Guggul or Guggulu is a small thorny plant that occupies pride of place in Ayurveda’s pharmacy of natural remedies. Its scientific name is commiphora mukul and it grows best in arid and semi-arid climates, in sandy as well as loamy soils. It is usually resistant to drought and salinity. The plant has pine scent branches and an ash – coloured, rough bark that peels off in flakes. The leaves are alternate, simple, smooth, shiny and similar to those of the Neem tree.
The plant provides an oleo gum resin that has been mentioned by the famous Ayurvedic physician Sushruta, more than 3000 years ago, as being a valuable drug. This resinous gum is obtained from the bark of the tree. It is an irregular roundish glistering mass that is aromatic and an opaque, reddish brown when dry. The resin has been used as an Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, and reference to its healing and therapeutic properties have been made in the sacred text of Hinduism, the Atharva Veda.
In Kerala, the palm frond-shaped state in South India that is famed for its Ayurvedic physicians, the traditional uses of guggul have been studied in detail and validated through centuries of experience.
Guggul is a complex herb that is bitter, pungent, astringent and sweet. It is especially helpful in correcting imbalances of two of the three doshas or life forces of the body- Vata and Kapha. What is important is that it does so without aggravating the third life force, Pitta. According to Ayurveda, it only when all the three life forces are uniquely balanced can an individual enjoy good health.
Guggul for Multifaceted Benefits
The “Sushruta Samhita”, the classical ancient treatise on Ayurvedic medicines, describes the use of Guggul for a wide variety of conditions. Some of these are rheumatism, obesity, and atherosclerosis. It is also useful in arthritic pains and helps in reversing the degenerative changes that occur in joints and bones. Guggul helps in strengthening the digestive system and in the easy secretion of digestive juices. It works as an appetizer and helps in avoiding indigestion and constipation. Guggul is beneficial in the treatment of hemorrhoids and colitis, hyperacidity and belching.
Guggul acts as a blood purifier and it is widely used in skin diseases. It helps in promoting the production of red blood corpuscles and in improving the action of white blood cells. Guggul improves thyroid function, increases fat-burning activity of the body and has both anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-lowering properties. It is good the treatment of spongy gums, ulcerated throat and stomatitis, while the tincture is used to heal ulcers.
Different selections of the Guggul resin have different therapeutic actions based on the age of the resin. Guggul resin is produced more abundantly and is stronger in potency during autumn, and Ayurveda advises that the resin be collected in that season. Guggul has to be purified in cow’s milk in order to remove toxic substances. Ayurveda also specifies that Guggul should always given as a compound with other herbs in formulations like Triphala Guggul, which combines the detoxifying and rejuvenating actions of Triphala- or three Fruits- with the deeply penetrating and cleansing actions of Guggul and the stimulating action of Pippali.
Triphala Guggul should be used for at least three months as it works slowly, safely, and effectively. In fact, the Sanskrit definition of the term Guggul is “one that protects against diseases.” Interestingly, this key component in Ayurvedic medicine has become so scarce that the IUCN has enlisted it in its Red Data List of endangered species!