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Guggul for Weight Loss
Guggul is so sought after that the plant is currently listed as an endangered species. What are the health benefits of guggul that make it so important? Can it help you lose weight? How should it be taken as a weight loss supplement? Read on to find answers to these questions and more.
Guggul is a flowering plant also known as Commiphora wightii. It grows as a shrub or short tree in semi-arid environments. This hardy plant is native to North Africa and Central Asia especially northern India.
Guggul is such an important and common herb in Indian Ayurvedic medicine that it is currently scarce and classified as an endangered species.
Guggul is most known for the resinous sap obtained from its bark. This sap is called gum guggul and its extract is referred to as gugulipid, guglipid or guggulipid. This is the medicinal guggul extract used in traditional medicine.
The active ingredient of gum guggul extract is guggulsterone, a plant steroid.
There are 2 types of guggulsterones in guggul. These are Z-guggulsterone and E-guggulsterone. Besides these, there are 3 types of guggulsterol. Other important phytochemicals in guggul include essential oils which are mostly myrecene and its derivatives.
By reducing LDL (low density lipoproteins or “bad” cholesterol) levels, inhibiting fat oxidation and preventing platelets from sticking together, guggul can prevent the clogging of arteries. Therefore, it is an important herb for lowering the risk of coronary heart disease.
By prompting an increase in thyroid functioning to improve metabolism, by improving digestion and by preventing the conversion of carbohydrates to triglycerides while reducing the cholesterol levels in the body, guggul is also important in the treatment of obesity. In fact, it is the central herb in many anti-obesity traditional formulations of Ayurvedic medicine.
There are other health benefits of guggul. For example, the antioxidant effect of guggulsterone has been found useful in the treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy.
Guggul is also known to possess anti-inflammatory properties. Its effects on the pain and inflammation affecting bones, joints, muscles and related connective tissues are well-studied and it is believed that guggul works at the gene level.
Guggulsterone blocks the DNA activation of an inflammatory factor, NF-kappa B. Since this happens at the genetic level, the anti-inflammatory effects of guggul are broad and cover most cell types.
The actions of guggul phytochemicals at the cellular level also make the herb a potent immunomodulator.
It supports the immune system to provide appropriate responses. In this regard, guggulsterone has been used successfully in the treatment of allergic dermatitis.
The benefits of guggul on the skin extends beyond treating dermatitis. In the skin, guggul promotes lipid synthesis. It increases the production (and reduces the degradation) of triglycerides in skin cells. This reduces the appearance of wrinkles and gives the skin a smooth, supple appearance.
The sesquiterpenoids found in guggul have been shown to possess a broad spectrum action against bacteria by inhibiting the activities of both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria.
Other benefits of guggul extracts include serving as appetite suppressant and increasing insulin sensitivity.
The guggulsterone content of guggul may have lipid-lowering properties. While guggul has been traditionally used to lower cholesterol levels and some scientific studies support this indication, the results have not been universal and some studies even report the reverse effect.
However, where the studies agree with the lipid-lowering effects of guggul, it is believed that guggulsterones inhibit the synthesis of cholesterol in the body while also speeding up the degradation and excretion of cholesterol.
To do this, the active phytochemicals in guggul inhibit the farnesoid X receptor which is a bile acid receptor needed for the controlling the levels of cholesterol in the body.
More specifically, guggul reduces the production of cholesterol in the liver, and guggulsterone can block the oxidation of LDL. Instead, guggul enhances the activities of receptors that bind LDL in the liver and, therefore, increases the rate at which LDL is broken down into simpler and safer compounds.
Besides LDL, guggul also lowers serum triglycerides and VLDL (very low density lipoproteins) cholesterol while increasing the levels of HDL (high density lipoproteins) or “good” cholesterol.
By a different mechanism, guggul drives out more cholesterol with the fecal excretion of bile acids. In addition, it reduces the absorption of fats and cholesterol from the intestines.
Furthermore, guggul possesses antioxidant properties useful for preventing the oxidation of lipids.
Fat oxidation usually produces a number of reactive oxygen species that can cause cellular and tissue damage. To produce this antioxidant protection, guggul reduces the activities of enzymes such as lipid peroxidase and xanthine oxidase. These enzymes are key to lipid oxidation.
On the other hand, guggul increases the activity of superoxide dismutase which is useful for mopping up reactive oxygen species.
The effect of guggul on thyroid hormones is another way in which it can help reduce body weight.
These are thermogenic compounds that increase metabolism and help the body burn some of its stored fats. Besides enhancing the breakdown of fats, these thyroid hormones also speed up carbohydrate metabolism and protein synthesis.
The sum effect of guggul is to increase metabolic rate by stimulating the production of thyroid hormones while stimulating the liver to increase the metabolism and excretion of LDL cholesterol.
Although some studies do not agree with the conclusion that guggul can help achieve weight loss, there is enough evidence to support this use of the herb. Still, it is better to combine guggul with other weight loss supplements instead of taking it solely to lose weight.
When looking for a guggul supplement to buy, make sure to choose those standardized by their guggulsterone content. The crude gum guggul is not well-tolerated and may cause gastrointestinal disturbances.
For weight loss, 30 – 60 mg of guggulsterone supplements should be taken three times daily. Doses of 25 mg taken 3 times per day are enough to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Common side effects experienced wit guggul supplementation include headache, nausea, diarrhea, skin rash, irregular menstruation and anorexia.
Guggul should be avoided by pregnant women and females suffering from hormonal imbalance.
People suffering from chronic diarrhea, Crohn’s disease, liver disease and ulcerative colitis should also avoid taking guggul. In addition, guggul should not be combined with thyroid supplements since it increases the release of thyroid hormones.
Furthermore, those placed on cholesterol-lowering drugs, such as Lipitor, should consult their physicians before starting on guggul supplementation. Blood thinners and guggul should also not be combined because the herb can reduce blood clotting.
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