The Benefits of Guggul Extract on Thyroid Function, Weight Loss & More

Guggul extract is well known for its positive benefits and ability to treat various diseases in eastern medicine. 

Having said that, it doesn't get the attention that it deserves over in western medicine. 

Guggul has been proven to provide powerful effects through clinical studies to promote weight loss, balance thyroid function and much more. 

Does that mean you should start using it?

Not necessarily, but we will discuss who should consider using guggul and all of the benefits that it may provide below...

More...

What is Guggul Extract?

So what exactly is Guggul?

Guggul, or Guggul extract, is a special botanical (herb) which is made from the sap or resin of a special tree in India. 

This particular extract has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, but only recently have we been able to find out about how this botanical works through scientific studies. 

guggulsterone treats these diseases

Conventional use for this herb was designed to treat weight gain and metabolic problems, patients suffering from low energy, patients suffering from thyroid disease, people with cholesterol problems, people with acne and other inflammatory diseases. 

Not surprisingly, many recent clinical studies (1) provide evidence that guggul may help in the following ways: 

  • Lower cholesterol or act as a hypolipidemic
  • Boost thyroid function
  • Help with weight loss
  • Fight acne
  • Anti-parasitic
  • Reduce inflammation in arthritis
  • Act as an anti-inflammatory agent
  • Act as an antioxidant
  • Protect brain health
  • Inhibit and treat Ulcerative colitis
  • Protect against liver damage
  • Protect against cardiac damage

The active ingredient in Guggul extract is known as guggulsterone. 

Guggulsterone appears to have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities at the systemic and cellular level (2). These attributes have been shown to alter thyroid function, improve metabolism and treat various inflammatory diseases such as acne. 

Beyond this mechanism of action, guggulsterone also has been shown to upregulate the bile salt export pump which is responsible for the removal of cholesterol metabolites from the liver. 

In addition, guggulsterone has been shown to suppress or block the activation of nuclear factor-kappa B or NF-kappaB for short. 

guggl inhibits NFKB

NF-kappaB is a critical regulator of the inflammatory response (3) in the body and is a highly sought-after target of many medications. 

We know that guggul works in at least the ways outlined above as well as others that have yet to be outlined. 

Because of the benefits that guggul can provide it is of special interest to patients who suffer from specific disease states. 

Specifically those with hypothyroidism, high cholesterol, acne, and weight gain. 

Why?

Because there are very few supplements (or even medications for that matter) which provide benefit to patients with these problems. 

Additional supplements provide a natural approach that can help many patients who suffer from thyroid disease. 

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5 Benefits of using Guggul Extract

Extracts of plants provide humans with benefits that we may otherwise not be able to achieve.

Each location in the world seems to have special plants, herbs or botanicals to help with specific problems.

Previously these plants and benefits were only available to those who lived in endemic areas of these plants.

In addition, it can be difficult to acquire high enough dosing of certain compounds in plants due to a variety of reasons.

Special formulating techniques allow us to concentrate the active ingredients in plants (like guggul) and take advantage of the benefits that these plants have to offer. 

While guggul can be used for a variety of medical conditions I've included the 5 most common reasons you should consider using guggul supplementation. 

#1. Boosts Thyroid Function


Daily use of guggul has been shown to have very positive effects on thyroid function. 

Studies have shown (4) that guggul use can ameliorate (or reduce) the symptoms of hypothyroidism by increasing T3 levels, T4 levels, normalizing the TSH and improving liver conversion of thyroid hormones. 

Now the question becomes:

How does guggul help improve thyroid status?

The answer to this question probably has to do with guggul's ability to increase iodine uptake and therefore make the thyroid more effective on its own. 

Other studies have shown that guggul increases iodine uptake and enhances thyroid peroxidase in the thyroid gland (5). 

In addition, guggul also increases oxygen consumption (energy expenditure) in both the liver and muscle tissue. 

It's worth pointing out that in order to get the benefits to thyroid function by taking guggul you probably need to have a functioning thyroid. 

