The classical treatise on Ayurvedic Medicine, Susruta Samhita, describes the use of Guggulu for a wide variety of conditions, including Arthritis and Medo-roga. One of its primary indications was a condition known as Medo-roga. This ancient diagnosis is similar to the modern description of Athero-sclerosis. Guggulu is primarily used to prevent this condition by lowering Serum cholesterol and tri-glycerides levels.  

Plant description: The tree is small thorny distributed throughout India. Gum Guggulu, the yellowish resin produced by the stem of the plant has been used historically and is also the source of modern extracts of guggulu. It is a spiny small tree with many branches, usually growing two to three meters high, and found in rocky tracts of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Karnataka in India. A healthy tree yields 250-500 grams of resin in one season and guggulu plant begin yielding resin after five years. The trees are tapped for resin from November through January, and collection continues until May or June. Commiphora ranges from woody shrub to a small tree, with spirally ascending branches. Leaves are 1-3 foliate, rhomboid to ovate in shape, irregularly toothed edges. Flowers are small, brown to pink in color, and are unisexual. Its fruit is red and oval in shape. The tree grows in rocky and rough terrain in warm and semi arid areas of India. It is found on the slopes of hills and foothills.
Phyto Chemicals and Phyto Nutrients: The National Chemical Laboratory, Pune in collaboration with Central Drug Research Institute of India began a detailed chemical study of the Hypo-cholesterolemic / Hypo-lipidemic activity of guggulu. The ethyl acetate soluble portion of guggulu was found to possess hypo- lipidemic and anti-inflammatory properties. The ethyl acetate insoluble portion was found to be toxic. Further, Acid, Base, and neutral portions of ethyl acetate soluble of guggulu were separated. The neutral portion is responsible for the hypo-cholesterolemic activity and the acid portion shows anti-inflammatory activity. Guggulu has complex structure made up of various compounds such as Lignans, Lipids and steroids. Ten Steroids have been isolated from the resin; among these Z-guggalsterone and E-guggalsterone have been found to have Hypo-lipidemic effects. The other components of the ethyl acetate extract exert a Synergistic activity. The Oleoresin contains 0.37% essential oil containing mainly Myrecene, Di-myrecene and Poly-myrecene. Alcohol extraction gives a soluble resin and an insoluble Carbohydrate gum. Solvent extraction, Hydrolysis and Column chromatography over silica gel of guggulu resin identifies a number of compounds- a diterpene hydrocarbon, a diterpene alcohol, Z-guggalsterone, E-guggalsterone, Guggulsterol-I, Guggulsterol-II and guggulsterol-III. Sesamin and Camphorene are also found.
Pharmacology: The ethyl acetate extract was found to confer significant protection to albino rats against the development of experimental athero-sclerosis. The drug not only prevented deteroiating changes in serum cholesterol, tri-glycerides and plasma fibrinogen level but also favorably increased plasma fibrinolytic activity. The oleo-resin fraction of guggulu possesses significant anti-arthritic and anti-inflammatory activities, the minimum effective dose being 12.5 mg/100g of body weight. The crude aqueous extract of the oleo gum resin was found to suppress acute rat-paw edema induced by Carrageenin. It also had a suppressive action against the granuloma pouch test. In adjuvant arthritis, the extract suppressed the secondary lesions very effectively without having any significant action on the primary phase. Side-effects such as gastric ulceration, loss of weight and mortality were negligible in the animals treated with the extract as compared to those treated with betamethasone. The two main areas of investigation have been its Hypo-lipidemic action {which has been recognized since Vedic ages} and Anti-inflammatory effect. Hypo-lipidemic action was pioneered by the laboratory investigations carried out by Satyavathi based on the postulation of Sushruta that guggulu is very useful in the treatment of obesity. On treatment of experimentally induced Hyper-cholesteromia in rabbits, with crude guggulu, for a period of 8 weeks, the abnormal hyper-lipidemia was significantly less after four weeks. Regression in serum cholesterol after loading was much greater in guggulu-treated rabbits, as also the alcohol soluble and in-soluble fractions