Guggul and Acne

Extracts from the gum resin of the Commiphora mukul tree have been used by traditional Ayurveda medicine as a natural herbal remedy for thousands of years. Written evidence of guggul's medicinal history has been discovered as far back as 600 BC. Gugulipid is believed to be therapeutic for a variety of health conditions—including acne. Modern science has recently revealed that the active constituent of gugulipid is a plant sterol, guggulsterone.1-2

Evidence of Guggul's Natural Antibacterial and Anti-Inflammatory Effects against Acne

Guggul extracts appear to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that may benefit acne patients. Research suggests guggulipid reduces sebum secretion and blocks bacterial metabolism of triglycerides that promote the development of acne. The cholesterol-lowering effects of guggul appear to work best when combined with a non-Western, Indian diet.2

In one older 3-month study published in 1994 involving 20 patients suffering from severe acne with nodules and cysts, those given a gugulipid tablet twice a day had a 68% reduction in inflammatory lesions. This was statistically the same as results experienced by the group randomly assigned to take 500 mg of the antibiotic tetracycline twice daily (65.2% reduction in lesions). Those patients with oily skin responded much better to the guggulsterone treatment. Also of note is that while four of the tetracycline-treatment group relapsed to pre-treatment acne status three months after treatment, only two of the gugulipid group did.3


Oral supplements containing guggul have been used safely for long-term clinical trials, with additional evidence suggesting safety for up to 75 weeks of use. When taken orally guggul can cause some digestive side effects (e.g., nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting), headaches, and skin rash. Skin reactions appear to be dose-dependent.2

Guggul can stimulate menstruation and the uterine muscle, so do not use if you are pregnant. Because of guggul's hormonal effects, and lack of sufficient safety information, experts recommend not using if you are nursing.2

People who take anticoagulant or antiplatelet medication (e.g., aspirin or warfarin) should not take guggul because it may have anticoagulant properties as well. Combining guggul with these anticoagulants can increase the risk of bleeding. Stop taking guggul several weeks before elective surgery.2

Taking large dosages of guggul could also theoretically increase side effects of oral contraception and hormone replacement therapy, and interfere with tamoxifen therapy. Combining guggul with other herbs that have estrogenic activity (e.g., chasteberry and licorice) may enhance this effect. Experts suggest that guggul may reduce the therapeutic actions of Inderal® and generic forms of this high blood pressure medicine (propranolol).2

How to Use

Patients with severe acne have been given treatment doses of 25 mg of guggulsterones twice daily, but dosages as high as 150 mg (in 2000 mg of guggulipid) have been reported to lower cholesterol.2 Guggul may take as long as four weeks before its effects are noticed.4

You can also try burning guggul incense for its calming effects, or adding 1.5-5 mL of guggul tincture to a beverage up to three times a day.4

  1. Ding, Xunshan and Staudinger, Jeff L. JPET 314(1): The Ratio of Constitutive Androstane Receptor to Pregnane X Receptor Determines the Activity of Guggulsterone against the Cyp2b10 Promoter. American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. [Online] July 2005. [Cited: January 18, 2011.] DOI 10.1124/jpet.105.085225.
  2. Therapeutic Research Faculty. Guggul Full Monograph. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. [Online] 2011. [Cited: January 18, 2011.]
  3. Thappa, D.M., Dogra, J. J Dermatol. 21(10): Nodulocystic acne: oral gugulipid versus tetracycline. [Online] October 1994. [Cited: January 18, 2011.] PMID: 7798429.
  4. Wynn, Susan G. and Fougère, Barbara. Veterinary herbal medicine. s.l.: Elsevier Health Sciences, 2007. ISBN 0323029981, 9780323029988.
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