Guggul likely won't produce considerable benefit in patients who do not have a thyroid and/or in patients who have undergone radioactive iodine ablation. 

Why?

Because much of the benefit of using guggul comes in boosting EXISTING thyroid function, which means you need to have some function, to begin with. 

While this is bad news for patients without a thyroid, it's actually good news for other hypothyroid patients. 

Using guggul may allow for patients taking thyroid hormone replacement medication to potentially reduce their overall dosage of thyroid hormone. 

Many patients with mild hypothyroidism, including those with subclinical hypothyroidism, do not necessarily need to be on thyroid hormone replacement for life. 

There are some reversible causes of hypothyroidism ranging from minor nutrient deficiencies (iodine deficiency, low Zinc/selenium) to obesity which may influence thyroid conversion status. 

In these individuals, the use of guggul may help to correct the deficiencies and act as a supplement to existing thyroid medication. 

Other tips for using Guggul to enhance thyroid hormone production

A large portion of this blog is dedicated to discussing the impact of thyroid disease on patients and for good reason. 

Your thyroid gland controls major functions and regulates nearly every hormone in your body. 

The point here is that if you are interested in using guggul for only its potential thyroid benefits (not a bad idea), I don't recommend that you necessarily take it alone or by itself. 

Combining guggul with other thyroid boosting supplements can provide even more benefit and help you achieve whatever goal you are looking to obtain (increased thyroid conversion, more weight loss, reduced T3, a reduction in thyroid dosing, etc.). 

Combining guggul with basic thyroid enhancing supplements such as zinc, selenium (6), vitamin E, vitamin A and B complex vitamins will go a long way to further improving your results. 

This same logic applies to various other reasons you might use guggul which is why I recommend using guggul in combination with other nutrients/vitamins and botanicals. 

You can find more information about nutrients needed for proper thyroid function here

You can find more information about how to use guggul correctly for enhancing thyroid function here

#2. Helps with Weight Loss


Guggul isn't a miracle weight loss supplement, but it does have special properties that may make it effective in helping to burn fat and promote weight loss. 

Whenever we discuss weight loss it's always important to discuss how or why something leads to weight loss. 

The reason is simple:

If you are overweight because you tend to binge eat or have high levels of stress which cause you to lose sleep, then guggul probably won't work for you. 

Why?

Because in order to lose weight you need to treat the underlying cause. 

If you are gaining weight because you binge eat, then you need to address the binge eating. 

If you are gaining weight because you are overly stressed and not sleeping, then you need to focus on reducing your stress and improving your sleep. 

So where does guggul fit into this equation?

potential targets of guggulsterone

Guggul tends to work best for weight loss in patients who have a condition known as metabolic syndrome or in those with hormone-induced weight gain. 

Studies have shown (7) that guggul (especially when combined with other botanicals) helped patients with metabolic syndrome reduce their BMI, drop their overall weight, reduce their waist circumference (burn belly fat), lower their cholesterol and reduce blood sugar. 

These benefits were statistically significant and found to be common among a study which included 78 patients (not a huge study, but enough to show the benefits). 

So how is guggul causing weight loss?

Most likely through its effects on specific fat storing hormones such as insulin, leptin and thyroid hormone. 

Together these 3 hormones help regulate the flow of calories into and out of your fat cells and also influence satiety and your appetite. 

Whenever they are dysregulated you can almost guarantee that weight gain will follow. 

Other people who might benefit from using guggul include patients with weight gain related to PCOS, sex hormone imbalances, type II diabetes, hypothyroidism, insulin resistance, and leptin resistance. 

#3. Reduces Inflammation


As mentioned previously, guggulsterone (and guggul) is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. 

But what exactly does that even mean?

We know that chronic, low-grade "inflammation" is bad, but most people don't truly understand what that means. 

In an oversimplified sense, inflammation is a series of cellular pathways and messages that get sent when there is damage of any kind to cells or tissues. 

The response itself is not the problem, it's actually meant to help your body long term. 

