Ethnopharmacological Story of Guggul Sterones: An Overview


Suresh Kumar Ghritlahare1*, Trilochan Satapathy1, Prasanna Kumar Panda2,

Geetanjali Mishra3

1Department of  Pharmacology, Columbia Institute of  Pharmacy, Tekari, Near Vidhan Sabha, Raipur -493111

Dist-Raipur (C.G.) India.

2University Department of  Pharmaceutical Sciences, Utkal University, Vanivihar, Bhubaneswar, Odisha-751004

3School of  Pharmaceutical Education and Research, Berhampur University, Odisha-760007

*Corresponding Author E-mail:



Medicinal plants have played an important role throughout the world in treating and preventing human diseases, commiphora wightii is an important medicinal plant of herbal heritage of India. Guggul is obtained from commiphora mukul which belong to the Family, Burseraceae . C. mukul occurs in north east Africa, Somali and southern Arabia , in India it is found in Gujrat, Mysore , Bengal, M. Pradesh , Desert of  Rajastasthan a list of few  Commiphora  species C. Mukul, C. Myrrh , C. Stocksiana  Engl, C. Caudate Engl. etc, Guggul tree is small ,1.2-1.8 m high. Each plant yield about one kilogram of the product which is collected in cold Season, isolation of  guggul sterons , extract with EtOAC yield soluble fraction and insoluble fraction, soluble fraction consist of 45% gum resin while 55% insoluble fraction contains carbohydrate, there is no any therapeutic property reported. Guggul lipid has active ingredients like Ketosteroids cis and trans is also known as sterones. guggulsterone-I, II, III, IV, V, VI, myrcene, dimyrcene, bioactive compounds in extract of mukul reported are dimyrcene, 15 α- camphorene. 16 linoleic, oleic, stearic, palmitic acid, sitosterol etc. It is therapeutically used in obesity hyperlipidaemia, arthritis, coronary thrombosis, cardiac disorders, diabetes, tumours, thyroid disorders, hepatic obstructions and weakness pharyngitis etc. Marketed formulation of Guggul triphala Guggul, Yougaraja Guggul, kaishora gugguln, Navaka guggul etc. 


KEYWORDS: Commiphora mukul, Chemistry, Guggul lipid, Therapeutic uses.




Medicinal plants have played an important role throughout the world in treating and preventing human diseases. The different medicinal plants such as arid zone plants, herbal plants and some shrubs have the potential role in the prevention and treatment of human diseases1.


Commiphora wightii popular by its vernacular name Guggulu is one of most important medicinal plant of traditional system of medicine and also having a nice status in modern research and drug system. It is the source of valuable oleo-gum-resin known as Guggulu gum. Guggulu gum has many medicinal and non medicinal properties2. Gugulipid (GL, guggul, guggal, or gugul lipid) is the ethyl acetate extract of gum guggul resin (raw material) that is harvested directly from the Commiphora mukul tree (family name: Burseraceae; synonyms: Hook, Bandari, Balsamodendron mukul, and Commiphora Wightii)3. In Indian ethno medicine, this plant is locally known as guggulu, and whole plant have long been used as Ayurvedic remedy for lowering the blood cholesterol4. Commiphora wightii is an important medicinal plant of herbal heritage of India. In Indian languages, it is known by various names like guggul in Hindi, gukkulu and maishakshi in Tamil, guggulu in Sanskrit and Indian bdellium in English5. The plant has vast economic value and a wide array of medicinal uses in both ancient and modern therapeutics6. According to Ayurveda, there are five types of Guggulu namely; Krishnan (black), Peet varn (yellow), Neel (blue), Kapish (light brown) and Rakt (blood red); among which only first two are suitable for human consumption7. Sushruta Samhita (600 B.C.), a well-known Ayurvedic medical text, describes the usefulness of oleo gum resin in the treatment of a number of ailments, including obesity and disorders of lipid metabolism8. Traditional (India) uses of C. mukul (CM) are for its anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, carminative, emmenagogue,   alternative, antiseptic and astringent, a thyroid stimulant, anthelminitic and antihyperlipidemia properties. It is an important herb used in the treatment of several degenerative disorders in modern medicine too and established as hypolipidemic drugs. Ayurvedic medicines containing gum guggul often contain guggul in their names, such as in Shunthi-guggul and Yogaraja guggul9. Guggulipid, an ethyl acetate extract of the resin of plant C. mukul is an established hypolilpidemic agent. It is used extensively for the treatment of different ailments including dysmenorrhea, endometritis, hyper cholesteremia, hypertension, bronchitis, inflammation arthritis, cancer and cardiovascular disorders10.