produce lower cholesterol levels and reducing serum turbidity. Of the three petroleum ether fractions of guggulu A, B & C, fraction A is most effective in lowering the Hyper-cholesterolaemia in cholesterol fed chickens. When 95% alcohol extract of guggulu was given to Indian domestic pigs kept on standard athero-genic diet for a period of six weeks, the total serum cholesterol, and the serum lipoprotein were both significantly reduced. In albino rats and in rabbits too, crude guggulu and a pure steroid reduced the serum cholesterol by the IInd week of exposures. The similar Hypo-cholesterolaemic effect was found in the alcohol extract and two pure fractions - a Terpenod and a Steroid- this being the most potent fraction with a lowering rate of 69% and a c/p ratio of 1.24 to 0.73. The cholesterol lowering effects of fraction A have been seen in monkeys kept on high cholesterol diet, the results being comparable to those of Artomid-S. The mode of action appears to lie in its fibrinolytic activity and a fall in the platelet adhesive index. Purified steroidal fractions of guggulu show a marked inhibition of Platelet aggregation by ADP, Adrenaline and Serotonin the effect being comparable to that of Clofibrate. The steroidal component of fraction A of the petroleum ether extract has marked anti-arthritic effect, comparable to that of Hydro-cortisone, and more potent than Phenyl-butazone. It has high anti-inflammatory potential against Brownlees formaldehyde- induced arthritis in albino rats. However, only the acidic fraction showed significant activity, the non-acid and solid fraction being in-active.
The resin extract is reported to have some immuno-suppressive effect in rabbits sensitized with Typhoid H vaccine. It is believed that the lipid regulating effects of guggulu result from its Thyroid regulating action, and its combined effects of inhibiting the bio-synthesis of cholesterol's and promoting rapid excretion of cholesterol. Serum lipid levels are known to be reduced by increased levels circulating thyroid hormones. Z-guggalsterone, a ketosteroid and a component of guggulu, is such an agent. The plant is especially useful for T3 (Triiodothyronine) values of thyroid are low.
Traditional uses:
• Guggulu has been used traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine to treat arthritis, Inflammation, Bone fractures, Obesity and disorders of lipid metabolism.
• One ancient Ayurvedic reference describes the power of Guggulu to treat “Coating and obstruction of channels”. This description stimulated further research into the properties of this botanical medicine for preventing and treating atherosclerosis as well as other conditions resulting from high levels of lipids in the body.
• Guggulu is used to treat hypercholesterolemia, inflammation, edema, pyorrhea, chronic tonsillitis, chronic dyspepsia, colitis, catarrh of the bowels, tubercular ulceration, Fever, anemia, neurasthenia, general debility, laryngitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, whooping cough, cystitis, gonorrhea, rheumatism, nervous diseases, urinary disorders, atherosclerosis, hemiplegia, diabetes, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, obesity, arthritis and skin diseases.
• It is astringent, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic. When taken internally it acts as bitter, stomachic and carminative, stimulating the appetite and improving the digestion. It causes an increase in leucocytes in the blood and stimulates phagocytosis. It acts as expectorant and said to be uterine stimulant and emmenagogue. The resin is used in the form of lotion for indolent ulcers and as a gargle in chronic tonsillitis, pharyngitis and ulcerated throat.
Modern Therapeutic uses:
• Protects against atherosclerosis, inhibits platelet aggregation and may reduce risk of stroke and pulmonary embolism. {Mester etal, 1979}
• Reduces both cholesterol (24%) and triglycerides (23%) {Nityanand etal, 1989}
• Increases high density lipoprotein cholesterol (16%) {Agarwal etal, 1986}
• Reduces inflammation of nodulocystic acne.
• Anti inflammatory for arthritis.
• Mildly stimulates thyroid activity, making this herb useful for mild hypothyroid conditions with obesity and hyperlipidemia.
Side Effects:
• Minor GI disturbance,
• Mild head-ache,
• Nausea and hiccups.
Drugs/ Herb interactions:
• Do not use with Beta Blockers and Calcium Channel Blockers such as diltiazem and propranolol because it has diminished efficacy and responsiveness in contact with these synthetic drugs.