Guggul has been a key component in many Ayurvedic medicines. Grown very common across India, especially in the North, Guggul is at present facing scarcity, thanks to its depleting cultivation and increasing demand. The widening demand-supply gap has forced the World Conservation Union (IUCN) to include it in its ‘Red Data List’ of endangered species. Guggul, found from North Africa to central Asia, prefers arid and semi-arid climates and is tolerant of poor soil. It does not grow very tall; it reaches a maximum height of 4 meter with a thin bark. It has thorny branches and simple or trifoliate leaves. It has flowers with four small petals, red in colour, sometimes vary up to pink. It is gynodieoecious, with some plants bearing bi-sexual and male flowers, and others with female flowers. The part used is gum resin and these plants typically begin yielding resin after 5 years and a healthy tree begins yielding 250-500 grams of resin in one season, and within five years it rises upto 1600gm per plant. For cultivation stem cuttings from matured plants at natural habits are collected and pretreated.
These cuttings are planted in plastic bags containing soil and manure in the ratio 1:3 and then transferred to green shade house. Plant may grow from seeds, but it is a slow process. The freshly collected gum resin is pale yellow, brown or dull green in color; aged resin is dark brown in color. The resinous sap produced by guggul is known as gum guggul and it is the most important resin used in Ayurveda. Ayurvedic texts give ample reference to guggul and its medicinal properties. Susrutha Samhita describes the use of guggul for a variety of conditions like rheumatism, obesity and atherosclerosis. Charaka Samhita states that “Guggul is the best among herbs that are used for obesity and Vata disorders”(sutra sthānam, Ch 25).
Guggulu is the principal ingredient in medicines such as navaka guggulu,Vātāri guggulu, Kaishora guggulu and Yogarāja guggulu, which are traditionally used, respectively for excess fat deposition, body pain, skin disorders and neurological and musculoskeletal problems. Guggul has pungent, bitter, astringent, and sweet tastes; its qualities are viscous, light, penetrating, and drying. It is hot in potency and has post-digestive effect. It is vata and kapha pacifying and pitha aggravating. Guggul helps increase white blood cell count, reduces cholesterol, increases appetite, clears the lungs and regulates menstruation. It can be applied externally as a paste, as well as a gargle for ulcerated conditions of the mouth and throat. It acts as a catalyst for tissue generation, particularly nerve tissue. It reduces fat, toxins, tumors and necrotic tissue. And it is the best medicine for arthritic conditions.
Guggulu resin is produced more during autumn and it is stronger in potency during this season and it is the best time for resin collection. Freshly collected Guggulu has a weight increasing (brumhaṇa effect) and the old resin (at least one year) has a weight reducing (atilekhana) quality. Before administering, it should be purified well and given along with other herbs. Guggulu administered excessively to individuals with pitha constitution may cause skin irritation and other blood related disorders. Normally it is not used during pregnancy.