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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 physiology.

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 sunlight.

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.

References:

1 "Guggulipid for the treatment of hypercholesterolemia: a randomized controlled trial". JAMA, August 13, 2003, 290(6):765-72, Szapary, P.O., et al.

2 "Bhavaprakasa Nighantu." Bhavamisra. Written in 1550 AD.

3 "Dhanvantari Nighantu." Author Unknown. Written between 200-1000

AD.

4 "Madanapala Nighantu." Madanapala. Written in 1374 AD.

5 "Raja Nighantu." Naraharipandita. Written in 1700 AD.


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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.

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