Principal Proposed Uses
Hoodia is a cactus-like plant that grows in the Kalahari desert in South Africa and Namibia. Advertising literature associated with hoodia claims that the herb has been used for thousands of years by the San people (commonly, though inappropriately, known as Bushmen) in order to stave off hunger and thirst during long desert treks. However, this statement has not been independently verified. Other sources state that the plant was used by the San rarely, and only as a food—in fact, as a disfavored food consumed only when better tasting food sources were not available.
What Is Hoodia Used for Today?
In approximately 2002, hoodia began to be heavily marketed as a supplement for weight-loss. However, there is no reliable evidence that it offers any benefit.
The manufacturer Phytopharm cites a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 18 overweight people in the UK who were given either hoodia or placebo for 15 days. Reportedly, people in the hoodia group consumed 1,000 fewer calories daily than those in the placebo group, despite remaining sedentary. This would be an enormous effect, if true. However, this study was small, it was performed by the manufacturer without outside supervision, and it has never been published. Only if a larger, independent study verifies these results will it be possible to say that there is meaningful evidence supporting the use of hoodia for weight loss.
The purported active ingredient of hoodia is a substance christened "P57." For a time, the drug company Pfizer investigated P57 as a possible weight-loss drug, but they ceased research in 2003.
None are known. However, no meaningful independent studies of hoodia's safety have been reported. Safety in pregnant or nursing women, young children, or people with liver or kidney disease has not been established.
- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 07/2012 -
- Update Date: 07/25/2012 -