall.
This preparation is especially balancing for pitta, particularly when it is disturbing the musculoskeletal system. Its main ingredients—guduchi, triphala, and trikatu—when combined with guggul, create a powerful detoxifying and rejuvenating combination aimed primarily at removing deep-seated pitta from the tissues. It also acts to nourish and strengthen the system, supporting the overall health and proper function of the joints, the muscles, and the connective tissue.
This formula is very useful for clearing excess kapha from the urinary system, kidneys, heart, and joints. Its main ingredients—punarnava, triphala, and trikatu—when combined with guggul, create a powerful detoxifying and rejuvenating combination that supports the healthy elimination of liquids, thereby balancing the water element in the body and releasing deep-seated kapha from the tissues. It also supports the lymph and blood and encourages healthy circulation and comfortable movement of the joints.
This classic Ayurvedic preparation combines the detoxifying and rejuvenating actions of triphala with the deeply penetrating and cleansing actions of guggul. It decongests the channels of the body, while scraping natural toxins held within the tissues. This preparation is particularly useful for weight management because it kindles agni (the digestive fire), promotes healthy metabolism, and releases excess kapha from the system. In maintaining overall health, it minimizes the accumulation of toxins in the GI tract, blood, and joints by supporting proper digestion and elimination.
This combination of herbs is primarily used to address deep-seated kapha imbalances and is particularly supportive of the thyroid gland and the lymphatic system. Kanchanar is a very astringent herb that helps to clear the moist, stagnant qualities of kapha. When mixed with triphala, trikatu, and guggul, the combination is powerfully detoxifying and removes excess kapha from the tissues. Future accumulation of kapha is also minimized by this formula because it kindles agni (the digestive fire) and promotes healthy elimination.
This compound has a strong affinity for the genitourinary tract, strengthening and toning the kidneys, the bladder, the urethra, and the reproductive organs, while balancing vata, pitta, and kapha. Its main ingredient, gokshura, is renowned for its rejuvenating action on the kidneys, the prostate, and the reproductive system. This formula, which also contains guggul, triphala, and trikatu, is very effective at detoxifying and balancing the urinary system.
This formula is specifically geared toward detoxifying and rejuvenating the joints and is balancing for vata and kapha; in excess, it may aggravate pitta. It combines the scraping and rejuvenating qualities of guggul with the potent cleansing capacity of castor oil and triphala, allowing it to remove natural toxins from the joints, blood, and GI tract. The soothing and lubricating qualities of the herbs then work to nourish and strengthen the joint tissues, supporting proper function and mobility. This preparation also promotes healthy digestion and elimination for improved overall health.
How to Use Guggul
External Use of Guggul
Paste: A paste of guggul can be applied to the exterior of the body to promote healthy skin, freedom of movement in the joints, reduction of swelling, and detoxification of the tissues.4
Gargling: Guggul can be gargled or held in the mouth and then spit to support healthy oral mucous membranes, teeth, and gums.4
Internal Use of Guggul
Because taste plays such an important role in the digestive process and signals the body to initiate its own supportive mechanisms, Ayurveda traditionally recommends tasting herbs. Guggul can be taken internally alone, but is more commonly taken in combination with other herbs. It can be taken as a powder or a tablet. Banyan Botanicals makes plain guggul available in a powdered form and most of its guggulus (guggul formulas) available in both powder and tablet forms:
Guggul powders offer the full experience of tasting the herb or formula and also provide the most economical option for purchasing guggul. A typical dose of guggul powder is ¼–½ teaspoon, once or twice daily, or as directed by your healthcare practitioner. Guggul powder can be taken with water, milk, ghee, honey or another anupan (carrier substance), which acts as a medium for delivering the herb to its intended destination and can enhance its effect.1 An Ayurvedic practitioner can advise you on an appropriate herbal carrier specific to your needs. To learn more about anupans and how they work, see this resource.
Banyan’s herbal tablets provide a more convenient way to take guggul in combination with other herbs, especially for those who are frequently traveling or on the go. The tablets also provide a nice alternative for those who find the taste of the formula a deterrent to taking it. Banyan provides herbs in a tablet form (rather than a capsule) because tablets offer a sample of the taste, allowing the digestive process to receive appropriate signals about what you are about to ingest and inviting the body to initiate other healing mechanisms. A typical dose is 1–2 tablets, once or twice daily, or as directed by your healthcare practitioner.
