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Guggul is a resin from a Commiphora mukul tree native to India, but it’s also present in some parts of northern Africa and central Asia.
The tree and its yellowish sap or gum resin has been a significant component of Ayurvedic medicine for more than 3000 years. The frequent use of the plant for medicinal purposes made it scarce in some parts of India.
Health benefits of guggul are linked with an active compound called guggulsterone.
Today, supplements containing the resin extract are widely available and people use it to support their health and tackle numerous conditions, including thyroid-related problems.
How does guggul benefit thyroid and is it really helpful? Scroll down to find out.
Regular intake of guggul is dubbed helpful for thyroid function and it’s perfectly natural to wonder if that’s true.
A study whose findings were published in the Phytotherapy Research had an objective to answer that question.
Scientists evaluated the efficacy of guggul on thyroid function in female mice.
This is particularly important because women are more prone to thyroid dysfunctions[i].
For the purpose of the study, they analyzed serum levels of thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) hormones, and:
- Hepatic 5’ monodeiodinase (enzyme involved in activation or deactivation of thyroid enzymes)
- Hepatic glucose-6-phosphatase (regulated by thyroid hormones, participates in providing glucose during starvation)
- Lipid peroxidation (oxidative degradation of lipids)
- Activities of antioxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase (CAT)
After hypothyroidism was induced in the animals, levels of enzymes and thyroid hormones dropped. However, administration of 200mg/kg/d for 30 days reversed these effects. The concentration of antioxidants also increased.
Scientists concluded the study explaining that guggul stimulates thyroid function and shows positive influence on amelioration of hypothyroidism[ii].
So, how exactly does guggul improve the function of the butterfly-shaped gland?
Although more research on this subject is necessary, current evidence reveals that guggul improves iodine uptake and makes the gland more effective.
It’s important to mention that Tripathi Y.B. et al found that supplementation with guggul increases thyroid peroxidase and oxygen consumption in both muscle and liver tissues[iii].
Regular intake of guggul could be practical for hypothyroid patients due to its ability to enhance thyroid function.
Persons who are taking thyroid hormone replacement drugs, such as Synthroid, can get a natural support to the function of their gland and, eventually, reduce medication dosage.
That said, guggul probably won’t induce same effects in patients who have undergone thyroid removal or radioactive iodine ablation.
Benefits of the plant on thyroid rely on enhancing the way this gland works, meaning a certain level of function is needed.
Inflammation is a part of the body’s immune response as it promotes wound healing and protects us from bacteria and other foreign invaders.
When inflammation persists longer than necessary it causes more harm than good. Chronic or long-term inflammation contributes to the development of many health conditions including those affecting thyroid gland.
The Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research published a study which showed that patients with subclinical hypothyroidism have increased markers of inflammation with dyslipidemia[iv] (abnormal amount of lipids in the blood).
As a result, the risk of cardiovascular disease increases in hypothyroid patients. If the condition is left untreated, the inflammation aggravates.
A review of studies composed by Mancini A. et al demonstrated that inflammation is closely related to oxidative stress. Thyroid hormones have a protective role due to their ability to module antioxidant levels. Inflammation can increase production of interleukin (a group of naturally-occurring proteins which stimulate immune responses such as inflammation[v]) and reduces the expression of deiodinases.
What happens next?
Levels of T3 hormone decrease and create a foundation for hypothyroidism[vi].
Two scientific reports shown above confirm the consequences of inflammation on thyroid function.
Guggul has anti-inflammatory properties that help user’s lower inflammation and aid management of their health condition, including thyroid problems.
Verma S. et al found that guggulsomes prepared with guggul and ibuprofen had more efficacy than ibuprofen alone in lowering inflammation. Their study confirmed that guggul could be utilized as a carrier for entrapping drugs and for their sustained release action[ix].
Guggul’s potential to alleviate inflammation could help patients with thyroid disorders to manage their conditions.
Let’s not forget that thyroiditis or inflammation of thyroid gland could contribute to the development of autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the US, according to the American Thyroid Association[x].
Oxidative stress is defined as a disturbance of balance between the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) or free radicals and antioxidant defenses. The role of antioxidants is to neutralize free radicals and prevent them from inducing oxidative stress which speeds up aging, contributes to inflammation, and increases the risk of many health problems.
What most of us overlook is the fact that oxidative stress affects thyroid function too. As seen above, it can worsen inflammation which disturbs thyroid hormone levels. A growing body of evidence confirms that hypothyroidism is a state of oxidative stress, but a treatment with antioxidants can help decrease it[xi].
Most studies on this subject focus on Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and hypothyroidism, but oxidative stress can contribute to hyperthyroidism too. Marcocci C. et al found that Graves’ disease, an autoimmune condition and a common cause of hyperthyroidism, is indicated by increased oxidative stress.