It becomes a problem when the inflammatory cascade can't or won't "shut off". 

So when we talk about inflammation being bad, it's really a set of conditions that activate the inflammatory cascade that causes all of the problems. 

So where does guggul step in?

Guggul helps shut down the inflammatory cascade by inhibiting a mediator of this cascade known as NF-kB. 

And this effect is helpful for a variety of conditions in which NF-kb is known to be a primary driver: 

disease states with NFKB activation
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Atherosclerosis (cholesterol deposits on the cell wall)
  • COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Asthma
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn's or Ulcerative colitis

In addition to these disease states, low-grade inflammation also promotes obesity, disrupts hormone balance, leads to a reduction in thyroid conversion and can cause chronic pain and joint problems. 

The bottom line?

Reducing inflammation in your body should be a top priority if you suffer from an inflammatory mediated disease and guggul may help to reduce that inflammation (8).

#4. Improves Cholesterol Levels


Another important benefit of using guggul is its ability to reduce cholesterol levels. 

This benefit is well documented and stems from 3 mechanisms: 

First:

Guggulsterone helps reduce inflammation, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome - all of which may promote hyperlipidemia and increase your risk of heart attack. 

In a nutshell, guggul helps fight the underlying cause of high cholesterol in most patients. 

Second:

By directly influencing the metabolism of cholesterol and promoting an increase in excretion of cholesterol through bile acid. 

Basically, guggul helps your body get rid of extra cholesterol. 

guggulsterone and cholesterol

Third:

By influencing thyroid hormone which is a major regulator of cholesterol synthesis in the liver. 

Further, animal studies (9) have shown that guggul supplementation resulted in a significant reduction in total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL and VLDL particles. 

In addition, this study also showed a significant increase in the "good" cholesterol HDL. 

Basically, these studies indicate that taking guggul promotes a more "normal" cholesterol profile that so many people are seeking. 

In contrast, other studies have suggested (10) that guggul may not be effective at lowering cholesterol in everyone. 

The moral of the story?

Whenever you consider supplementation for a specific problem make sure you consider what the supplement (or medication) is doing inside of your body and determine if that mechanism will help the cause of your problem. 

One of the main benefits of using a natural supplement such as guggul is that it is generally very well tolerated, especially when compared to the side effects of more standard anti-cholesterol medications. 

You should consider these factors if you are thinking about using guggul to lower your cholesterol. 

#5. Helps fight Acne


Lastly, guggul has been shown to help fight inflammatory nodular acne. 

This may not seem like an important benefit to those not suffering from acne, but for those who do suffer from acne, this can be a huge deal. 

In a head to head study (11), guggulsterone vs tetracycline showed equal efficacy in treating nodular acne. 

Patients who took guggulsterone twice daily for 3 months showed a reduction in inflammatory acne nodules by 68% (compared to 65.2% in those treated with tetracycline). 

Another interesting point worth mentioning is that those with people with high amounts of oil production seemed to respond better to guggulsterone. 

This may be due to the fact that guggul extract has the ability to calm down insulin resistance and reduce androgen receptor sensitivity in sebaceous glands. 

This offers an interesting opportunity for those suffering from acne secondary to high testosterone or high androgen levels

How to use Guggul Extract & Guggulsterone

Many people can potentially benefit from using guggul but I've included a list of people which I think tend to gain the most benefit below: 

  • Patients with Hypothyroidism, Hashimoto's or thyroid conversion problems
  • Patients with known or suspected chronic, low-grade inflammation
  • People with nodular-cystic acne
  • People with obesity secondary to hormone imbalances (leptin, insulin and thyroid imbalances)
  • Patients with high cholesterol levels

How to Use:

  • For Thyroid Function: 2 capsules per day (up to 4 capsules per day) or 100-200mg per day
  • For Weight Loss: up to 200mg per day x 3-6 months
  • For Inflammation: 100mg per day x 3-6 months

Dosing Guide

I've provided a list of studies showing the efficacy of guggul based on dosage below: 

clinical studies showing the efficacy of guggul

As you can see from the study the dosage ranges 50mg all the way up to 500mg (or more) in some cases. 