Modern Research on Guggul
There has been significant scientific research evaluating the benefits of guggul, both on its own, and as an ingredient in other herbal compounds.3 Among other things, studies have looked at guggul’s ability to support healthy cholesterol levels and weight management, as well as the health and comfortable movement of the joints.3 Below are examples of a few articles that illustrate some of these research findings:
- “Clinical Trials With Gugulipid. A New Hypolipidaemic Agent.” PubMed Abstract. May 1989.5
- “Effects of a Standardized Guggulsterone Phosphate Supplement on Body Composition in Overweight Adults: A Pilot Study.” Online. Elsevier Linking Hub Abstract. 1999.6
- “The Effectiveness of Commiphora mukul for Osteoarthritis of the Knee: An Outcomes Study.” PubMed Abstract. Jun 2003.7
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Guggul can increase pitta, especially in combination with a pitta-aggravating lifestyle. It is therefore recommended—while taking guggul—to avoid sour foods, alcohol, prolonged exposure to the sun, anger, and excessive sexual activity.1 Gastro-intestinal upsets—most commonly involving loose stools and diarrhea—are the most predominant adverse effects reported.3 Guggul is a powerful herb and should be used judiciously.4 Excessive dosage or misuse can lead to dryness of mouth, weight loss, impotency, skin disturbances, vertigo, and pathological changes in the liver or lungs; in these cases, saffron is said to be the antidote.4
Guggul should be avoided when trying to become pregnant, during pregnancy, while breast-feeding, and in cases of excessive uterine bleeding, thyrotoxicosis, or acute kidney infection.1, 3 Avoid if there are known allergies to Commiphora mukul or other members of the Burseraceae family.3 A number of interactions between guggul and prescription medications have been observed; use caution when taking guggul in combination with hypo-glycemic medications, lipid-lowering agents, anti-coagulants, anti-platelets, anti-hypertensives, anti-diabetics, or estrogens.1, 3 If you are taking prescription medication of any kind, it is always best to check with your doctor before introducing an herbal regimen.
You can find guggul in a number of Banyan products:
When purchasing guggul and products containing guggul, there are a number of questions to consider that will help you to evaluate the quality of the herbs, the values upheld by the company that produced them, and the price of the product in relation to its quality.
Are the ingredients sustainably harvested?
Guggul was once relatively abundant in many parts of India, and ironically, its success as an herbal remedy has led to its decline. It is very difficult to harvest the resinous sap without damaging the tree, leaving it susceptible to infection and even death. Guggul has been grossly over-harvested in recent decades and wild populations of the tree have become endangered. For this reason, where and how guggul is harvested very directly impacts long-term sustainability. The good news is that guggul can be harvested on private farms where sustainable farming can be ensured. Sourcing practices are an important consideration when weighing one manufacturer against another or when comparing prices. For several years, Banyan has been invested in a project in Rajasthan, India to guarantee a sustainable harvest of guggul. In 2007, eight thousand guggul plants were planted on a hot, dry organic farm ideal for the propagation of this species. The first harvest of guggul from these plants took place in 2010 and the most recent harvest was completed in the winter of 2012. A solid commitment to sustainability is at the heart of Banyan’s mission; we believe that protecting the long-term availability of these ancient herbs is well worth the increased investment required to source them sustainably.
Is the supplier able to trace the ingredients of their product back to the fields in which they were grown?
Traceability of the herbs from field to shelf allows the supplier to know where and how the herbs were grown and when they were harvested. Banyan knows exactly where each ingredient was grown and can trace them back from your medicine cabinet to the field.
Is the guggul grown in optimal locations?
Location does play a role in quality. Like the grapes in wine, herbs tend to vary in quality and taste depending on the conditions in which they are grown. Banyan sources guggul from areas where the trees thrive naturally.
Are the farmers looked after for their labor?
Harvesting and processing guggul is both delicate and labor intensive. Banyan strongly believes in maintaining socially responsible relationships with farmers and is committed to following fair trade principles which include paying above-market wages, investing in the education of the farmers, and giving back to their communities.