Guggul is one of the best anti-obesity and cholesterol-lowering herbs that are widely available. It also benefits the heart, liver, kidneys, thyroid, and skin. It is useful in arthritis and other inflammatory conditions and has anticancer activity. Read this post to learn more about this medicinal plant and its mechanisms of action.

What is Guggul?

Guggul is the most common name for a small medicinal tree Commiphora Mukul (Wightii), which is mostly found in the Indian subcontinent. In Ayurveda, guggul dry gum resin is obtained from the stem of the Guggul tree. It has been used for thousands of years in the Ayurvedic medicine system [1].

Guggul is one of the oldest Ayurvedic herbs taken orally for a variety of diseases. The term “guggul” in Sanskrit means “protects against diseases” [2].

Active Compounds

Guggul contains a mixture of sterols, steroids, esters, and alcohols with multiple medicinal benefits:

  • Steroids and sterols: The active component of guggul is called guggulsterone (E and Z) showing a biological activity in humans [3]. Guggulsterone M, dihydroguggulsterone, and guggulsterol Y are recently discovered steroids. These steroidal components show fat-reducing and anti-inflammatory activities.
  • Triterpenoids: Myrrhanone (A, B) and Myrrhanol (A, B, C) are anti-inflammatory [2, 4]. Commipherin and Commipherol are other terpenoids found in guggul [2].
  • Sesquiterpenoids: Cardinene showed neuroprotective activity in a cell-based study [5, 2].
  • Volatile oils: Limonene, Eugenol, Pinene, and Cineole are some of the essential oils extracted from guggul [2].
  • Flavonoids: Quercetin shows neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory activities [6]. Muscanone is active against Candida albicans [7].

Health Benefits of Guggul

1) Lowers Cholesterol

Guggul decreases “bad” cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL), and triglycerides. It increases levels of “good” cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) [8].

Guggul reduces the absorption of fats and cholesterol in the intestine. It also increases the removal of bile acids and cholesterol, inhibits the production of cholesterol in the liver, and increases the uptake of HDL by liver cells [1].

Guggul blocks the bile acid receptor farnesoid x receptor, a key component for the maintenance of cholesterol and bile acid. It also increases bile excretion, which aids in the removal of cholesterol and bile acids from the liver [3].

Guggul suppresses the formation of enzymes that cause changes in low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and the formation of free oxygen radicals [1]. It increases cholesterol breakdown in the liver and excretion from the body. It also reduces hardening of blood vessels and stickiness of platelets.

2) Reduces Fat

Guggul has been studied in several animals including chicken, rats, rabbits, pigs, dogs, and monkeys. It significantly decreased fat levels in mice receiving a high-fat diet [3].

Along with decreasing blood cholesterol levels, guggul increases the activity of enzymes that break down fats in rats. Guggul significantly reduces body weight and prevents thickening of blood vessels in rabbits [2].

3-6) Reduces Inflammation

Guggul suppresses the activation of the inflammatory cytokine NF-κB and its target molecules and reduces inflammation in a number of inflammatory diseases. Guggul also suppresses the activation of interleukins and prostaglandins [3].


Guggul reduces pain and stiffness and increases tolerability to the treatment in osteoarthritis patients [9].

Guggul also reduces joint swelling in arthritis [10].

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Guggul showed anti-inflammatory effects in mice colon cells. It suppressed enzymes causing inflammation in mice [2].

Also, guggul significantly reduced the severity of colon inflammation in mice [11].

Eye Inflammation

Guggul reduced inflammatory markers produced by bacteria in rat eyes. It reduced endotoxin production and the production of MMP-2, iNOS, and Cox-2 [12].

Pancreatic Inflammation

In mice with an inflamed pancreas, guggul inhibited the migration of white blood cells into tissues and suppressed cytokine production, reducing damage [13].

7) Treats Acne

Guggul extract is effective in the treatment of patients with acne. Patients with oily skin responded better to the treatment. Guggul treatment showed a very strong decrease in inflammatory damage of the skin [14].