It's important to realize that it may not be a good idea to use that high of dosage as you may start to develop some side effects. 

Instead, I recommend a different approach:

It's often better to combine guggul with various other supplements designed to reduce inflammation and promote proper hormone function. 

This allows for the same benefit while utilizing a lower dose of guggul. 

I've found that most people see results with as little as 100mg to 200mg per day utilizing this approach. 

Side Effects of using Guggul

Generally speaking, guggul is well tolerated as far as supplements go. 

Some people have reported various side effects as the dosage of guggul exceeds 500mg per day (which I don't recommend). 

The most common side effects seen at high dosages of guggul include stomach discomfort (GI related issues) and rarely a rash. 

To avoid these side effects you can start with a low dose and slowly titrate your dose up based on your desired results. 

I recommend starting at 50mg per day and increasing up every 2 weeks as tolerated. 

Conclusion

Guggul is a powerful botanical supplement which can help reduce inflammation, promote thyroid function, help with weight loss and lower cholesterol. 

Best of all?

These benefits occur naturally through the effects that guggul has on cellular inflammatory cascades. 

Like all supplements, guggul may not work for everyone, but it's worth a trial if you suffer from these specific conditions. 

Now I want to hear from you:

Have you used guggul before?

Did it work for you?

Why or why not?

Leave your comments or questions below! 

References (Click to Expand)

This post was most recently updated on February 6th, 2019

Dr. Westin Childs

Dr. Westin Childs is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. He provides well-researched actionable information about hormone-related disorders and formulates supplements to treat these disorders.He is trained in Internal Medicine, Functional Medicine, and Integrative Medicine. His focus is on managing thyroid disorders, weight loss resistance, and other sex hormone imbalances.You can read more about his own personal journey here.

33 thoughts on “The Benefits of Guggul Extract on Thyroid Function, Weight Loss & More”

    • Hi Anita,

      That is the only one that I’ve used which is why I endorse it. I’m not familiar with other supplements that contain guggul because it doesn’t seem to be well known among integrative practitioners. The stock should be replaced fairly soon, however.

      • I see that most people on here are talking about hypothyroid and I think mine is Hyper (T4 1.28 and TSH .60) Would the supplement Guggul Extract be of any good to me especially for losing weight?

        • Hi Anita,

          You need to first figure out if you are actually hyperthyroid. If you were you most likely would not be suffering from weight gain (you would have excessive weight loss). The treatment for hyperthyroid patients always results in hypothyroidism which can be confusing to many patients. You can also learn more about supplements for hyperthyroid patients here: https://www.restartmed.com/hyperthyroid-supplements/

  1. I had Hashimotos which turned into cancer. Had a complete thyroidectomy in 2002. Do you think this will help me? I am overweight and no matter what I do I can only lose about 20lbs then nothing more 🙁

  2. Hi Westin

    My son is 23 and has a TSHC of 6.5. Was given a trial of levo and whilst on it TSH was 3.5. The docs said it wasnt working and took him off levo but they only left him on 50mcg which is a starting dose, as you probably know! They just wouldnt listen to me and titrate the dose. It is even listed on the instructions. The clinical lead didnt even take notice! I think he has Hashimotos like me so am just about to get a second opinion. This has been going on sincecat least 2011.

    Do you think this could help him. I have just put him on
    Selenium and vitamin D liquid which has zinc and magnesium with B12 liquid. He finds tablets difficult to take unless they are small.

    I see further up your post it wont work for people who have no functioning thyroid so if we have Hashis it probably wouldnt work would it? The lady above had a complete thyroidectomy so she would not have a functioning thyroid?

    Regards

    Jane

    • Hi Jane,

      It takes many, many years for Hashimoto’s to result in glandular damage (think on the order of decades), so people with Hashimoto’s are very likely to improve while taking it.

