Sticky gum helps ‘un-stick’ blood fats and reduces heart disease risk

Sticky gum helps ‘un-stick’ blood fats and reduces heart disease risk – gugulipid or Commiphora mukul resin

James J. Gormely

In Eastern Bengal, in Northeast India’s state of Assam, and in South India’s state of Mysore, there grows an ancient medicinal botanical, the mukul myrrh tree (Commiphora mukul), a tree which secretes a resinous substance called gum guggul. Classic Ayurvedic tests describe guggul’s various properties, including its ability to treat obesity and lipid-metabolism.

Modern research originally focused on the unpurified resin, the gum guggul, and its ability to promote healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels. More recently, scientists have been able to purify the crude, natural gum into a safe, non-irritating extract, referred to as gugulipid in the literature.

Exploring the past to uncover this botanical’s use today

The main actions of gugulipid are: hypolipidemic (fat lipid-lowering, important for atherosclerosis prevention), thermogenic (fat-burning, important for weight-loss), and anti-inflammatory. The active components of gugulipid are Z-guggulsterone and E-guggulsterone, and the extract is normally standardized to a minimum of 2.5 percent total guggulsterones.

600 B.C and today. While gum guggul’s effects have been used in Ayurveda for untold centuries, gugulipid has been available in India since 1988. Nevertheless the story is richer than that.

In a modest Indian laboratory in 1964, C. Dwarakanath uncovered a strong connection between the ancient Ayurvedic concept of medoroga of Sushruta (600 B.C.) and the modern understanding of the development of atherosclerosis and its oftimes fatal outcome.

Stage one. In the ancient concept, medoroga (atherosclerosis) begins with overeating of Shleshmalahara and lack of exercise — shleshma referring to fatty foods. Stage two is marked by “Amarasa produced at the level of Dhatwagnipaka,” incomplete digestion of food at the gastrointestinal level and inadequate or disordered metabolism of nutrients and food components. Stage three is characterized by Avrta Marga and Niruddha Marga (coating and obstruction of channels) by Medas (fats/lipids), which essentially describes build-up of lipid plaque and narrowing of vessels.

We can only marvel at the incredible level of sophistication and advancement in Ayurvedic Medicine that was evident 2,600 years ago.

Gugulipid study begins. With the discovery of the hypolipidemic activity of the crude gum resin, a series of investigations were carried out at India’s National Chemical Laboratory, Pune, in conjunction with another institute in Lucknow.

One of the components of the gum (the ethylacetate soluble portion) was found to possess hypolipidemic and anti-inflammatory activity.

In hyperlipidemic animals (animals which overproduced blood lipids), “gugulipid led to significant changes in the lipoprotein profile by reducing the serum cholesterol and triglycerides and altering the ratio of HDL [good cholesterol] to LDL [bad cholesterol],” G.V. Datyavati pointed out in a chapter he wrote in 1991 for a multi-volume book, entitled “Gugulipid: A Promising Hypolipidemic Agent from Gum Guggul.”

Heart disease prevention. In an early double-blind cross-over study by a team led by S. Prakash at India’s Central Research Institute of Ayurved, which appeared in a 1976 issue of the Journal of Research in Indian Medicine (a journal produced out of Banaras Hindu University by India’s Central Council for Research in Indian Medicine and Homeopathy), 48 subjects who were confirmed to be at least 15 percent overweight were studied, 33 of whom received guggul for four weeks (before being given the placebo for four weeks) and 15 of whom received a placebo for four weeks (followed by guggul for four weeks).

The results showed a “statistically significant [drop] in serum total lipids, cholesterol, and triglycerides” with four weeks of treatment, while no change was observed with the placebo.

The study concluded that “gum guggul is an effective hypolipidemic agent and may prove to be of high therapeutic value in the prevention of coronary and cerebro-vascular diseases, especially in subjects who are hyperlipidemic.”

Heart protection. In a study of 200 patients with ischemic heart disease, R.P. Singh, et al. (in a study which appeared in a 1993 issue of the International Journal of Pharmacognosy) achieved the following results: ECG (electrocardiogram) patterns were restored to normal; significant reductions were realized in cholesterol, triglycerides, and total lipid levels; and reduced cardiac incidents (events) were observed due to “the cardioprotective action of guggul.”

Pretty convincing results. Dietary supplementation for those who are not hypolipidemic is suggested at a level which would include 25 mg of guggulsterones three times a day.

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