Guggulu has dynamic medicinal properties as in ‘Arthavaveda’ it is mentioned that:-‘as (“Yakshma” (disease), it cannot appear in sun light. Guggulu is the best medicine for it, because it develops through the rays of hot sun on specific circumstances.’ Source of Guggulu: Commiphora wightii Engl. (synonyms: Commiphora mukul and Balsamodendron mukul), is a small tree of the Burseraceae family, the classical treatise of Ayurvedic Medicine: (Maharishi Sushrut, Acharya Charak, Acharya Vagbhatt and various Nighantu), is described the use of Guggulu on wide variety of conditions. Like-: Medohar (Anti-Obesity,), Hridya (Antihypertensive, Hypolipidemic, Athero sclerosis), Vatajit-: Sandhivata (as in Ostearthritis), Rasayan (antioxidant), Granthi (Nodular-cyst), Sothhar (Anti-inflammatory),  Gand (Hypothyroidism) Prameh (Diabetes), Krimighan (antibiotic), Bhagandra (Fistula), Switra (Leucoderma), Kasa (Cough), Swarya (Speech fluency), Arbuda (Tumour), Udar Roga (Disease of Abdomen), Deepan (Appetizer) etc.11.



Botanical source:

Gum guggul is obtained from the tree Commiphora wightii (Arnott.) Bhandari (syn. Commiphora mukul), which belongs to the family Burseraceae12, 13.


Scientific classification of gugulu plant:

Kingdom                : Plantae- plants

Subkingdom         : Tracheobionta- Vascular plants

Super division      : Spermatophyta- Seed plants

Division                 : Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants

Class                      : Magnoliopsida- Dicotyledons

Subclass                : Rosidae

Order                     : Sapindales

Family                    : Burseraceae

Genus                    : Commiphora Species Commiphora wighitt (Arnott.) Brand.


Fig : commiphora mukul plant and Gum guggul (trunk with the gum)12,13.



C. Mukul occurs in North East Africa, Somali and Southern Arabia. In Southern Arabia, it occurs in Ghizan, Gison, while in Pakistan it is abundant in Sindh and Buluchistan. In India it is found in Gujrat, Mysore, Bengal, M.Pradash, Belleri and in Rajputana Desert of Rajastasthan14.



The young stem is glandular and pubescent. The old stem is brownish to pale yellow in color and is covered by a thin paper like layer which appears by the coals of the dead cells. Stem diameter is variable reaching up to 20cm.



The leaves are 1-3 foliate, alternate, simple obviate, and serrate toothed in the upper parts with tapering base and entire apex. Leaflets are sub sessile rhomboid, smooth and shiny.



The flowers are small brownish, red colored, unisexual or bisexual, with few pedicles solitary or in clusters.



Are round, fleshy and red in color, when ripe-fruit is 6-8mm in diameter, ovoid, acute, epicarp, and four valved pyrens ovate, readily splitting into two parts14.


Gum Resin:

Pale yellow to brown aromatic gum resin obtained from the bark of the plant. Agglomerated tears of resin are somewhat transparent, with waxy surface and brittle in nature. Gum-resin is thick, scented, burnt on fire, liquifies in sun heat. When dissolved in water, it turns milky white15.


Macroscopic and Microscopic Features:

Macroscopic :

Drug occurs in vermicular pieces of pale yellow or brown coloured mass, makes milky emulsion in hot water and readily burns, when fresh viscid and golden coloured, odour; aromatic, taste is bitter and astringent.


Microscopic : 

Foreign matter Not more than 4 %; Total Ash Not more than 5 %; Acid-insoluble ash Not more than 1%; Alcohol-soluble extractive Not less than 27 %; Water-soluble extractive Not less than 53%; Volatile oil Not less than 1%, v/w15.