      It will still work to improve T4 to T3 conversion in those without a functioning thyroid gland, I was just pointing out that one of the ways it works is by increasing natural thyroid hormone production – which obviously wouldn’t work if the thyroid is missing. But there are still other ways in which it improves thyroid function that would still be relevant to those without a thyroid gland (functioning or missing).

  3. Dr. Childs,

    Last week, I underwent Thyroid lobectomy due to early-stage papillary carcinoma. I suffer from PCOS and have just about every symptom including obesity. I have slightly elevated cholesterol, pre-diabetes, and pre-hypertension. It sounds like this supplement might be a good one for me.

    I still have a “functioning thyroid” (hopefully) but realize that it may not produce the amount of hormone it did prior to surgery – my numbers have always been on the mid-to-low side of normal. I have not had levels checked yet since surgery and am not on synthetic hormone yet. Do you think it is worth trying Guggul as a first step for me to help with these various conditions?

    I’m trying very hard to turn my health around by exercising and juicing and eliminating inflammatory foods. I’d love to be able to take natural supplements rather than add more synthetic drugs to my daily routine.

    I guess I’m wondering if it is contraindicated for people who have had thyroid cancer.

    Would appreciate your thoughts.

    Thanks!
    Whitney

    • Hi Whitney,

      Guggul isn’t contraindicated in those with thyroid cancer or those post partial thyroidectomy so it should be fine to use.

  4. Dr. Childs,

    Thanks. In the diet program there are recommendations of supplements. Can we take the supplements along with modern medicine? Will it interact with the medicine? I am little confused. I have some GI issues and taking medicines, pain killers etc.

    Regards,
    Kathy

  5. Dr.childs,
    Thank you so much. I have endometriosis and hashimoto’s. Due to this combo I have so many issues in my body. I have been trying to heal myself to feel a little better. Your are doing a wonderful job. Your website is really very thoughtful. My physician and encdocrinologist say that to avoid herbal supplements. It would give negative reactions along with modern medicine even though they are herbs. Could you please explain why the contradiction between even two modern medicine doctors.
    Would appreciate your thoughts. Thanks

    • Hi Kathy,

      There are a number of reasons that conventional doctors generally say to avoid herbal or nutritional supplements:

      #1. They simply aren’t familiar with how to use them. This is probably the biggest, Doctors don’t like to admit that they don’t know things, so it should come as no surprise that they recommend against using things they aren’t familiar with.

      #2. They’ve seen people have bad reactions to certain supplements. Not all supplements work for all people, but just because you’ve seen 1 or 2 bad reactions doesn’t mean you should recommend against all supplements.

      #3. The quality and concentration varies and there isn’t a body that ensures claims are met like there is in the pharmaceutical world. You can avoid this by purchasing high quality supplements from the brands that I recommend or list on my site.

      #4. They aren’t familiar with the research showing that these supplements actually work. Most conventional doctors read literature and studies produced by pharmaceutical companies promoting their own products.

      There are probably other reasons but these are just a few that come to mind immediately.

  6. Dr.Childs,

    First of all thank you so much for the detailed answer. I really admire you for your honest opinion. Please share your knowledge and views on bio identical hormone replacement therapy,birth control. Thanks.

  7. So, you are recommending guggul for thyroid stimulating purposes based on two studies done with rats…?

    You have really great stuff on this site but I think you should slow a bit and actually recommended herbs for corresponding purposes only if they have been shown to be effective in human trials.

    • Hi AnsM,

      Great question!

      I’m recommending it based on my own personal experience and attempting to explain why it may work through various studies listed here.

      Like many other supplements we don’t know exactly why or how they work but clinicians do indeed know that they work from personal and clinical experience.

      Supplements don’t tend to get the rigorous testing that pharmaceutical drugs get but it doesn’t mean they don’t necessarily work.

      There’s also very little incentive for people to do clinical studies on certain supplements so if we waited for the studies they might never happen! This has to do with pharmaceutical companies funding the majority of studies along with many other issues.