Guggul was as effective as traditional antibiotics in treating acne [14].

8) Has Anti-Wrinkle and Anti-Aging Properties

Guggul increased type I collagen production, which gives strength to human skin cells and inhibited the production of enzymes that cause skin damage [15].

9) May Be Beneficial For The Thyroid

Guggul stimulated the thyroid gland in rats, increasing both iodine uptake and the activity of thyroid enzymes [16].

In mice, guggul increased thyroid hormones and other thyroid functions including tissue oxygen uptake. The increase in tissue oxygen uptake is normally observed as a result of increased thyroid activity [17].

10) Is an Antioxidant

Guggul inhibits the production of oxygen free radicals and thus protects several tissues against damage. Guggul also inhibited the formation of free radicals in rat stomachs [2].

Guggul is useful in oxidative stress-related diseases, such as heart and nerve damage. It showed antioxidant action and protected the brains of mice with dementia [18].

Guggul also protected the heart in rats by reducing free radicals and inadequate blood supply [19].

11) Protects the Heart

Guggul reduced drug-related heart damage in rats in a similar degree of effect to other traditional drugs like gemfibrozil [19, 20].

In a clinical study, guggul reduced chest pain in 200 patients suffering from heart disease. It also protected the heart during low blood supply (ischemia) [2, 21].

12) Protects the Liver

Gum extract of an Arabic guggul from the same Commiphora family, C. opobalsamum showed a protective effect on the liver of rats. The gum extract decreased transaminase and alkaline phosphatase enzymes and increased sulfhydryls (a compound that protects cells) in the liver, which reduced liver damage and increased protection [22].

13) Has Protective Effects on the Brain

Guggul extract restored brain activity in mice with brain damage [23].

Guggul extracts reduced drug-related nerve damage and memory loss. Levels of antioxidant amino acids were increased and oxidative stress in the brain was reduced [23].

14) Is Antimicrobial

In test-tube studies, guggul showed antibacterial activity against drug-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae. Guggul extract also inhibits both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria [7].

Another guggul family member, Commiphora molmol, showed anti-parasitic activity by killing worms (Schistosoma mansoni) and their eggs and stopped damage to intestinal tissue in mice infected with worms [24].

15) May Reduce Blood Sugar Levels

Guggul reduced blood glucose levels in diabetic rats [25].

Guggul prevented inflammatory signals and thereby prevented pancreatic cell damage in rats. It increased glucose-stimulated insulin secretion and prevented the reduction of pancreatic cell size in rats [26].

Bile acids stimulate insulin secretion via bile acid receptor activation. Guggul blocks these receptors. Therefore, guggul may be beneficial for type 2 diabetes patients [27].

16) Protects the Kidneys

Guggul inhibited inflammatory signals produced by drugs and infections. Guggul prevented damage in mice kidneys by suppressing interleukins and prostaglandins [28].

Guggul also suppressed inflammatory molecules like NF-kB, nitric oxide, IL-6, and TNF-alpha, preventing kidney damage in mice.

17) May Help in Respiratory Diseases

Bile acids can have direct effects on respiratory function but excess levels are toxic to lung cells.

The bile acid receptor farnesoid-X receptor (FXR) is a target for the treatment of respiratory diseases. Guggul is a suppressor of this receptor activity and reduced its effects in rats [29].

18) Inhibits Blood Clot Formation

Guggul inhibits platelet aggregation, reducing clot formation similarly to other traditional drugs [30].

In heart patients, guggul showed increased blood fibrin, a protein responsible for blood clotting, breaking activity and decreased platelet adhesive activity, which reduces blood clot formation and related heart problems [31].

19) Reduces Hardening of Blood Vessels

Guggul reduces cholesterol accumulation in blood vessels and suppresses the transformation of bad cholesterol into toxic substances and, thereby, its effects [32].