Guggulu, Kalaniryasa, Mahaisaka, Palankasa, Jatayu, Kausika, devadhupa, Siva and pura. Indian bdellium, aflatan, moql, moqlearzaqi, mukulearahi, gugal, guggul, mukul, ranghanturb, guggala,  goggle, gulag, boejahudan, gugali, gugar, bhavbhishtha, bhutahara, deveshta, dhurta, divya, kumbholu, kumbholukhalaka, kunti, mahishaksha, mahishakshaka, marudishta, nishadhaka, pavandvishta, pura, puta, rakshoha, sarvasaha, shamhava, shiva, uddipta, ulukhalaka, usha, vayughna, ranghanturb,  javayu, ratadummula, maishakshi etc16.


Alternate or Vernacular names 15, 16:

Common Name



Gogil, Gugal, Guggul, Mukul, Ranghanturb, Gugava,Gugavik,


Bhavabhishtha, Bhutahara, Devadhupa, Deveshta, Dhurta, Divya, Durga, Guggalu,Jatala, Jatayu, Kalaniriyasa, Kaushika, Kumbha,  Kumlhi,Kumbholu, Kumbholu-Khalaka, Kunti, Pavandvishta, Pura, Puta, Rakshoha, Sarvasaha, Shambhava, Shiva, Uddipta, Ulukhalaka, Usha, Vayughna.


Gukkulu, Mai shakshi, Kukkil, Gukkal, Guggal, Gugal, Gukkula,

Maishakshim, Mahishaksh-Gugilamu, Cheetu-mahishashi.


Gum giggulu, Indian bdellium, Salativee, Bdellium, Guggulu, Borassaus, and Flabelliformis.


Guggala, Gulag, Gugal, Guggal, Guggul, Hansaguggul, Kantguggul, Mahaishguggul.


Gugal, Gugali, Gugar, Guggul, Mukul, Ranghanturb, Gugul, Bhesaghgala, Gugara, Ranghanturb, Bhaisoguggul.


Gugal, Guggul, Mukul, Ranghanturb, Guggulu, Guggal, Ranghanturb,

Makal, Canarese.


A list of few of Commiphora species17:








Commiphora mukul (Hook. ex Stocks) Engl., Syn. Balsamodendron mukul (Hook. ex Stocks), Commiphora wightii (Arnott) Bhandari


Commiphora playfairii (Hook.f.) Engl.


Commiphora myrrh, Syn. Commiphora molmol


Commiphora madagascariensis Jacq.


Commiphora stocksiana Engl.


Commiphora africana (A. Rich.) Engl.


Commiphora berryi (Arn) Englor Engl., Syn. Commiphora gileadensis (L.) C. Chr.


Commiphora angolensis Engl.


Commiphora caudata (Wight and Arn.) Engl.


Commiphora erythraea (Ehrenb.) Engl., Syn.

Commiphora kataf (Forssk.) Engl.


Commiphora agallocha Engl., Syn. Commiphora roxburghii


Commiphora humbertii H. Perrier


Commiphora opobalsamum (L.) Engl.,

Syn. Commiphora gileadensis (L.) C. Chr.


Commiphora boranensis Vollesen

Substitution and Adulteration:

Guggulu (Exudate), Commiphora wightii (Arn.)Bhand and Commiphora mukul is substituted and adulterated by Babul, Kikar (Exudate), Acacia nilatica (L)willd and Myrrha gond or myrrh gum , (Exudate),Commiphora myrrha, Hing or Hingu (Exudate) (Ferula foetida regal ) and (Ferula narthex boiss) is substituted and adulterated by Kikar or Babul Gond, Hashab (Exudate), (Gum Accasia or Acacia Senegal )18.


Adulterated and substitute parts used in endangered, costly herbal drugs of India18.

Original Endanger costly Raw Drugs

Substitute Used


Guggulu (Exudate), Commiphora wightii (Arn.)Bhand

And Commiphora mukul.



a- Babul, Kikar (Exudate), Acacia nilatica (L) willd.




b-  Myrrha gond or myrrh

gum, (Exudate), Commiphora





Isolation of Guggulsterons from oleo-gum resin:

Gum-resin of guggul is the complex mixture of steroids, terpenoids, flavanoids, oils and minerals.


