Hoodia is known as a weight loss herb and has been praised for its effectiveness. Though it has been known to the San Bushmen of Southern Africa for thousands of years, it is relatively new in Western countries. Recently, it has been marketed as a weight loss aide. Also known by its Latin name, Hoodia gordonii, it is produced from a South African cactus and comes in several different forms. Consumers can purchase the herb in a traditional diet pill, or they can choose from other products like teas, powders, and even patches from health food stores and, of course, the Internet.
Some sources claim that hoodia is a natural substance and is not a stimulant, and so has no side effects. According to others in the medical and scientific fields, however, this is not true. Hoodia may adversely affect the liver, could interfere with other medications, and might be particularly dangerous for those with diabetes.
Chemically, the hoodia plant contains components that may suppress appetite. One of the active compounds responsible for this is an oxypregnane steroidal glycoside, which interacts with certain neurons in the brain that control appetite. A Dutch scientist noted in 1937 that Africans utilized the plant to suppress their appetites and thirst. Researchers began studying the plant in 1963, and they concluded that lab animals lost weight after being fed hoodia. Drug companies began their research in the 1990s, and claimed to have isolated the component that would make it an extremely marketable diet drug.
Many people became interested in hoodia after it was promoted as a miraculous weight loss aide. Its credibility was helped by the African Bushmen’s stories of the effects of hoodia in plant-form. Hoodia reached a wider audience when mainstream media investigated claims of its ability to suppress appetite. It was featured on 20/20 and on 60 Minutes, when a correspondent went to Africa to try hoodia. The reporter claimed she was not hungry or thirsty for the remainder of the day, and experienced no side effects.
However, the FDA warns manufactures who are interested in producing hoodia as a weight loss drug or supplement. The FDA claims there is simply not enough known about hoodia to approve or commend it. There are no published studies to prove or disprove hoodia’s effectiveness or safety when consumed as a diet pill. Additionally, no double-blind clinical trials have been conducted. Because hoodia in any form requires further study, it is difficult to lay out specific side effects.
One of the biggest issues that surrounds hoodia today is the sources that sell the product in various forms. Some experts estimate that as much as eighty percent of all hoodia available for purchase in the United States is counterfeit. Products are either adulterated, meaning they are not pure hoodia when they claim to be, or worse, contain no hoodia at all. Caution must be used by individuals looking to purchase hoodia or hoodia products. There are certification tests that hoodia must pass; consumers should make sure the product has passed such a certification before purchasing.
Currently, the effects of hoodia are simply unclear because no product has undergone any sort of clinical trial required by the FDA. With only personal testimonials to judge by, it is difficult to make any definite conclusion about it. Hoodia itself may or may not be effective or safe, and consumers must exercise caution when attempting to buy genuine hoodia. As more tests, research, and trials are conducted, hopefully a better understanding of hoodia and its uses will be reached.
We do not recommend using hoodia because of its unknown side effects and uncertain ability to create weight loss.