Resin from the mukul myrrh tree, guggul, can it be used for treating hypercholesterolemia? A randomized, controlled study

Complement Ther Med. 2009 Jan;17(1):16-22. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2008.07.001. Epub 2008 Aug 15.


Background: Guggul, herbal extract from resin of the Commiphora mukul tree, is widely used in Asia as a cholesterol-lowering agent based on Indian Ayurvedic medicine. Its popularity for this use is increasing in the US and Western Europe. Guggulsterones, the presumed bioactive compounds of guggul, may antagonise two nuclear hormone receptors involved in cholesterol metabolism, which is a possible explanation for hypolipidemic effects of these extracts. However, publications of efficacy data on the use of guggul extracts in Western populations are scarce.

Objective: To study the efficacy of a guggul-based formulation (short: guggul) on blood lipids in healthy adults with moderately increased cholesterol.

Methods: Double-blind, randomised, placebo controlled trial in Norwegian general practice. 43 women and men, age 27-70, with moderately increased cholesterol, randomised to use 2160mg guggul (4 capsules) daily, or placebo for 12 weeks.

Outcome measures: Mean change in total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) and total cholesterol/HDL-C ratio compared with baseline. Lipids were analysed at baseline, and at 6 and 12 weeks. In addition, unexpected events and adverse effects were recorded.

Results: Two dropouts, one withdrawal, and incomplete lab results for six persons left 34 participants to accomplish the trial (18-guggul, 16-placebo) with complete lab test data. After 12 weeks, mean levels of total cholesterol and HDL-C in the active group were significantly reduced compared with the placebo group. However, the mean levels of LDL-C, triglycerides, and total cholesterol/HDL-C ratio between the two groups did not change significantly. Ten guggul users (vs. four in the placebo group) reported side effects: mild gastrointestinal discomfort (n=7), possible thyroid problems (n=2), and generalized skin rash (n=1). The latter resulted in withdrawal from trial.

Conclusions: Even if total cholesterol and HDL-C were significantly reduced, the clinical magnitude of this remains obscure. More and larger studies are needed to establish effects and safety of guggul-based formulations in the treatment for hypercholesterolemia.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anticholesteremic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Commiphora* / adverse effects
  • Creatinine / blood
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypercholesterolemia / drug therapy*
  • Linear Models
  • Lipids / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts / adverse effects
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Plant Gums / adverse effects
  • Plant Gums / therapeutic use*
  • Resins, Plant / therapeutic use
  • Triglycerides / blood


  • Anticholesteremic Agents
  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Lipids
  • Plant Extracts
  • Plant Gums
  • Resins, Plant
  • Triglycerides
  • guggulu extract
  • Cholesterol
  • Creatinine