Extract with EtOAc yield soluble fraction and insoluble fraction. Soluble fraction consists of 45% gum-resin while 55% insoluble fraction contains carbohydrate, there is no any therapeutic property reported. Further soluble fraction divided into acid, base and neutral fraction. Neutral fraction showed the hypoglycaemic activity and it is divided into ketenoic and non ketonic. The ketonoic fraction contains E and Zguggulsterones. Ethyl extract of guguul known as guggulipid, a drug developed by CDRI Lucknow mostly used for treatment of obesity19.


Chemical constituents:

The various types of compounds were obtained from different parts of Commiphora wightii. As per constituents, it contains 6.9% moisture, 0.6% volatile oil, 61% resin, 29.6 % gum, and 3.2 % insoluble substances. In flowers quercetin, 3-O-α-L-arabinoside, 3-O-β-D-galactoside-, 3-O-α-L-rhamnoside-, and 3-O-β-Dglucoronide, elagic acid and pelargonidin 3, 5-di-O-glucoside were obtained . Oleo resin gum of C. mukul called Gugulipid has active ingredients like Ketosteroids cis- and trans-4,17(20)- pregnadiene-3,16-dione, also known as E- and Z guggulsterone.13 Guggulsterone- II, III, IV, V, VI, myrcene, dimyrcene. Bioactive compounds in extract of mukul reported are dimyrcene.15 α –camphorene. 16 Linoleic, Oleic, stearic, palmitic acids, sitosterol. 17, Z- and E- guggulsterones19,20.


Actions of Commiphora mukul:

Commiphora mukul has been described in ethnomedical and Unani literature in detail and many actions have been reported as antiobesity, antihyperlipidemia, diuretic, emmenogogue, anti-inflammatory, thrombocytic, concoctive, desiccant, anti-arthritic, laxative, carminative, resolvent, astringent, nervine tonic, lithotriptic, liver tonic, expectorant, ecbolic, detergent, alternative, antidote, tonic, aphrodisiac, rejuvenating, disinfectant, antitoxin, antihelminthic,

Expectorant, thermogenic13,14.


Therapeutic uses:

It is therapeutically used in obesity, hyperlipidemia, arthritis, coronary thrombosis, cardiac disorders, Diabetes, Paralysis, asthma, bronchitis, gout, hemorrhoids, Tumors, thyroid disorders, hepatic obstruction and weakness, ulcers, hay fever, septic conditions, sexual weakness, pharyngitis, lumbago, lymphadenopathy, neurological disorders, pleurisy, sciatica, renal calculus and uterine disorders13,14.


Chemistry of Commiphora mukul:

Oleogum resin is the economically viable part of the plant. It is excreted by specialized cells or ducts in plants, especially from stem-bark. The gum resin contains guggulsterones Z and E, guggulsterones I-VI20.

A: Guggulipid




C: Guggulsterones-Z


D: Guggulsterones-E


The gum-resin of Commiphora mukul furnishes essential oil (∼ 0.4 %) consisting chiefly of myrcene 52 and “dimyrcene” (camphorene 102) were isolated61.


Composition of the gum resin from Commiphora mukul (syn. Balsamodendron mukul Hook ex Stocks), commonly known as “guggul”, was studied. Complete hydrolysis of the gum revealed the presence of L-arabinose 28, D-galactose 27, L-fucose 103, 4-O-methyl-D-glucuronic acid 29 and aldobiouronic acid (built up of D-galactose and 4-O-methyl-D-glucose) 10421.


Shodhan of guggulu (purification of Guggulu):

Shodhana is a process of purification and detoxification by which physical and chemical blemishes and toxic materials are eliminated and substances are subjected for further processing.



Different Liquid Media Prescribed For Shodhana:

As the different techniques are described for the Shodhana of guggulu, likewise various liquid media arealso prescribed for the purification of guggulu. They are as follows; Guduchi Kwath, Triphala Kwath, Milk (Godugdha), Pancha Tikta Kwath, Dash Moola Kwath, Nimba Patra Kwatha with Haridra Churna, Cow Urine (Gomutra), Nirgundi Patra. Shodhana technique has been broadly subdivided into two major types as Samanya shodhana (General purification) and Vishesha shodhana (Specific purification) 22.


