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The use of Guggulu in Ayurveda and how to prepare it

  • Andrew Mason
    Andrew Mason

    Andrew Mason is an expert in Eastern Alchemy. He started studying holistic medicine 20 years ago and completing his training as an Ayurveda practitioner in 2006.

    He then undertook a unique and intensive apprenticeship in the East, learning the closely guarded processes involved in the manufacturing of these ancient remedies. Since his return to the U.K., Andrew has undertaken the task of recording and cataloguing these traditional processes, preserving these techniques which in some cases would have remained as a tenuous oral tradition.

  • 12:14 reading time (ish)
  • Ayurvedic Herbal Medicine Making herbal remedies

Written by Andrew Mason

Guggulu is a highly medicinal preparation in Ayurveda, made from a tree resin. It has an intricate preparation method and many uses. This article explains all about it.

guggulu fruit tree

Guggulu (1) (Commiphora mukul) is a highly popular ingredient in a number of important Ayurvedic remedies; in this introductory article we will take a closer look at its medicinal application as well as its recommended purification techniques.

Guggulu is the common name of this plant; the meaning of its name something akin to ‘having excellent benefit’. The categorisation of Guggulu is a slightly complex affair as Ayurveda advises us that five colours abound. These very simply are: Mhashya (a blackish/brown colour and most suited to human patients, Mahaneed, having a bluish colouration (indeterminate use (2)), Kumud (having a pale or whitish colour), Padma (brownish in colour and suited more to use on animals) and finally, Kanak (yellowish in colour and most suited to human patients. Typically, two varieties of Guggulu are seen in the marketplace (3), these being: Kana-guggulu: a greenish/yellow variety and Mhasha-guggulu: a blackish brown variety.   

Commiphora mukul is a smallish, thorny tree, usually 1.5 – 2 meters in height. It is found in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Arabia and Africa, favouring an arid climate. In India, it is typically found in the Indian states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Assam, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. The flowers of Guggulu are reddish brownish, its leaves rounded, serrated and waxy looking. The fruits of this tree are reddish, pulpy and rounded.

Guggulu is an exudate or niryasa, being obtained via the method of tapping. Tapping involves stripping away or piercing the bark of the tree to facilitate the flow of its gum. Commiphora mukul has a number of ducts throughout its bark in which the oleo-gum-resin abounds. To effectively capture this exudate, large leaves or the shell of coconut is affixed around or just below the point of excision. Over a period, these receptacles slowly fill and are later collected.

Upon retrieval, the material has hardened and darkened. It is not uncommon for each catch to be contaminated with some amount of leaves, insects, bark etc. and so will need to undergo so level of cleaning, see Shodhana process of Guggulu.  The tree is usually harvested between May and June (4), with anywhere between 250g-500g of resin collected from each tree during any harvest season.  

Some of the more important chemical constituents of Guggul (by quantity) include: its gums and essential oils, sucrose, fructose, amino acids, flavonoids, α-camphorene, ellagic acid, sterols (such as guggulsterone, β-sitosterol, Z- and E-guggulsterone) and carbohydrates as well as a variety of inorganic ions.

1. Also guggula, guggal and gugar
2. In Ayurvedic and Alchemical texts, the colour blue is usually associated with toxins and/or requiring purification/cleansing.
3. Most of material I have purified is a slightly mixed colour, with an element of green, yellow and brown. Natural oxidation and older batches naturally darken. The traditional categorisation or colours is typical, in Ayurvedic text and sometime hard to qualify. 
4. In some cases – autumn? 

Andrew Mason

Andrew Mason is an expert in Eastern Alchemy. He started studying holistic medicine 20 years ago and completing his training as an Ayurveda practitioner in 2006. He then undertook a unique and... Read more

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