Hoodia gordonii is a leafless plant that offers a number of medicinal properties. It’s known to grow naturally in both South Africa and Namibia. In the past few years, its popularity has exploded, as it’s been marketed as a potential weight loss solution.
A lot of this popularity stems from the San Bushman who have relied on this plant for thousands of years, warding off hunger and thirst. There are actually 13 types of hoodia, however, hoodia gordonii is the only type that’s believed to contain the active ingredient that contributes to weight-loss.
What is Hoodia Gordonii?
Hoodia gordonii is a fleshy cactus-like plant that is native to the Kalahari Desert in Africa. Among the many varieties within the Asclepiad family of plants, hoodia gordonii is the most popular based on its ability to suppress hunger and reduce weight gain. Today, it’s available in juice, capsule, pills, and even lollipop form.
Once growing naturally throughout Africa, this wild species has now become quite rare because of over-harvesting. Due to this shortage, most commercially cultivated hoodia gordonii is grown in other parts of the world. Regardless, this does not seem to hinder it effectiveness.
Background on Hoodia Gordonii
The appetite suppressant effects of hoodia gordonii were first discovered in 1937, by a Dutch anthropologist who was studying in the Kalahari Desert. While studying the primitive San Bushmen, he noticed that they ate the stem of the hoodia gordonii to starve off hunger during long hunting trips through areas with sparse vegetation.
It was later found that the active ingredient in this plant was the appetite-suppressing molecule, known as P57. In a few clinical studies, P57 has been recognized as a potential anti-obesity drug. It’s believed that this molecule acts on the brain in a fashion similar to glucose. It tricks the brains into thinking the person is full, reducing interest in food. It’s also believed to influence the hypothalamus, inhibiting hunger signals.
After obtaining a patent in 1995, South African scientists licensed P57 to a British company known as Phytopharm has spent a whopping $20 million on hoodia research. Once Pfizer got wind of this active ingredient, they became interested in developing a similar drug. In 1998, Phytopharm sub-licensed the rights to P57 for $21 million.
Does Hoodia Gordonii Work?
Although it’s become incredibly popular, there’s a lack of human trials regarding this supplement. Within one study, published in an issue of Brain Research it was found that injecting P57 into the appetite center of rat brains, tweaked ATP levels. This energy molecule plays a role in hunger. The rats injected with P57 ate less than those rat who were injected with a placebo.
When ATP is broken down, it releases energy into the body. When ATP levels are elevated, the hypothalamus signals that brain, letting it known that you feel full and that you’ve had enough to eat. Hoodia operates in this manner, tricking your body into thinking it’s full. In turn, you curb appetite and reduce your intake of glucose.
Phytopharm released a clinical trial that involved 18 human volunteers, showing that consuming hoodia reduced food intake by an incredible 1000 calories per day, in comparison to a placebo group. Unfortunately, the study was not published. Regardless, many have experienced the beneficial effects of this supplement and continue to maintain interest.
Benefits of Hoodia Gordonii
This supplement is considered to be a natural supporter of weight-loss, helping reduce one’s risk of weight-related illness. Over the past few years, the demand for hoodia gordonii has increased. This popularity is mainly occurring within Europe and American countries, however, obesity is now becoming a worldwide issue.
When focusing on the benefits regarding appetite suppression, hoodia gordonii is believed to mimic glucose, producing glucose-like behavior in the body. Once consumed, the body believes that you’ve consumed a high-energy food and sends that information to the brain. In turn, the brain sends signals to stop eating. This kills one’s appetite and encourages the use of stored body fat for energy.
Another area it helps is in terms of appetite and mindless eating. One of the biggest roadblocks in terms of obesity is breaking bad habits which come in the form of late-night snacking or overeating. It’s challenging to ‘turn off’ your appetite and sometimes this can sabotage your weight-loss efforts.
When using an appetite suppressant such as hoodia, individuals often eat less, forcing their bodies to use stored fat for energy, promoting weight-loss. Of course, it’s most effective when you take this supplement while following a healthy diet and maintaining an active lifestyle.
Safety Concerns Associated with Hoodia Gordonii
Since this supplement has not been approved by the FDA, consumers are encouraged to source their supplements from a trusted source and follow all associated guidelines. If you suffer from any of the following conditions, please speak with your doctor before using hoodia gordonii.
- Diabetes or if you’re taking any blood sugar control medications. Hoodia can trick your brain into thinking you’ve had enough sugar. This could cause dangerous lows.
- Heart issues or if you’re taking any heart medications.
- Bleeding or blood clot disorders or taking any medicine that increases or decreases the risk of clotting.
- Anorexia or bulimia.
Some sources say that hoodia has not been within North America long enough to uncover all the possible side effects, safety concerns, and drug interactions. There have been some reports of unwanted effects on the liver due to P57. If this is true, anyone who is taking liver medications or suffer from liver conditions should speak to their doctor.