- What is Hoodia?
- What is the most important information I should know about Hoodia?
- How does Hoodia work?
- Who should not take Hoodia?
- How should I take Hoodia?
- What happens if I miss a dose?
- What happens if I overdose?
- What should I avoid?
- What are the possible side effects of Hoodia?
- What other drugs will affect Hoodia?
- What are the results of Hoodia clinical trials?
- Further information
- More about hoodia
- Iinformation document on trade in Hoodia gordonii and other Hoodia species.
- Hoodia for Slimming?South African Medicinal Plants
- Medical Disclaimer
Scientific Name: Hoodia gordonii
Common Names: Bushman’s Hat, xhoba
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Jan 23, 2019.
What is Hoodia?
Hoodia gordonii is a cactus-like succulent plant, native to the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa.1 Due to over harvest and slow growth, Hoodia is now considered an endangered species. Hoodia grows in clumps of upright stems with tan flowers and thorns, and a strong, unpleasant odor.
Hoodia has received publicity in recent times for its natural appetite suppressant properties.
What is the most important information I should know about Hoodia?
Patients should not take Hoodia without first talking to their doctor if they
- have diabetes or are taking a medicine to control blood sugar levels,
- have any heart problems or take any heart medicines,
- have a bleeding or blood clotting disorder or are taking a medicine to increase or decrease the clotting of their blood such as aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), or heparin,
- have anorexia, bulimia or any other eating disorder.
Patients may not be able to take Hoodia, or may require special monitoring during treatment if they have any of the conditions or are taking any of the medicines listed above.
Hoodia has not been evaluated by the FDA for safety, effectiveness, or purity. All potential risks and/ or advantages of Hoodia may not be known. Additionally, there are no regulated manufacturing standards in place for these compounds. There have been instances where herbal/ health supplements have been sold which were contaminated with toxic metals or other drugs. Herbal/ health supplements should be purchased from a reliable source to minimize the risk of contamination.
Hoodia is available for purchase in retail stores and online; however, clinical trials have not proven Hoodia effectiveness or safety. Actual amounts of hoodia in advertised products cannot always be confirmed, and products may be counterfeit or contaminated. Because many of these products are promoted for weight loss, but have not been clinically evaluated, the manufacturers are in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
In October, 2011 the FDA notified consumers that the “P57 Hoodia” product marketed by Huikng Pharmaceutical was found to contain sibutramine, a controlled substance that was removed from the U.S. market in October 2010 for safety reasons. Sibutramine may substantially increase blood pressure and/or pulse rate in some patients and may present a significant risk for patients with a history of coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, arrhythmia, or stroke. This product may also interact in life threatening ways with other medications a consumer may be taking.2
How does Hoodia work?
The appetite suppressant effects of Hoodia were first observed in 1937 by a Dutch anthropologist studying the primitive San Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert.
It was noticed that the nomadic Bushmen, (who call it Xhoba) ate the stem of the Hoodia plant to stave off hunger during long hunting trips in the sparsely vegetated area.
The active ingredient in Hoodia is the appetite-suppressing molecule, P57, or oxypregnane steroidal glycoside P57AS3.3 In scarce clinical studies, P57 has been researched to evaluate its potential as an anti-obesity drug.
It is theorized that P57 acts on the brain in a manner similar to glucose. It tricks the brain into thinking one is full even when they have not eaten, reduces interest in food and delays the time before hunger sets in. It appears to work at the level of the hypothalamus to inhibit hunger signals.
Who should not take Hoodia?
Patients should not take Hoodia without first talking to their doctor if they have
- heart disease or high blood pressure,
- a bleeding or blood clotting disorder,
- anorexia, bulimia or any other eating disorder.
Patients should talk to their doctor before taking Hoodia if they have any other medical conditions, allergies (especially to plants), or if they take other medicines or herbal/ health supplements.
Patients should not take Hoodia without first talking to their doctor if they are pregnant or could become pregnant.
Patients should not take Hoodia without first talking to their doctor if they are breast-feeding.
There is no information available regarding the use of Hoodia by children. Do not give any herbal/ health supplement to a child without first talking to the child’s doctor.
How should I take Hoodia?
The use of Hoodia in cultural and traditional settings may differ from concepts accepted by current Western medicine. When considering the use of herbal supplements, consultation with a primary health care professional is advisable. Additionally, consultation with a practitioner trained in the uses of herbal/ health supplements may be beneficial, and coordination of treatment among all health care providers involved may be advantageous.
Take Hoodia only as directed by a doctor, pharmacist, or other health care provider.
Store Hoodia as directed on the package.
What happens if I miss a dose?
No information is available regarding a missed dose of Hoodia. Consult with a doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider if additional information is required.
What happens if I overdose?
Seek emergency medical attention.
What should I avoid?
