Graham Butler, BSc, CNPA, RH
Hoodia gordonii is a cactus-like plant native to the Kalahari Desert of South Africa, Namibia, and Botswan.
Hoodia gordonii is a cactus-like plant native to the Kalahari Desert of South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana. The native San people (formerly known as "Bushmen") have used the plant for centuries as a means of coping with hunger.
Hoodia is highly valued for its ability to elevate energy levels while reducing or eliminating hunger, something of more than passing interest to this hunter-gatherer society. Traditionally hunters avoided eating while hunting. Instead they would cut a stem of the hoodia plant and chew while ranging far from home over a period of a couple of days. This would satisfy their hunger and give them strength until they returned to their village.
It's all in the Hypothalamus
Research on hoodia conducted by the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) isolated the molecule P57, which appears to be responsible for much of hoodia's appetite suppressing effect. P57 seems to act by suppressing hunger signals from the brain's hypothalamus region.
After realizing the value of their discovery, CSIR sold the licence for P57 to a small British bio-pharmaceutical company - Phytopharm. A preliminary study of hoodia by Phytopharm on a group of obese Leicester residents placed on a 2,200 calorie per day diet found that it decreased food intake by an average of 1,000 calories a day an astounding finding and one that underscored the potential value of hoodia as a weight-loss aid. Phytopharm soon sold the development and marketing rights to Pfizer Corporation.
The Plot Thickens
With millions to be made, what followed is the stuff of adventure novels - bio-piracy, counterfeiting, and the plundering of tribal treasures all of which has been documented by various organizations, including the BBC, the Guardian newspaper, and National Geographic.
It will be another two to four years before a viable pharmaceutical product based on hoodia will be available. But why wait? This is a perfect example of the pharmaceutical industry looking for a way to patent an already effective plant product. Why not simply use the plant itself?
Using the Herb
Hoodia extract is available in health food stores in the form of either capsule or tea, alone or combined with a variety of ingredients, including thermogenics (fat-burners), blood sugar control products, and diuretics. Suggested intake of hoodia ranges from 400 to 800 milligrams daily of 20:1 hoodia extract. To date no side effects have been noted. As hoodia counterfeits are relatively common it's wise to consult your local health food store for advice on choosing a reliable manufacturer.
This traditional herb of the Kalahari San people may work to control your hunger pangs and aid weight loss.