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