Scientists discovered that elevated presence of free radicals might be responsible for some signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism (overproduction of thyroid hormones). Their study showed that antioxidant treatment without changing the level of thyroid hormones could improve clinical manifestations of hyperthyroidism in affected patients[xii].
Bearing in mind that oxidative stress plays a big role in development and severity of thyroid conditions i.e. it affects the function of this gland, there is a growing need for potent antioxidants to address this problem successfully. Guggul exhibits strong antioxidant effects as confirmed by numerous studies.
Mester L. et al discovered that potent antioxidant effects of guggul helped stop the oxidation of cholesterol and subsequent hardening of arteries, thus lowering the risk of coronary artery disease[xiii].
Guggul owes its strong antioxidant activity to active compounds guggulsterones. Even though it’s important to carry out studies about antioxidant activity of guggul on thyroid conditions, its influence is evident.
This is particularly if we bear in mind the plant can enhance thyroid function in hypothyroid patients.
Every cell in your body needs cholesterol to do its job properly. The human body produces cholesterol, but we also consume it through food. Today, we are led to believe that all cholesterol is bad, but that’s not correct.
We can divide cholesterol into two types: HDL (high-density lipoprotein) or good and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or bad cholesterol. Excessive levels of the latter increase the risk of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, among other health problems.
What most people don’t know is that hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid can involve abnormal cholesterol levels[xiv], too. Yes, evidence shows that hypothyroidism is strongly linked to excessive levels of LDL cholesterol and reveals that thyroid dysfunction has a major impact on the regulation of cholesterol in your body[xv].
Problems affecting this gland disturb the much-needed balance of HDL and LDL cholesterol.
Since bad cholesterol is strongly associated with thyroid problems, it’s important to manage it properly. Guggul shows tremendous potential in managing cholesterol. In fact, its effects on cholesterol were studied in a greater detailed than any other benefit.
The lipid-lowering activity of guggul with specific reference to obesity and atherosclerosis was first reported in a doctorate thesis submitted to the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in January 1966[xvi].
Guggul participates in cholesterol management via three mechanisms:
- Guggulsterone lowers inflammation, metabolic syndrome, and insulin resistance, all of which promote hyperlipidemia (high levels of lipids circulating in the blood) and increase risks of cardiovascular events such as heart attack. Basically, the active compound from guggul addresses the underlying mechanisms that elevate cholesterol levels
- Influences the metabolism of cholesterol and increases excretion of cholesterol through bile acid. In other words, guggul eliminates extra cholesterol from the body
- Improves thyroid function which is, as stated above, important for cholesterol management
Das S. et al discovered that supplementation with guggul resulted in a reduction in LDL, VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein), triglycerides, and total cholesterol. Interestingly, the plant extract also increased levels of HDL[xvii].
Weight loss effects
The relationship between thyroid, body weight, and metabolism could be described as complex but undeniable. Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism which is determined by measuring the amount of oxygen used by the body during a specific time frame.
Persons with underactive thyroids have a low basal metabolic rate (BMR), while patients with overactive thyroid have a faster metabolism.
As you already know, BMR influences your weight. Low BMR leads to weight gain while faster BMR causes weight loss[xviii].
Laurberg P. et al report that small differences in thyroid function are associated with up to 5kg (11lbs) difference in body weight. The consequence of low metabolic rate, is that it is “assumed that patients with longstanding overt hypothyroidism are overweight and their body weight tends to increase during the development of severe hypothyroidism.”[xix]
The problem becomes even worse when you realize that obesity and overweight contribute to high cholesterol levels, increase diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk, and could be connected to inflammation[xx]. All these factors negatively affect the function of thyroid gland.
Weight management is essential for thyroid patients, particularly for those who are struggling with hypothyroidism.
Guggul has potent weight loss potential that shouldn’t be neglected. A journal Angiology published a study which evaluated the efficacy of Curcuma longa (turmeric), guggul, and chlorogenic acid on the management of metabolic syndrome.
A total of 78 participants were enrolled into the study which showed that a combination of these supplements had positive effects on BMI, total body weight, cholesterol, blood sugar, and waist circumference[xxi].
How does guggul lead to weight loss? Several mechanisms are involved:
- Inhibits development of fat cells – formation of fat cells requires a multitude of biological molecules to take part in cell signaling. One such molecule is farnesoid X receptor and guggulsterone inhibits its activity[xxii]
- Suppresses appetite – a dose of 400mg/kg was found to decrease food intake and prevent body weight gain during 15-day study period[xxiii]
- Influences thyroid function
Guggul has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for more than 3000 years and science is still trying to catch up with its benefits. Supplementation with this plant has a positive effect on thyroid gland by encouraging production of hormones, lowering inflammation, and managing cholesterol levels.
