Traditional Uses and Contemporary Significance to Health

has a long history of use in Ayurveda. The Atharva Veda, one of the four well-known holy scriptures (Vedas) of the Hindus, is the earliest reference to the medicinal and therapeutic properties of guggul. Detailed descriptions regarding the actions, uses, and indications as well as the varieties of guggul have been described in the Ayurvedic treatises, Charaka (1000 B.C.), Sushruta Samhita (600 B.C.), and Vagbhata (7th century A.D.). In addition, various Nighantus (medical lexicons) were written between the 12th and 14th centuries A.D. that were based on the Ayurvedic literature.


Original Sanskrit verse from Atharva Veda that refers to the medicinal values of guggul.

Translation for Sanskrit verse: ("Yakshma" (disease), it cannot appear in sun light. Guggulu is the best medicine, because it develops through the rays of hot sun on specific circumstances. Guggulu has an aromatic odour.

It removes the disease, like that of a deer that runs away on seeing the horse. A mixture of Guggulu and common salt remove the disease along with their complications.)

Original Sanskrit verse from the Sushruta Samhita (600 B.C.)

Translation for Sanskrit verse:
(Rasa (Digestive juice/chyle) is responsible for either obese or slim body. Six types of Rasa's are described in the Ayurveda.

A person who consumes Kaphaz diet (heavy, oily or fatty food such as meat, fish poultry and sweets), over eating, excessive sleeping and lack of exercise will lead to the development of 'Ama'(non-pathogenic abdominal disturbances) of sweet taste is produced in the body and develops obesity. This 'Amarasa' is more sticky (i.e., oily) in nature, which creates obesity.

Short breath, thirst, hunger, sleep, sweating, foul odour from the body, tiredness and unclear voice are characteristics of obesity. This patient will not be able to discharge his routine systematic work due to delicate system Medha or adipose tissue/ hyperlipidemia and kapha blocks the channels that supply the reproductive tissue or the reproductive system (sukravahasrotas) as a result he will develop impotence. He will be less immune due to the obstruction of other systems (srotas). Important diseases that occur in obese persons are pramehapeedika (carbuncle, diabetic foot ulcers), fever, fistula, tumors and other types of neurological disorders. They may die by one of the above mentioned diseases. In obese people all diseases are complicated. Disease symptoms are seen before the channels are blocked and hence, those who has the tendency to become hyperlipidemic, have to give up the consumption of hyperlipidemic diet and regularise their other habits.

For the treatment of obesity, Sushrutha stated that guggulu, shilajit, triphala, (containing equal amount of fruit powders of Terminalaia chebula, T. bellerica and Emblica officinalis), Lohabhasma (purified and micronized iron as per ayurvedic system), Rasayan (particular ayurvedic preparations) honey, barley, green gram, millets, etc., have to be included in the diet, which are responsible for reducing fat. Physical exercise should be practiced daily.)

The list of traditional uses for guggulu is extensive. It has been indicated for healing bone fracture to inflammation, arthritis, cardiovascular conditions, obesity, and lipid disorders. Several other external and internal uses for guggul have been described in folklore and ethnomedicine as well. Although, several therapeutic uses were indicated for guggul, the Indian gum resin was mainly used for treating various types of arthritis. Ayurvedic physicians extensively used guggul for treating arthritis and related conditions for centuries.

Research regarding guggul’s use as a hypolipidemic agent did not begin until 1964. It is said that Satyavati and Dwarakanath were inspired to investigate guggul’s lipid-lowering properties based on the strong analogy between the ancient concept of medoroga in the Sushruta Samhita (600 B.C.) and the modern concept of the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis and its fatal complications. Preclinical and clinical studies were conducted over a period of two years to investigate guggul’s lipid-lowering properties. The following results were reported:

  • In cholesterol-induced hyperlipidemic rabbits, an aqueous extract of crude gum guggul significantly lowered the serum cholesterol, phospholipids as well as protected against atherosclerosis (at the fatty streak stage).
  • The gum resin reduced the body-weight of animals.
  • Significant reductions in serum cholesterol levels were observed in obese and hypercholesterolemic patients using crude gum guggul.

These studies resulted in the publication Satyavati’s doctoral thesis titled "Effect of an indigenous drug on disorders of lipid metabolism with special reference to atherosclerosis and obesity (medoroga)" that was submitted to Banaras Hindu University (BHU). This pioneering work, published in 1966, provoked much interest among Indian scientists at BHU and institutions elsewhere. A number of preclinical and clinical studies were undertaken on gum guggul with emphasis on it hypolipidemic and related properties. These were soon followed by phytochemical and pharmacognostic studies. Finally in 1988, gugulipid was available as a hypolipidemic agent on the Indian market.

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