The Guggulu Guide
By Dr Shekhar Annambhotla
Widely used in Ayurveda, the plant gum exudate of guggulu (Commiphora mukul)
grows abundantly in the arid, rocky areas of Rajasthan, Gujarat,
Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Assam in India, and in Bangladesh.
The freshly collected gum resin is pale yellow, brown or dull green in
color; aged resin is dark brown in color. Guggulu has pungent, bitter,
astringent, and sweet tastes; its qualities are viscous, light, penetrating,
and drying. It is hot in both potency and post-digestive effect, Vata and
Kapha pacifying, and Pitta aggravating. Its actions are antiseptic,
carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, uterotonic,
alternative, stomachic, and sedative.
Guggulu has traditionally been used in the treatment of various conditions
and disorders including rheumatism, neurological disorders, obesity and
related disorders, syphilis, bronchitis, catarrh, gingivitis, inflammation,
pyorrhea, sores, tonsillitis, hysteria, mania, skin and urinary disorders.
When administering guggulu in accordance with the principles of Ayurvedic
medicine, the following points must be considered:
1. Guggulu resin is produced more abundantly and is stronger in potency
during the season of autumn; hence, Ayurveda states that guggulu resin must
be collected in autumn.
2. Different selections of guggulu resin have different therapeutic actions
based on the age of the guggulu. Freshly collected guggulu has a Brumhana
(weight increasing) quality, where as Purana guggulu (guggulu which is at
least one year old) has an Atilekhana (weight reducing) quality.
3. Guggulu has to be purified in cow's milk in order to remove toxic
substances and render the guggulu easily absorbable. Ayurveda specifies
Shodhana (purification) as one of the important procedures before oral
administration of guggulu. To purify guggulu in this manner, it should be
wrapped in a sack of cotton cloth and dipped in simmering cow's milk, which
must be continuously stirred until all the pure substance of the guggulu is
absorbed into the milk. When this process is complete, the milk containing
the pure guggulu gum resin will be solidified and the cotton sack containing
the impurities or toxins of the guggulu is to be discarded.
4. Classical Ayurvedic texts never recommend administering guggulu alone; it
has to be given along with other herbs in compounds such as Triphala
Guggulu, Kaishore Guggulu, Trayodashanga Guggulu, Yogaraja Guggulu,
Kanchanara Guggulu, etc. The administration of guggulu with other herbs has
the effect of purging Ama (toxic, morbid substance) from the body. Guggulu
administered alone cannot purge toxins from the body; in fact, guggulu
administered alone will most likely cause all the secreted or displaced
toxins from the various body's systems to re-circulate within the
5. The dosage for guggulu varies from person to person, and
Prakriti --individual mind-body type or constitution-- must be taken into
account when administering Guggulu. Being hot in potency, it should be used
in lower dosage in people of Pitta constitution as compared to Vata and
Kapha individuals. Guggulu administered in excessive dosages to Pitta
individuals may cause skin irritation and other blood related disorders.
6. Finally, during the course of using guggulu one should avoid the
following: foods that are sour or bitter in taste, alcohol, excessive
exercise, physical and mental strain, anger, and exposure to direct
In light of the above Ayurvedic principles pertaining to the collection,
preparation, and administration of guggulu, it would seem that valid
scientific study on the Ayurvedic application of guggulu would have to take
these subtle points into consideration.
When modern medical researchers set out to study Ayurvedic herbs or compounds and their
efficacy, the results would be far better and trustworthy they work with institutionally qualified
Ayurvedic practitioners and integrate the principles of Ayurvedic medicine
into the clinical study. Ayurveda is a highly indepth knowledge that needs a probe outside the test tube with an expansive outlook and vision.
1 "Guggulipid for the treatment of hypercholesterolemia: a randomized
controlled trial". JAMA, August 13, 2003, 290(6):765-72, Szapary, P.O., et
2 "Bhavaprakasa Nighantu." Bhavamisra. Written in 1550 AD.
3 "Dhanvantari Nighantu." Author Unknown. Written between 200-1000
4 "Madanapala Nighantu." Madanapala. Written in 1374 AD.
5 "Raja Nighantu." Naraharipandita. Written in 1700 AD.
Dr Shekhar Annambhotla has been a dedicated Ayurvedic practitioner, teacher, researcher and
Yoga instructor since 1988. He studied Ayurveda studies at Nagarjuna
University and Gujarat Ayurved University in India. He traveled extensively
throughout Europe, Latin America and North America for 7 years to develop
and teach courses and deliver lectures on Ayurveda and to offer health
consultations. He is the Founder and Director of Ojas, LLC (Ojas Ayurveda
Yoga Wellness Center) in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. Website: www.ojas.us.