Hoodia gordonii is a genus of succulent plants in the family Apocynaceae that is widely used traditionally by the San people of southern Africa as an appetite suppressant, thirst quencher during long hunts and for ailments such as abdominal cramps, fatigue and hangovers.  Today, hoodia is marketed as an appetite suppressant for weight loss.

Read: Do weight loss supplements work?

Hoodia are stem succulents, described as "cactiform" because of their similarity to the unrelated cacuts family. They can reach up to 1m in height and have large flowers, often with a tan colour and strong smell.

Hoodia gordonii's common names are hoodia, Kalahari cactus, Xhoba, kanna and kougoed. Its harvest is protected by conservation laws. 

How to use it

  • Dried extracts of hoodia stems and roots are used to make capsules, powders, and chewable tablets.
  • Hoodia can also be used in liquid extracts and teas.
  • Hoodia products often contain other herbs or minerals, such as green tea or chromium picolinate.

What the science says

There is no reliable scientific evidence to support hoodia's use. No studies of the herb in people have been published. However, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa, and UK-based pharmaceutical development and functional food company, Phytopharm are conducting research to develop an anti-obesity drug. 

Side effects and cautions

  • Hoodia's safety is unknown. Its potential risks, side effects, and interactions with medicines and other supplements have not been studied.
  • The quality of hoodia products varies widely. News reports suggest that some products sold as hoodia do not contain any hoodia.
  • Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

Read more:
Hoodia has many side effects
Farewell to Hoodia?

Sources: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus, www.planzafrica.com

Image: Winfried Bruenken

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