The mukul myrrh tree (Commiphora mukul) is a one meter tall thorny tree found in the Middle East and India. A yellowish resin called guggulu (gum guggul) derived from the tree can be collected and used for medicinal purposes. This guggulu is processed with solvents to remove the gum carbohydrate fraction which is not medicinal but can possess toxic effects in animals. The remaining gugulipid fraction produces neutral, acidic and basic components. The most important of these is the neutral component, which makes up around 98 % of the total gugulipid fraction and contains two groups of chemicals. A ketonic group includes a number of phytochemicals called guggulsterones, plant sterols with cholesterol lowering properties. A non-ketonic fraction includes phytochemicals including diterpene, lignans and fatty acids. The other important component of gugulipid is an acid component which makes up about 4 % of the final product and this contains a number of anti-inflammatory compounds including the non aromatic acid ferulic acid and a number of phenolic and non-phenolic aromatic acids.
Standardising the extract of gugulipid to contain 50 mg of guggulsterones per gram produces the most beneficial health benefits. Extracts of gugulipid have been researched primarily for their ability to modulate plasma lipoprotein levels. In particular standardised extracts of gugulipid can lower plasma levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol (also called plasma triglycerides), as well as raise levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. As high levels of LDL and VLDL and low levels of HDL are associated with cardiovascular disease, gugulipid may be cardioprotective. Cholesterol can be lowered by three 25 mg doses of guggulsterones from standardised gugulipid extract per day. The anti-inflammatory effects of gugulipid has also been extensively researched with studies showing that the standardised extract of gugulipid can be as effective as hydrocortisone, phenylbutazone or ibuprofen at reducing the symptoms of chronic inflammation. The amount required for an effective anti-inflammatory effect likely depends on the severity of the inflammation.
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