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Did You Know?
By D.P. Agrawal


A popular ayurvedic herb is blacklisted by the US media on unjustifiable grounds

The reports cite a study conducted by researchers from the University of Kansas, USA, which indicates that con­sumption of Gugulipid, a patented chemical derived from guggul (Commiphora mukul), is harmful because it reduces the efficacy of allo­pathic drugs. But instead of blaming the product, the media has condemned the herb.

Accordin to Ayurveda, the herb should be ide­ally used to treat arthritis. But in the West (mainly the US), it is marketed as an anti-cholesterol agent after studies conducted by the Lucknow based Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI) indica­ted that the herb's active ingredient can effectively lower cholesterol levels. Supplements containing Gugulipid are commonly available in the US without a prescription. Such self-medication obviously results in problems, and experts assert that the Kansas study rightly highlights the risk of 'off-label' use of the medicine. The researchers found that guggulsterones (the active ingredient) triggers pregnane x receptors (PXR) at an abnormal rate, following which allopa­thic drugs break up too quickly in the body. PXR is a receptor that recognises the presence of drugs and signals the body to turn on the CYP 3A4 enzyme system in the liver to break down the medicines. Around 60 per cent of allopathic drugs are metabolised by the CYP 3A4 pathway, including those meant to treat AIDS, can­cer and cholesterol. If PXR receptors are triggered excessively, the CYP 3A4 system is stimulated more and the drug is removed from the body much faster than required, rendering it ineffective. The findings, (Journal of Pharmacology and Experi­mental Therapeutics, Vol 310, No 2, August 2004), are the first comprehen­sive scientific evidence of how unregu­lated use of guggul can be harmful. A small-scale study conducted in 1994 by researchers at the Mumbai based Seth GS Medical College had indicated that a single oral dose of 1 gm of Gugulipid could affect the bioavaila­bility of a single oral dose of propranolol (used for controlling hypertension) and diltiazem (meant for treating high blood pressure).

The latest findings highlight the need to spread awareness about the safe usage of ayurvedic medicines. This is a must, as unwarranted media reports could not only shake people's belief in this system of healing, but also affect India economi­cally; India exports guggul prod­ucts on a large-scale. The gratuitous information could lead to a blanket ban on these products in all developed nations.

The process of extracting Gugulipid is also to be blamed. Manufacturers make Gugulipid by treating guggul with various solvents. This results in a concentrated form of the medicine that only has the active ingredient. In A yurveda, guggul is treated with herbs, milk and at times cow urine; the final product contains all chemicals present in the herb that work together to bring about the desired affect. Moreover, one mitigates the harmful effects of the other. This advantage is lost when only one compound (the active ingredient) is used. "If only a component of the herb is used, it should be tested against 'specific' disease according to modem pharmacology for its safety and efficacy," asserts Kuldeep Kohli, Director of Dabur Research Foundation, Uttar Pradesh.

"Gugulipid is safe to use in people who are not taking other medications that are metabolised by the CYP3A pathway. But more human clinical trials are needed to adequately address this issue," asserts Jeffrey Leonard Staudinger, one of the authors of the Kansas study. "Instead of saying that Ayurveda is bad, the world should stop its misuse. It is important to adhere to traditional knowledge," concludes Balendu Prakash, Director of Vaidya Chandra Prakash Cancer Research Foundation, Dehradun.

 Source:Down to Earth 2005

A popular Ayurvedic herb is blacklisted by the US media on unjustifiable grounds

Vibha Varshney

Link: www.downtoearth.org.in



Posted August 30th 2005

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