In Ayurveda, a good weight loss plan should be done slowly, utilizing a low-calorie diet, occasional fasting, spicy herbs that aid digestion, mild laxatives, and medicinal herbs like guggul.1 Guggul (also called Indian Bedellium and guggulu) is extracted from the gum resin of a small, shrubby tree (Commiphora mukul ), which is native to different areas of India, Africa, and the Middle East.1,15 The use of guggul for weight loss is common in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, but is still a grey area in Western medicine given the relative lack of clinical research.
There are many Ayurvedic formulas containing guggul, but Triphala-guggul and Medohar-guggulu preparations are generally recommended for weight loss. Guggul is also used to treat disorders often associated with obesity, like hyperlipidemia and diabetes.106
How Does it Work?
Laboratory and animal studies demonstrate that guggulsterone (the active component of guggul) exerts a number of biological effects that could potentially help you lose weight:
- increases lipid metabolism48
- induces natural cellular death of fat cells107
- inhibiting formation of new fat cells107
- stimulates the thyroid48
In fact, medical experts caution that guggul may interact with thyroid supplements and blood thinners (e.g., warfarin and aspirin) because of its anticoagulant and thyroid-stimulating activities.108
Clinical Research on Guggul for Weight Loss
While the mechanisms of action of guggul on weight loss induction continue to be discovered, there is a lack of clinical evidence from randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials of its effectiveness in humans. A 2004 review of herbal supplements used for weight loss published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition noted no significant weight loss with oral intake of 750 mg/day of guggul. 109
However, some open, controlled, and non-controlled clinical studies suggest that guggul may offer some weight loss benefit that warrants further examination. Case studies conducted at the Swami Prakashananda and Ayurveda Research Centre (SPARC) in India involving 13 female patients between the ages of 32 and 54 showed a weight loss of between two and a little over fourteen pounds over a course of 1-8 months for 11 of the patients—with no modifications in diet or exercise. Initial weight of all the patients was between 132 and 216 pounds. Twelve of the participants were given Ayurvedic weight loss formulations based on guggul along with herbal formulas based on kutki and one took the kutki formulas but no guggul. The one who did not take guggul lost 2.2 pounds in 6 weeks.106
Another case review at SPARC showed that larger doses of guggul preparations combined with moderate diet and exercise could result in even more weight loss. Of the 36 patients following this weight loss therapy, seven lost more than 22 pounds in one month. Average weight loss in this group was about eight pounds. And in a clinical trial involving 70 obese participants, those who were given Ayurvedic herbal weight loss preparations containing guggul experienced significant weight loss and decreased body measurements while the placebo group had none.106
Recommended Dosage and Cautions
Ayurvedic practitioners recommend 2-4 grams per day of guggul for weight loss, taken with hot water.106
Although guggul appears to be safe, some mild side effects have been reported. These include upset stomach, nausea, and rash—including allergic skin reactions to slimming and anti-cellulite creams. 108
Often referred to as guggulipid, guggul’s main bioactive component.
Also known as Commiphora wightii.
Three different tropical fruits.
Contains multiple herbs and minerals.
Specifically, Medohar-guggulu (MHG).
Another Ayurvedic herb.