Marketed formulation of guggul17:






Triphala Guggul

Triphala Guggul is a compound extract (of triphala) to which guggul is added. It is for joint pain, arthritic conditions, muscle aches, rheumatism, and weight loss. (Ayurveda Bazar, India)


Yogaraja Guggul

It is an anti-arthritic herbal supplement useful for joint pain, genito urinary disorders, obesity. (Ayurveda Bazar, India)


Kaishora Guggul

It is used as a blood purifier it is helpful in Athlete's foot and helps in elimination of toxins from the joints. It supports healthy metabolism in the body and maintains healthy white blood cells and liver. (Herbs Forever, USA)


Mahayograj Guggul

It is used in the Ayurvedic treatment of joint diseases, skin diseases, piles, sprue, diabetes, gout, fistula, bloating, emaciation, low digestion power, asthma, cold, cough, and anorexia, male and female infertility.


Navaka Guggul

It is widely used in the Ayurvedic treatment of weight loss, it improves digestion. It is also used to relieve Rheumatoid arthritis.


Singhnad Guggulu

Useful for Lack of Appetite, Abdominal gas, Dysentery, Spasm digestion, gout. (Ayurveda Bazar, India)


Kanchanara Guggulu

It can be used to address deep-seated kapha imbalances. It supports healthy tissues including muscles, fat and bones as well as the thyroid and the lymphatic system. It is useful in Tumors and Goitre. (Banyan Botanicals, USA)




Hypolipidemic activity:

The lipid lowering effect of guggulu with special reference to atherosclerosis and obesity (medoraga) was first reported in a doctorate thesis submitted to the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in January 1966. Earlier to this work, guggulu was well known as an Ayurvedic drug for the treatment of various types of arthritis23. Guggul of Commiphora mukul/Commiphora wightii possess lipid lowering effect. In various experimental and human studies, Commiphora mukul has shown to decrease atherosclerosis, lower serum cholesterol and triglycerides (TGs), and also increase HDL and cholesterol24.Gugulipid, an ethyl acetate extract of the resin of plant Commiphora whighitii is an established hypolipidemic agent in clinical practice25. The active ingredients in gugulipid are the ketosteroids cis- and trans-4, 17(20)-pregnadiene-3, and 16-dione, also known as E- and Z-guggulsterones26. Guggulipid, an extract isolated from the guggul which reduced the low density cholesterol, triglyceride level and total serum cholesterol and increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Guggulipid (50 mg twice in a day for 24 weeks) decreased total cholesterol by 11.7%, LDL by 12.5%, triglyceride level by 12%, and the total cholesterol/high-density lipoprotein (HDL) ratio by 11.1%. E- And Zguggulsterones of guggul gum are responsible for the hypolipidemic activity19. The molecular basis for the lipidlowering action of guggulsterone has been suggested to be antagonism of the farnesoid X receptor, a member of the nuclear receptor superfamily of ligand-activated transcription factors27


Fig: Structure and activation potency of several bile acids on human FXR27.


The Farnesoid X receptor (FXR) is a member of the nuclear receptor superfamily and has emerged as a key player in the control of multiple metabolic pathways. On its activation by bile acids, FXR regulates bile acid synthesis, conjugation, and transport, as well as various aspects of lipid and glucose metabolism28. The hypolipidemic activity of the isomers 𝐸-guggulsterone and𝑍-guggulsterone has also been studied in animalmodels. Administration of guggulsterone (𝑍 and 𝐸) significantly lowered serumlipid levels of ratswith either triton (WR-1339) or cholesterol-induced hyperlipidemia29. Animals that received guggulipid had significantly reduced serum cholesterol, triglyceride, and phospholipids levels and atherogenic index. Free fattyacid levels in serum, liver and heart were also significantly decreased, where as lipolytic activity was increased in liver and heart17. Guggul markedly inhibit liver cholesterol biosynthesis. This causes interference in lipoprotein formation and lipid turnover30.


