The fabled myrrh may fight cholesterol

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 thats 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 theres still not enough documentation. Were 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 arent currently regulated

Contact: Ellen O'Brien
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

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