20) Is Anti-Cancer

Guggul shows activity against cancer by killing cancer cells, reducing cell growth, and decreasing the formation of new blood vessels [33, 1].

Guggul showed this activity on different cancer cells including leukemia, head and neck, breast, lung, and prostate cancer [33, 1].

Guggul acts by various mechanisms, including reduction of reactive oxygen species and inflammation. It also inhibits target receptors, factors, and proteins. It interferes with molecular pathways that prevent cancer cell death [33, 1].

The following are the mechanisms by which guggul has anti-cancer effects:

Leukemia: Guggul prevented the proliferation of human leukemia cells. It caused cell death by activation of c-Jun N-Terminal kinase (JNK) and suppression of the Akt pathway in tumor cells [34].

Head and neck cancer: Guggul stopped cell growth in human head and neck cancer cells and killed cancer cells through STAT3 inhibition [34].

Breast cancer: Guggul reduced MMP-9 production and tumor invasion in human breast cancer cells. It also reduced VEGF receptor (VEGF R2) production and new blood vessel formation in endothelial cells [34].

Esophageal cancer: Guggul increased Caspase-3 activity and apoptosis in esophageal cancer cells. It reduced tumor formation and growth in mice [34].

Lung cancer: Guggul reduced NF-kB production and inhibited IkB (NF-kB inhibitor) degradation in lung cancer cells. It also suppressed COX-2, MMP-9, and VEGF, thus inhibiting proliferation and apoptosis [34].

Pancreatic cancer: Guggul suppressed FXR and reduced cell migration and invasion in human pancreatic cancer cells [34].

Prostate cancer: Guggul produced caspase-dependent cell death in human prostate cancer cells. It induced cancer cell death by reactive oxygen intermediate (ROI)-mediated JNK production [34].

Colorectal cancer: Guggul activated Caspase-3 and Caspase-8 enzymes and increased cell death in human colon cancer cells. The size of the tumors was also reduced in mice [34].

Side Effects & Precautions

Guggul didn’t show any toxicity or cancer development in rats, dogs, and monkeys [35].

There were also no side effects observed in the kidneys, liver, or blood parameters [36].

Guggul is generally safe to use and mostly used for a short time. Minor side effects such as skin rashes, diarrhea, and nausea have been reported [37].

Skin inflammation has been reported in cosmetic creams containing guggul [38].

Guggulsterone increases some liver enzymes. Although guggul has been used safely for 8 weeks, it should be used carefully in combination with other drugs.

Due to the lack of sufficient clinical data, guggul should be avoided in pregnant or lactating women [39].

Guggul reduced the weight of uterus, ovaries, and cervix in female rats, which suggests that guggul may reduce fertility [40].

Drug Interactions

Guggul reduces blood concentrations of drugs like propranolol or diazepam [41].

This action is due to activation of the Pregnane X receptor by guggulsterone, which leads to increased enzymes responsible for reducing blood concentrations of the drugs [42].

In rats, guggul increased the production of cytochrome P450, an enzyme responsible for metabolizing most drugs [4342].



The dose of guggul varies between 125 – 1,000 mg according to the age of a person [39].

For high cholesterol levels, 75 – 150 mg of guggul was used every day in clinical trials.

For anti-inflammatory effects, 500 mg of guggul was used 3 times a day [3].

For heart-related conditions, 1000 mg of guggul per day was used [2].

User Reviews

Users of guggul reported following beneficial effects:

  • “I highly recommend this product for cholesterol reduction and also for weight loss.”
  • “Very effective in minimizing pain from arthritis.”
  • “Guggul regulates the thyroid and blood sugar so it is an exceptional herb.”
  • “I take 2 capsules twice daily and within the first few days noticed incredible improvement for low thyroid. My energy level has soared and my feet no longer burn.”
  • “This is so powerful, you will have a dramatic change in your body.”
  • “Excellent as a cholesterol reducer. Keeps your weight low. Also helps in reducing inflammation in acne.”

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