Hoodia gordonii is one of a group of succulent plants native to the semi-desert areas of South Africa. Resembling a cactus, the flowers apparently smell like rotten meat to attract flies for pollination! This particular variety of Hoodia was traditionally used for thousands of years by the San Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert. They ate the bitter tasting fleshy part of the stem to suppress their appetite and thirst through the long hunting trips that were part of their nomadic lifestyle.
Traditionally Hoodia was also used by the people of the Kalahari to support digestion and comfort after eating, support energy and help to balance mood. Following media publicity in a 2003 BBC report and a 2004 60 Minutes television programme, Hoodia gained huge popularity in the western world as a natural appetite suppressant and weight management supplement.
How does Hoodia work?
Studies confirm Hoodia gordonii helps to support satiety and food cravings. With fewer calories being consumed the body naturally would start using up fat stores for energy.
Hoodia contains a molecule called P57 which is the active ingredient of the plant. It appears to support feedback mechanisms in the body to help to signal a state of fullness or satiety. Scientists have yet to identify any other active ingredients or specific actions of Hoodia, however, it can hide feelings of thirst, so ensuring adequate water intake is essential.
Why take Hoodia?
For people who crave carbohydrates, tend to overeat and/or need to manage weight, Hoodia may be indicated as an adjunct to dietary changes with professional nutritional guidance and/or counselling. A nutritionally balanced diet, regular exercise and water intake are important aspects of any weight management programme.
When is Hoodia contraindicated?
Despite its long-term traditional use, science has not established a full safety profile for Hoodia. Hoodia is contraindicated when trying to conceive a baby, during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Suppressing the appetite during these important life events is not recommended and the effects of Hoodia on a baby haven’t been studied. If pregnant or breastfeeding women are experiencing cravings, they should consult a healthcare practitioner who can support their nutritional requirements. People with eating disorders should also seek assistance from a health practitioner instead of relying on Hoodia.
Hoodia is contraindicated for people with liver or kidney disease because metabolising the active ingredient P57 can cause extra stress on the liver. Other components of Hoodia that may affect liver function are still unresearched.
Hoodia is also contraindicated for individuals suffering from imbalanced blood sugar. The normal regulation of blood sugar relies on biofeedback mechanisms which are affected by Hoodia. This could lead to abnormally low blood sugar levels.
If you’re taking medication, speak to a health practitioner before taking Hoodia.
Importance of sustainable harvesting and pollution free sources
These are both big considerations when choosing a Hoodia supplement. With the huge demand worldwide for weight management supplements, Hoodia has quickly gained popularity and in 2008 was one of 400 medicinal plants named by Botanic Gardens Conservation International as being at risk of extinction from over-collection. The South African government certifies all Hoodia that is exported.
What is a safe and effective dosage?
It is advised to always follow the instructions on the label.
Effectiveness will depend on the health of the individual. Hoodia is best used to help balance excess food consumption while still eating regular balanced meals to ensure your nutrient intake is maintained or improved.