There are no known restrictions on food, beverages, or activity while taking Hoodia, unless otherwise directed by a health care provider.
What are the possible side effects of Hoodia?
Patients should talk to their doctor about any side effects they may develop.
What other drugs will affect Hoodia?
There is limited drug interaction information available between Hoodia and other medicines. It is recommended that patients talk to their doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider before taking any prescription or over-the-counter medicines or other herbal/ health supplements.
An in-vitro clinical trial has shown that intestinal transport of P57 was mediated by P-glycoprotein and multidrug resistance proteins MRP1/MRP2. P57 exhibited weak inhibition of the liver cytochrome P450 3A4 enzyme.3 The potential for clinically significant drug interactions is unknown.
What are the results of Hoodia clinical trials?
Published, peer-reviewed, randomized controlled clinical trials evaluating the efficacy of Hoodia gordonii are lacking.
A 15-day, randomized clinical trial published in 2011 evaluated Hoodia gordonii purified extract (HgPE) relative to placebo. Healthy, overweight women (n=64) received 1,110 milligram HgPE or placebo formulated in a yogurt drink one hour before breakfast and dinner. Menus otherwise were unchanged and portions were not controlled. HgPE was less well-tolerated than placebo due to episodes of nausea, vomiting, and skin sensations. Blood pressure, pulse, heart rate, bilirubin and alkaline phosphatase were significantly increased in the HgPE group. No significant effects on energy intakes or weight relative to placebo were demonstrated.
- van Heerden FR. Hoodia gordonii: a natural appetite suppressant. J Ethnopharmacol 2008:119;434-7.
- Madgula VL. Avula B. Pawar RS, et al. In vitro metabolic stability and intestinal transport of P57AS3 (P57) from Hoodia gordonii and its interaction with drug metabolizing enzymes. Planta Med 2008:74:1269-75.
- Blom WA. Abrahamse SL. Bradford R, et al. Effects of 15-d repeated consumption of Hoodia gordonii purified extract on safety, ad libitum energy intake, and body weight in healthly, overweight women: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011:94;1171-81; Clinical trial available at http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01306422?term=hoodia&rank=1 Accessed 04/11/2018.
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Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel, Jr, MD, FACP, FACR
Listen to podcast on Hoodia
The South African desert plant Hoodia gordonii, long ingested by Kalahari bushmen, has begun to attract widespread attention as a weight loss aid.
The only place in the world where Hoodia grows in the wild is the Kalahari desert in southern Africa. The plant has been eaten for centuries by the Kalahari bushmen living in the area, reportedly to prevent hunger during long journeys. A South African laboratory that had been studying indigenous plants for many years identified a molecule in the Hoodia plant, termed P57, that appears to suppress appetite. The South African researchers applied for a patent for the use of this compound as a diet aid and licensed it to a British pharmaceutical company, Phytopharm.
Scientists from Phytopharm say that the active ingredient in Hoodia, P57, acts on the brain in a manner similar to glucose and sends the message that you are full even when you have not eaten, thus decreasing your desire to eat. Ingestion of the Hoodia plant has no known reported side effects, although its taste is considered to be unpleasant and bitter.
According to CBS and BBC news reports, Phytopharm has spent millions of dollars in research on Hoodia and conducted a study of its effects on human volunteers. In their study, they report that obese volunteers who took Hoodia ended up eating about 1,000 calories per day less than those who did not take the supplement. But the pharmaceutical firm Phizer, which had teamed with Phytopharm and funded much of the research on Hoodia, dropped out of the project because of beliefs that it wouldn’t be realistic to make pills out of the active ingredient in the Hoodia plant. Hoodia is grows in extremely hot conditions, and the plant takes years to reach maturity. Until now, the plant has never been cultivated and was only found in the wild. In order to increase its very limited supply, Phytopharm has established Hoodia plantations in South Africa, which are trying to establish cultivation and farming methods to grow the wild plant.
The BBC also reported in 2003 that it tested the “leading brand of Hoodia pills” sold in the U.S. and found no discernible evidence that the pills contained any active Hoodia. Because of the relative scarcity of Hoodia, the ingredient is hard for manufacturers to acquire, which makes it hard to understand how dozens of firms now claim to sell weight loss supplements containing Hoodia. Scientists at Phytopharm claim that many firms are fraudulently using their data and claims about Hoodia to market their own products. Phytopharm states that assays of “Hoodia” supplements from different companies show that these contain between 0.1 and 0.01 percent of the active ingredient claimed, according to a CBS report in 2004.
The study cited by the manufacturers of Hoodia certainly sounds intriguing. However, the study has not appeared in a peer-reviewed medical journal, so it is impossible to evaluate the quality of the study or its methodology. The FDA has warned manufacturers of products claiming to contain Hoodia that its effectiveness and safety have not been determined in humans. Likewise, both the Mayo Clinic and Dr. Andrew Weil have commented that there is of yet no conclusive evidence that Hoodia is a safe and effective appetite suppressant.