      Hope this helps!

  8. Hi,

    I always believed Natural Medicines.I been taking my T4 (levot) 50 mcg, last one year I stopped it taking only Gaggulu tablets moving from synthetic to natural. Yesterday my thyroid level didn’t change at all. Now I am thinking back to change to synthetic 50 mcg. Please give me good suggestion? Can I use any natural medicine without using synthetic products?

    • Hi Rhad,

      Unfortunately I can’t really give you specific information through the comment section on this blog – it wouldn’t be safe for either of us!

      You might have better luck working with a provider who can help determine if thyroid medication is absolutely necessary in your case.

  9. I am toying with using guggul resin to help w/my thyroid because my body isn’t converting the T4 to T3 and my compounded meds are more than double an average does, with my TSH climbing. And thus, the weight gain no matter how well/little I eat. My concern is that I read it can mimic estrogen, which I don’t need more of due to other health issues and family history of breast CA.

    I am interested in your thoughts.

    Thanks for your time and the great article.

  10. Dr. Childs,
    I have been managing not only my high cholesterol with a Guggul-Rose supplement, prescribed by my TCM acupuncture doctor but also hypothyroidism. Both my primary Doctor and my endocrinologist are aware of my use of this supplement and both have seen the benefits to my health because of the guggul supplement! My LDL cholesterol numbers had dropped significantly within a 6 month period and to the surprise of my doctor, who was also encouraged.
    I am on the lowest dose of thyroid replacement medication and my levels have remained stable for more than 2 years with no increase or adjustments necessary in the medication. I also have a heart health issue (atrial fibrillation) of which I have been on a low dose of medication for years, that has kept this condition in a manageable setting.
    All this to say, I give great credit to Guggul for giving me an alternative to holistically and safely keep my numbers under control, with as little prescribed western medication as possible.
    Thank you for the information in this article. I found it to be very affirming and informative.

    Respectfully,
    Paula

  11. I have been searching for quite awhile for an alternative to levothyroxine/Synthroid. I’ve been told it is not good for those with osteoporosis. After bouncing back and forth between doses, my doc finally put me on .025mg of levothyroxine. Even such a low dosage caused side effects. I took guggul extract 750 mg along with other seaweed products for sometime and noticed improvement in symptoms but didn’t know why because I was taking so many things. Then one day I read more upon guggul and started taking with it other vitamins along with adrenal support. It is then that I started feeling much more energy and relief. I pulled away once again from the Levothyroxine and noticed a more stable feeling. I believe this is going to work for me. Am I getting symptomatic relief or healing? I don’t want to go back to Levothyroxine. I will be going back to my specialist in 2 months to see if I am ok.

  12. Just ordered guggul extract for my acne not knowing it helps with Hashimoto’s, which I have for quite a while now. My doctor refuses to prescribe me bio-identical hormones as new studies, supposedly, shows that it can harm people with Hashimoto’s, being an autoimmune disease. So, now I’m on synthetic slow-release compounded t4/t3 (160 mcg/40 mcg) that does nothing good for me, only more side effects. I have never had a pimple in my life, but now I have them on my face, scalp, around the hairline, back, and chest. My diet is, and was always, super clean,100% organic /grass-fed/pastured raised and always homemade. Pounds of veggies a day, fermented foods and so on…My symptoms are only getting worse. I also have celiac, alopecia areata, mctd, carpal tunnel syndrome and soon will be checked for ankylosing spondylitis, as my back pain, knee pain, neck pain are quite painful.
    I would love to get off the synthetic hormones and switch to bioidentical ones.
    Was wondering if you know anything about biotics research GTA forte 2, and if helps with Hashimoto’s. I also take selenium, zinc, aswhaganda, chaste berry, eleuthero, turmeric, and Rhodiola Rosea.
    I was recommended l-carnitine and glutathione reduced, but I am scared to take so many supplements.
    I would love your opinion on this.
    Thank you.

    Ann

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