The fabled myrrh may fight cholesterol

October 23, 2000

A resin from the fabled myrrh may have true medicinal powers.
Penn researcher seeks to prove the cholesterol-lowering properties of an herb long-used in folk medicine.


The extract from a tree in the fabled myrrh family is being investigated by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine for properties that may lower cholesterol.

Dr. Philippe Szapary, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Penn who writes frequently about the use of alternative medicine in treating cardiovascular disease, is in the midst of a study of the dietary supplement gugulipid, an extract from the gummy resin of the thorny mukul myrrh bush of western India that has made its way into American health-food stores.

The bitter-tasting, fragrant myrrh is used in incense and perfumes - in the Christian tradition, a form of sweet-scented myrrh was presented by the three wise men to the infant Jesus - and the mukul myrrh, specifically, has a 2,000-year history in traditional Indian medicine. Ayurvedic health practitioners, who combine meditation, yoga and diet to address physical illness, use the resin extract in treating artherosclerosis, obesity and arthritis.

In the 1960s and '70s, Indian scientists were able to identify two properties of the extract - which, combined, they named gugulipid -- that appeared to aid in lowering cholesterol.

"This is something that's been around for thousands of years, and when some scientists looked into it, they actually found a scientific basis for its effectiveness," said Szapary. "But there's still not enough documentation. We're trying, in a methodical way, to establish that basis." His work has been recognized by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), which recently awarded him a five-year research grant of about $150,000 for each year.

"In this country, supplements such as gugulipid are regarded as 'herbs' rather than drugs, which means they aren't currently regulated by the Food and Drug Administration," Szapary said. "My interest is to gather enough evidence to demonstrate whether a gugulipid extract is safe and effective, in the short term, for use by Americans with mild-to-moderately elevated cholesterol." His work with gugulipid, which began last spring, is designed to assess the drug through a simple, randomized study using 90 subjects.

Participants are divided into three groups; the first is administered a placebo, the second a standard dosage of gugulipid, and the third a higher dosage of the supplement. Each participant remains on the regimen for two months while blood tests indicate its effectiveness. Thus far 60 people have taken part.

"The participants have uniformly felt like they've been able to tolerate the medicine with few side effects," he said. The study -- which began prior to Szapary's grant from the NCCAM -- is funded in part by the General Clinical Research Center at Penn, which, in turn, is funded by the National Institutes of Health, and by the Sabinsa Corp., a manufacturer of gugulipid.

Editor's note: Dr. Szapary has no financial interest in the Sabinsa corporation.
-end-


University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

Related Cholesterol Articles from Brightsurf:

Cholesterol's effects on cellular membranes
The findings have far-reaching implications in the general understanding of disease, the design of drug delivery methods, and many other biological applications that require specific assumptions about the role of cholesterol in cell membranes.

Autism-cholesterol link
Study identifies genetic link between cholesterol alterations and autism.

Microbes might manage your cholesterol
Researchers discover a link between human blood cholesterol levels and a gene in the microbiome that could one day help people manage their cholesterol through diet, probiotics, or entirely new types of treatment.

Experimental cholesterol-lowering drug effective at lowering bad cholesterol, study shows
Twice-yearly injections of an experimental cholesterol-lowering drug, inclisiran, were effective at reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, often called bad cholesterol, in patients already taking the maximum dose of statin drugs, according to data of the ORION-10 trial presented Saturday, Nov.

Rethinking how cholesterol is integrated into cells
Cholesterol is best known in connection with cardiovascular disease, but cholesterol is also vital for many fundamental processes in the body.

Seed oils are best for LDL cholesterol
Using a statistical technique called network meta-analysis, researchers have combined the results of dozens of studies of dietary oils to identify those with the best effect on patients' LDL cholesterol and other blood lipids.

Cholesterol leash: Key tethering protein found to transport cellular cholesterol
Cholesterol is an essential component of living organisms, but the mechanisms that transport cholesterol inside the cell are poorly understood.

New way to treat cholesterol may be on the horizon
A breakthrough discovery by scientists at Houston Methodist Research Institute could change the way we treat cholesterol.

How low should LDL cholesterol go?
New analysis shows that in a high-risk population, achieving ultra-low LDL cholesterol levels, down to <10 mg/dL, safely results in additional lowering of risk of cardiovascular events.

Does boosting 'good' cholesterol really improve your health?
A new review addresses the mysteries behind 'good' HDL cholesterol and why boosting its levels does not necessarily provide protection from cardiovascular risk for patients.

Read More: Cholesterol News and Cholesterol Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.