Right now, it’s just too early to tell if Hoodia will revolutionize the diet industry. Double-blinded clinical trials are required to establish the safety and effectiveness of any product, and these have not yet been completed with Hoodia. Even those interested in trying Hoodia without waiting for clinical trials to be completed may have difficulties, since Phytopharm, the only licensed producer of Hoodia as a weight loss aid, does not yet market the product. Phytopharm’s Web site states that “the necessary clinical trials and other studies to ensure the safety of the extract will take a few years before a product will be available.” With reports of widespread counterfeit product, unless you have your supplements tested by an independent laboratory, it’s hard to know if you are actually purchasing a product that truly contains the active ingredient.
For additional information, please visit the Weight Loss Center.
References: “Hoodia gordonii fact file.” www.phytopharm.com. “African Plant May Help Fight Fat.” CBS News, 11/21/05.
Learn more about Hoodia with evidence-based information on RxList.
Top Diets: The Best Dieting Tips Ever for Weight Loss See Slideshow
Iinformation document on trade in Hoodia gordonii and other Hoodia species.
This page has been developed for guidance only. Anyone planning to collect, grow or trade Hoodia must contact the local Nature Conservation Office to verify requirements.
This note has been compiled to promote the sustainable use of Hoodia in South Africa and to ensure that the indigenous people of South Africa benefit from the commercial development of products based on their traditional knowledge.
Hoodia is a genus of succulent plants in the family Apocynaceae that is widely used traditionally by the San people of southern Africa as an appetite suppressant, thirst quencher and as a cure for severe abdominal cramps, haemorrhoids, tuberculosis, indigestion, hypertension and diabetes. Various uses have been recorded among Anikhwe (Northern Botswana), Hai om (northern Namibia ), Khomani (north western South Africa ), and the !Xun and Khwe (originally from Angola ) communities. Less is known about the use of this group of plants by other indigenous people, but some records show limited use of Hoodia parts as food items, albeit not as preferred food items. Hoodias are known to be used for cultural purposes in some areas (Hargreaves and Turner, 2002). Although relatively difficult to cultivate, Hoodia ‘ s are attractive plants and are also used for horticultural purposes.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa isolated an active compound (P57) for appetite suppression from H. gordonii . The CSIR licensed the rights for further development of P57 and the setting up of a sustainable production system to Phytopharm in the UK . Phytopharm in turn sub licensed the rights to Pfizer for the development and global commercialization. Pfizer has recently returned the clinical developmental rights.
In terms of a benefit sharing agreement with the CSIR, all the San communities in the range States will benefit from the development of P57.
Hoodia is being widely marketed as a commercial appetite suppressant. Some of the trade in Hoodia is illegal in terms of regulations in southern African countries and may also infringe on patent rights and benefit sharing agreements. This document provides information on Hoodia to promote sustainable and fair trade in Hoodia products .
DISTRIBUTION OF HOODIA
Hoodia species occur in summer rainfall areas in Angola, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa as well as winter rainfall areas in Namibia (MET 2002). Only one species if found east of 26 degrees longitude, i.e H. currorii subsp. lugardii , which occurs in Botswana and the Limpopo province of South Africa. The centres of diversity for Hoodia are in Namibia (11 taxa) and South Africa (9 taxa).
Although the genus Hoodia is widespread in southern Africa, herbarium records indicate that Hoodia gordonii only occurs in South Africa and Namibia . Any claims about other areas of distribution should be verified by a competent taxonomist.
Cultivation trials are currently underway in South Africa (under the auspices of the CSIR) and on a small scale in Namibia (National Botanical Research Institute). At present, only a small quantity of material has been harvested from cultivated material.
Some species of Hoodia occur in very large populations over large areas. This includes H. gordonii , which is the species most sought after for trade. There are, however, other closely related species that are less abundant, occurring in isolated patches with an overall low density, and a relatively small distribution range. A relatively common feature is that most species have patchy distributions. The threatened status for some Hoodia species has been assessed recently (see Table) and ten of the 16 taxa have been classified as threatened in these assessments.
Hoodia species, including H. gordonii, are protected species in southern Africa . This means that permits are required for certain activities.
· Hoodia gordonii does not occur in Botswana . Other Hoodia species are protected by the Agricultural Resources Conservation Act . Regulations for harvesting of veld products were published on 26 March 2004.
· H. gordonii , as well as other species of Hoodia , are listed as protected species in Namibia .
· No harvesting is permitted until Namibia has reviewed the status of Hoodia species (national policy framework in progress).