Antidiabetic activity:

The administration of (CMEE) Ethanolic extract of Commiphora mukul (200 mg/kg/day) daily for 60 days in high-fructose-induced diabetic rats. CMEE has the ability to improve insulin sensitivity and delay the development of insulin resistance, aggravate antioxidant status in diabetic rats and may be used as an adjuvant therapy for patients with insulin resistance10. Oral administration of GRE to diabetic animals markedly up regulated insulin and C-peptide levels indicating its antioxidant potential effect in protecting pancreatic beta cells from oxidative damage by ROS, and turn led to increased insulin production .Guggul has been reported to be a Farnesoid X receptor antagonist (FXR). FXR is a bile-acid-activated receptor regulating the expression/function of key genes in lipid and glucose metabolism and bile acid homeostasis31. Plasma and insulin, and increases the glycogen content in high fat diet induced diabetic rats as well as they showed the activity against G6Pase, an important antidiabetic target. Ethanol extract of gumresin of C.mukul increase the lipid peroxidation (LPO), Protein oxidation (PO) and enzyme activity in the diabetic rats19. A study showing effect of guggulsterone isolated from C. mukul in high-fat diet induced diabetic rats has also been reported. Different biochemical parameters like GTT, glycogen content, glucosehomeostatic enzymes (like glucose-6-phosphatase and hexokinase), insulin release in -vivo, and expression profiles of various genes involved in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism clearly demonstrated the hypoglycemic effect29. Thus, C. mukul may be potentially beneficial in prevention of diabetic induced neuropathy32.


Cardioprotective Activity:

Guggulsterones are shown to be effective cardioprotectives. Myocardial necrosis induced by isoproterenol in rats caused marked increase in serum creatine phosphokinase and glutamate pyruvate transaminase. Phospholipase, xanthine oxidase, and lipid peroxides were simultaneously enhanced in ischemic heart following depletion of glycogen, phospholipids, and cholesterol. Treatment with guggulsterone at a dose of 50mg/kg significantly protected cardiac damage as assessed by the reversal of blood and heart biochemical parameters in ischemic rats29.


Thyroid Stimulatory Activity:

 Administration of ethanolic extract of guggulu to the female albino mice for 15 days enhanced the triiodothyonine (T3) concentration and T3/T4 ratio, while no marked change in the concentrations of serum thyroxine (T4) was observed. Z-Guggulsterone was shown to be responsible for the thyroid stimulatory action of guggulu. Administration of isolated Z-guggulsterone to rats led to significant increase in all thyroid function parameters, namely, uptake of iodine by the thyroid, enzymes involved in the synthesis of thyroid hormones, and tissue oxygen uptake, thus suggesting thyroid stimulatory action23.


Anti-inflammatory activities:

The activation of NF-kB has been closely linked with inflammatory diseases affected by guggulsterone; we postulated that it must modulate NF-kB activation. Guggulsterone suppresses NF-kB and NF-kB-regulated gene products, which may explain its anti-inflammatory activities33.



From this review article it is concluded that the resin of Commiphora mukul, guggulu, has emerged as a good source of the traditional medicines. Guggulu is a multi-purpose drug and because of its magical properties, it is very beneficial in so many diseases. It is one of the oldest and the most prominent herbs in Ayurvedic medicine. This plant contains a number of bioactive constituents including terpenoids, steroids, flavonoids, guggultetrols, lignans, sugars, and amino acids. Guggulsterones E and Z are the chief bioactive constituents of this resin and are endowed with immense pharmacological value. In present scenario peoples are distressed by diseases like obesity, arthritis, diabetes, hyperlipidemia and even deadly diseases like tumors and cancer have become very common but studies on Commiphora mukul have proven it to be a guiding source for treating and curing these diseases in a natural way.This plant still possesses an unexplored potential and expansion of research materials would provide more opportunities for the discovery of novel bioactive principles from this plant. In recent years researchers are exploring the therapeutic potential of this plant and many more properties yet to be known.



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Received on 14.06.2017          Modified on 11.07.2017

Accepted on 26.08.2017      ©AandV Publications All right reserved

Res.  J. Pharmacognosy and Phytochem. 2017; 9(3): 182-188.

DOI: 10.5958/0975-4385.2017.00034.6