(NaturalHealth365) After many years of insisting that osteoarthritis is caused by aging and simple ‘wear and tear,’ conventional medicine is beginning to acknowledge the major role that inflammation plays in the development of this debilitating joint condition.
With this shift in thinking comes a respect and appreciation for herbal, natural anti-inflammatory agents – and their potential to stop osteoarthritis in its tracks.
Ayurvedic healers offer a natural solution for pain
Guggul, a sticky resin found in the bark of the Mukul myrrh tree, has a long history in Ayurveda and other traditional healing systems as a trusted treatment for rheumatism, arthritis, tumors and heart disease. Now, medical research is substantiating the efficacy of this ancient remedy.
A succession of laboratory, animal and clinical studies has shown that guggul can boost the immune system, lower fats and cholesterol in the bloodstream, and reduce inflammation. The growing awareness of inflammation’s role in the development of cancer and heart disease is causing medical researchers to investigate guggul as a possible treatment for these deadly diseases as well.
How does inflammation trigger osteoarthritis?
Inflammation is the body’s natural, protective immune response to trauma. But when inflammation is chronic or excessive, it can cause a variety of diseases, including osteoarthritis. Keep in mind, inflammatory diseases are always a product of too many toxins and nutritional deficiencies – to some degree or another.
According to a 2011 Stanford School of Medicine study, inflammatory proteins in the body are not merely a byproduct of osteoarthritis; they are actually a cause of the condition. The breakdown of cartilage in arthritic joints triggers inflammation, which in turn promotes more cartilage destruction – the result is a vicious cycle that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function.
Scientists are hopeful that targeting inflammatory proteins early in the course of the disease could arrest or reverse it. As a safe, natural anti-inflammatory, guggul is at the forefront of the research. And, as stated before, if you can isolate (and avoid) possible toxic triggers like overly-processed foods – that’s a step in the right direction.
Guggul attacks inflammation at the cellular level
Guggul is rich in beneficial substances, including minerals, volatile oils and plant sterols. But its most important phytochemicals appear to be a pair of compounds known as gugulipids and guggulsterones.
According to Underground Health Reporter, guggul is capable of neutralizing nuclear factor kappa-B, the gene that determines inflammatory reactions. An additional role is played by a triterpene found in guggul known as myrrhanol A, which suppresses inflammatory mediators such as interleukins and cytokines.
Science discovers natural ways to reduce swelling
In a study published in Chemistry and Biodiversity in 2004, researchers found that different compounds of guggul extracts dramatically suppressed production of COX enzymes, in some cases by as much as 83 percent. COX – or cyclooxygenase – enzymes synthesize the prostaglandins that cause inflammation.
The compounds also exhibited strong antioxidant activity, helping to prevent inflammation-causing lipid peroxidation as well. The team noted that these results could substantiate the use of guggul in traditional medicine.
In an animal study published in 2001 in Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters, myrrhanol A and myrrhanone A in guggul extracts had potent anti-inflammatory effects on clinically-induced granulomas in mice. Calling the effect more marked than that of the steroid hydrocortisone, researchers termed guggul “a plausible candidate for a new anti-inflammatory agent.”
In addition, according to the Underground Health Reporter, additional animal studies have shown guggul to be as effective as phenylbutazone and ibuprofen in alleviating inflammation.
Is there any research supporting guggul’s use in osteoarthritis in people?
Yes, there is. In an outcomes study published in 2003 in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 30 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee were given 500 mg of guggul extract three times a day. The WOMAC Total Score – a medically-accepted diagnostic tool – and a 6-minute walk-test were used to assess the subjects, who showed significant improvements in painful symptoms after a month. Noting that no side effects were reported during the trial, researchers called guggul “a safe and effective supplement to reduce symptoms of OA.”
How is guggul normally taken?
Guggul is available in tablets, capsules, powders, and liquid extract, and is normally standardized to contain 2.5 or 3.5 percent guggulsterones. Naturally, you should consult a trusted medical professional before using guggul to treat osteoarthritis or any other condition, particularly if you also use thyroid medication or anticoagulants.
Even Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center endorses guggul as generally safe. And this was the same hospital exposed for suppressing natural cancer cures. Oh yes – one other thing – make sure you obtain guggul from a reputable company; studies have shown that some products marketed as guggul extract actually contain less guggulsterones than advertised, in some cases none at all.
Western medicine currently offers no cure for osteoarthritis – which affects over 27 million people across the country – and doctors have been limited to managing symptoms with pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories and analgesics, many of which feature serious side effects. Thankfully, research on guggul offers real hope that this safe, natural substance can help to stop this debilitating disease early in its development.
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