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The gum resin of the guggul tree Commiphora mukul has been used in Ayurvedic medicine since 600 BC to treat a wide variety of ailments, including obesity and lipid disorders.

Although not well known in Western medicine, an extract of this resin (guggulipid) is clinically approved and widely used in India as a cholesterol-lowering agent.

In this week's issue of Science, Nancy L. Urizar from the Baylor College of Medicine, United States, identify how the active ingredient of this traditional medicine — known as guggulsterone — lowers cholesterol levels.

Reference: Science 296, 1703 (2002)

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