· Namibian authorities are concerned that collectors are harvesting illegally and that the wrong species are being harvested (i.e. not H. gordonii )
According to current records, the natural distribution range of H. gordonii in South Africa is only in the Northern Cape province . There are also reports of other sites in the Western Cape .
Northern Cape Province :
· H. gordonii , as well as other Hoodia species, are listed as protected species under the Environmental Conservation Ordinance No.19 of 1974.
· No one is allowed to harvest, collect, damage, collect seeds, trade (import or export) or transport any Hoodia material without a valid permit from the Permit Section of the Directorate of Conservation Service in the Northern Cape .
· Cultivation requires a relevant permit from the same Permit Section.
· Any export also requires a phyto-sanitary certificate. Phyto-sanitary certificates can be obtained from the National Department of Agriculture
Western Cape Province
· Conservation status and permit requirements are the same as in the Northern Cape Province .
In terms of Nature Conservation Ordinance 19 of 1974 for ANYONE to trade in Hoodia (or any protected flora), that person will need to be registered and licensed by the Western Cape Nature Conservation Office. Any party involved in the commercial trade of Hoodia , whether it is the primary grower (who grows and harvests the material for sale) or the end seller (who buys it from the grower for processing and resale) must be registered and licensed. Furthermore, an export permit is required to export Hoodia in any form (raw or processed) out of the Province (an Ordinance permit) and out of the country (a CITES permit).
Botswana , Namibia , and South Africa submitted a proposal to the 14th Conference of the Parties of CITES to list all species of Hoodia on Appendix II. This proposal was accepted in January 2005 and it is now prohibited to trade in any parts and derivatives of any Hoodia species without a permit. A permit can only be obtained from the relevant permitting authorities of each country and can only be issued for trade in cultivated plants or wild plants where the trade can be shown not to have a detrimental effect on wild populations (a CITES non-detriment finding). The listing of Hoodia makes provision for exemption from CITES permits where traders participate in controlled harvesting and production systems in collaboration with the CITES Management Authorities of Botswana/Namibia/South Africa, but no such agreements are yet in place. Importing countries must ensure that a valid CITES export permit has been issued by the country of origin for any trade.
Further information is available from the CITES website:
Plantzafrica.com cannot guarantee that the names and addresses below are correct. They are provided for guidance purposes only.
Ms Budzanani Nsoso
Agricultural Resources Board
Private Bag 00424
Tel. +267 395 0740
Email: [email protected]
Dr Pauline Lindeque (PhD)
Director Scientific Services
Ministry of Environment and Tourism
Private Bag 13306
Windhoek , NAMIBIA
Tel: +264 61 263131 Fax: +264 61 259101
Or: Pierre du Plessis, [email protected]
National Botanical Research Institute
Private Bag X13184, Windhoek
Email: [email protected]
South Africa :
Northern Cape :
Maxie Jonk (Permit Section)
Directorate of Conservation Service
Private Bag X5018
Directorate of Conservation Service
Private Bag X5018
Contact person: Deon Hignett, [email protected]
Dr Marthinus Horak
P.O. Box 3095\
+27 -12- 841 2670
email: [email protected]
Hoodia for Slimming?South African Medicinal Plants
© Alice Notten of KirstenboschHoodia gordonii’s seedpods look like goat horns (hence the Afrikaans name – ‘bokhorings’) and appear in early summer.Sought-after for its medicinal properties, curious-looking Hoodia gordonii is also called bitter ghaap, Kalahari cactus, ‘bokhorings’ (goat horns in Afrikaans) or khobab (in Khoisan). The plant is peeled and eaten raw and is known for its appetite-suppressant properties as used by Khoisan hunters who often went days without food and water.
Research into this plant began in the 1960’s and in 1977 a compound, P57, was isolated from Hoodia gordonii by the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). This compound purportedly sends signals to the brain to help the body feel ‘full’ and has been marketed in the form of appetite suppressant pills to curb appetite. Some studies on animals have found side-effects such as increased heart rate. Hoodia is available as liquids, powders, tablets, teas, lollipops and capsules.
This succulent grows in a variety of conditions (sandy to rocky soils) and can tolerate heat (over 40℃ ) and cold (-3℃). Hoodia is best grown from seed. Pink to purple-coloured foul-smelling flowers are produced in September to October which attracts flies to serve as pollinators. The seed capsules which look like goat horns (hence the Afrikaans name – ‘bokhorings’) appear in early summer. Hoodia is mostly found in the Kalahari regions of South Africa (Northern Cape), Namibia and Botswana.
Note: All Hoodia species are listed as protected species under the Environmental Conservation Ordinance No.19 of 1974 and a permit is required to grow, harvest, collect seeds or trade any Hoodia material.
Information is for educational and informational purposes only and may not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended to replace medical advice or treatment offered by healthcare professionals.By Marinda Louw
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