Herbs & Plants


Botanical Name :Hoodia gordonii
Family: Apocynaceae
Subfamily: Asclepiadoideae
Tribe: Stapeliae
Genus: Hoodia
Species: H. gordonii
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Gentianales

Common Name:Hoodia

Habitat :Conservation status: Not evaluated. However, in part of its range (Namibia) it has been assessed as Lower Risk – Least Concern according to IUCN Red Data List categories (SANBI, 2002)  It grows in Very dry rocky environments to sandy river beds.


Hoodia is a genus of 13 species in the flowering plant family Apocynaceae, under the subfamily Asclepiadoideae. They are stem succulents, described as “cactiform” because of their remarkable similarity to the unrelated cactus family. They can reach up to 1m high and have large flowers, often with flesh colour and strong smell.

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Many Hoodia species are protected plants, typical of the Namib Desert, ranging from Central Namibia to southern Angola, especially in plains and rocky areas. Common names include “Bushman’s Hat” and “Queen of the Namib”.

Several species are grown as garden plants, and one species, Hoodia gordonii, is being investigated for use as an appetite suppressant.

Hoodia gordonii is a leafless spiny succulent plant with medicinal uses. It grows naturally in South Africa and Namibia. The flowers smell like rotten meat and are pollinated mainly by flies. The indigenous Bushmen call this plant hoba.

Imagine not being hungry all day without feeling side effects typical of diet pills made from Hudia, like a racing heart or queasy stomach.

Medicinal uses:
The use of Hoodia has long been known by the indigenous populations of Southern Africa, who infrequently use these plants for treating indigestion and small infections.

In 1977, the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) isolated the ingredient in hoodia—now known as P57—which is responsible for its appetite-suppressant effect, and patented it in 1996. The CSIR then granted United Kingdom-based Phytopharm a license, and they collaborated with the pharmaceutical company Pfizer to isolate active ingredients from the extracts and look into synthesizing them for use as an appetite suppressant. Pfizer released the rights to the primary ingredient in 2002. Paul Hutson, associate professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy, told the Wisconsin State Journal, “For Pfizer to release something dealing with obesity suggests to me that they felt there was no merit to its oral use”. Pfizer states that development on P57, the active ingredient of Hoodia, was stopped due to the difficulty of synthesizing P57. Jasjit Bindra, lead researcher for hoodia at Pfizer, states there were indications of unwanted effects on the liver caused by other components, which could not be easily removed from the supplement, adding “Clearly, hoodia has a long way to go before it can earn approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Until safer formulations are developed, dieters should be wary of using it.”

In 2002, CSIR officially recognized the San tribespeople’s rights over Hoodia, allowing them to take a percentage of the profits and any spin-offs resulting from the marketing of Hoodia.  Hoodia gordonii is a protected plant which may only be wild-harvested by individuals and the few companies who have been granted a license.

Some tribes in Namibia boil the Hoodia to treat various ailments with the brew. including severe abdominal cramps, hemorrhoids, tuberculosis, indigestion, hypertension and diabetes.

Current popular use is for weight control.  Within the hypothalamus, there are nerve cells that sense glucose sugar. When you eat, blood sugar goes up because of the food, these cells start firing and now you are full. What the Hoodia seems to contain is a molecule that is about 10,000 times as active as glucose. It goes to the mid-brain and actually makes those nerve cells fire as if you were full. But you have not eaten. Nor do you want to.

Published scientific conference abstracts (not peer reviewed) of research studies have reported that orally administered crude or partially purified extracts of four different Hoodia species reduced food intake and body weight and body fat of obese and, to a lesser extent, lean rats.  Other animal studies performed in South Africa reported weight loss due to appetite suppression from intake of hoodia (56^).  An unpublished 2-week clinical trial of P57, as a less purified extract, also found body fat loss, reduced energy intake, as well as lower blood sugar and triglycerides

Scientific study
There is no published scientific evidence that Hoodia works as an appetite suppressant in humans. The safety and/or effectiveness of Hoodia Gordonii as a dietary supplement must thus be considered as unsubstantiated.

Animal research on hoodia includes one published scientific study in which a purified extract of Hoodia Gordonii, known as P57, was injected directly into the brains of rats.  The author of the rat study said that P57 was easily broken down by the liver, so it might be hard to take in enough of it to ensure that it had an effect. MacLean cautioned that currently available supplements might be inadequate, stating “I question whether there is really enough of the active ingredient in there to do much.”

Richard M. Goldfarb, MD, a doctor and medical director of Bucks County Clinical Research in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, claims to have conducted a preliminary efficacy study of Hoodia gordonii on seven people and reports to have found it effective. This very small trial was reportedly sponsored by a Hoodia manufacturer and none of the findings were ever published in any peer-reviewed journal. Such information cannot be considered as evidence that hoodia is effective as a weight loss product.

Other medical weight loss experts remain skeptical and do not recommend hoodia to obese patients. Adrienne Youdim, MD, medical director of the Comprehensive Weight Loss Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Michael Steelman, MD, chairman of the board of trustees for the American Society of Bariatric Physicians says “There is no [published scientific] data to support its use.” In addition, the FTC recommends against the use of such diet products marketed with exaggerated claims


Click to read: African Plant May Help Fight Fat
Hoodia Gordonii Guide

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The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider


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