Can Guggul Lower Your Cholesterol?

Guggul, also known as guggulu and guggulipid, is a substance secreted by the mukul myrrh tree (Commiphora mukul) after it has been injured. It has been used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine for centuries to treat obesity, osteoarthritis, and some skin conditions. Research has suggested that guggul also may lower total cholesterol levels, especially triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol. The theory of how guggul might lower cholesterol is not totally understood, however, there have been many mechanisms proposed.

Commiphora wightii in the sunlight
 Vinayaraj / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

Can Guggul Lower Cholesterol?

Unfortunately, there is not enough data to support guggul’s effectiveness in lowering cholesterol levels. Some of the research performed on guggul suggests that it does lower total cholesterol (between 10 to 27%), and also modestly lowers triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. Other studies that suggest guggulipid has no effect in lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Doses of guggul taken in these studies have ranged between 1.5 to 6 grams per day, divided into two or three doses.

One study to date noted that LDL cholesterol was slightly elevated in the individuals taking guggul. The researchers of this study suspect that the cholesterol-lowering abilities of guggul may have something to do with diet. For instance, in this particular study the subjects followed a typical, fatty Western diet, whereas, in the previous studies performed in India, the individuals consumed a more low fat, high fiber diet.

Currently, the majority of studies that examined guggul's ability to lower cholesterol only lasted up to 16 weeks. Therefore, more long-term studies would be needed in order to determine the effectiveness of guggul.

What Should I Know Before Taking Guggul?

You should let your physician know before deciding to take guggul to lower your lipid levels. Guggul has been shown to interact with CYP3A4, an enzyme system in the body that is responsible for metabolizing many chemicals, including medications. There have been reports that taking guggul with certain medications, such as propranolol, diltiazem, and birth control pills could reduce the effectiveness of those drugs. Conversely, taking guggul with other types of drugs, such as statins, may actually raise the levels of these drugs in the body, causing them to become more toxic.

Guggul also may increase the effectiveness of blood thinners (like Coumadin (warfarin)), which may cause you to bleed more easily. This list is not limited to the drugs listed above, so if you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications, it would be wise not to take guggul, unless you are sure that an interaction between guggul and your medication does not exist. Additionally, you should not take guggul if you are pregnant or if you have a thyroid disorder since guggul may lower thyroid stimulating hormone levels.

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By Jennifer Moll, PharmD
Jennifer Moll, MS, PharmD, is a pharmacist actively involved in educating patients about the importance of heart disease prevention.