In addition, studies show guggul aids weight loss which is great news for hypothyroid patients. It might be beenfical for you to cxonsider supplementing with guggul.
[i] Canaris GJ, Tape TG, Wigton RS. Thyroid disease awareness is associated with high rates of identifying subjects with previously undiagnosed thyroid dysfunction. BMC Public Health. 2013;13:351. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-351. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3643833/
[ii] Panda S, Kar A. Guggulu (Commiphora mukul) potentially ameliorates hypothyroidism in female mice. Phytotherapy Research 2005 Jan;19(1):78-80. Doi: 10.1002/ptr.1602 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15798994
[iii] Tripathi YB, Malhotra OP, Tripathi SN. Thyroid stimulating action of Z-guggulsterone obtained from Commiphora mukul. Planta Medica 1984 Feb;50(1):78-80. Doi: 10.1055/s-2007-969626 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17340256
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[vi] Mancini A, Di Segni C, Raimondo S, et al. Thyroid hormones, oxidative stress, and inflammation. Mediators of Inflammation 2016 Feb. Doi: 10.1155/2016/6757154 https://www.hindawi.com/journals/mi/2016/6757154/
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[viii] Kimura I, Yoshikawa M, Kobayashi S, et al. New triterpens, myrrhanol A and myrrhanone A, from guggul-gum resins, and their potent anti-inflammatory effect on adjuvant-induced air-pouch granuloma of mice. Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters 2001 Apr 23;11(8):985-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11327606/
[ix] Verma S., Jain A., Gupta V. B. Synergistic and sustained anti-inflammatory activity of guguul with the ibuprofen: a preliminary study. International Journal of Pharma and Bio Sciences. 2010;1:1 http://www.ijpbs.net/issue-2/2.pdf
[xi] Chakrabarti SK, Ghosh S, Banerjee S, Mukherjee S, Chowdhury S. Oxidative stress in hypothyroid patients and the role of antioxidant supplementation. Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2016;20(5):674-678. doi:10.4103/2230-8210.190555. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5040049/
[xii] Marcocci C, Leo M, Altea MA. Oxidative Stress in Graves’ Disease. European Thyroid Journal. 2012;1(2):80-87. doi:10.1159/000337976. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3821469/
[xiii] Mester L, Mester M, Nityanand S. Inhibition of platelet aggregation by guggulu steroids. Planta Medica 1979 Dec; 37(4):367-9. https://www.thieme-connect.com/DOI/DOI?10.1055/s-0028-1097351
[xiv] What causes high cholesterol? MedicalNewsToday.com https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/9152.php
[xv] Rizos C., Elisaf M., Liberopoulos E. Effects of Thyroid Dysfunction on Lipid Profile. The Open Cardiovascular Medicine Journal. 2011;5:76-84. doi:10.2174/1874192401105010076. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3109527/
[xvi] Sarup P, Bala S, Kamboj S. Pharmacology and Phytochemistry of Oleo-Gum Resin of Commiphora wightii (Guggulu). Scientifica. 2015;2015:138039. doi:10.1155/2015/138039. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4637499/
[xvii] Das S, Datta A, Bagchi C, et al. A comparative study of lipid-lowering effects of guggul and atorvastatin monotherapy in comparison to their combination in high cholesterol diet-induced hyperlipidemia in rabbits. Journal of Dietary Supplements 2013;13(5):495-504. Doi: 10.3109/19390211.2015.1118654 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26735695
[xviii] Thyroid and weight, Thyroid.org https://www.thyroid.org/wp-content/uploads/patients/brochures/Thyroid_and_Weight.pdf
[xix] Laurberg P, Knudsen N, Andersen S, Carlé A, Pedersen IB, Karmisholt J. Thyroid Function and Obesity. European Thyroid Journal. 2012;1(3):159-167. doi:10.1159/000342994. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3821486/
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[xxi] Patti AM, Al-Rasadi K, Katsiki N, et al. Effect of a natural supplement containing curcuma longa, guggul, and chlorogenic acid in patients with metabolic syndrome. Angiology 2015 Oct;66(9):856-61. Doi: 10.1177/0003319714568792 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25632052
[xxii] Cui J, Huang L, Zhao A, et al. Guggulsterone is a farnesoid X receptor antagonist in coactivator association assays but acts to enhance transcription of bile salt export pump. Journal of Biological Chemistry 2003 Mar 21;278(12):10214-20. Doi: 10.1074/jbc.M209323200 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12525500
[xxiii] Mithila MV, Khanum F. The appetite regulatory effect of guggulsterones in rats: a repertoire of plasma hormones and neurotransmitters. Journal of Dietary Supplements 2014 Sep;11(3):262-71. Doi: 10.3109/19390211.2014.937045 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25025986