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The Medical uses of Hoodia

Essentially, very little.

Generic Name: Hoodia gordonii is a native plant to the Kalahari desert of South Africa, specifically in Namibia. According to Wikipedia the flowers smell “like rotten meat and are pollinated mainly by flies.” As with any supplement, pill, or plan for dieting, hoodia is surrounded with controversy. All the Mayo Clinic had to say was there is no evidence “that it contributes to significant, long-term weight loss.”

It all got started with the discovery that tribesmen who were embarking on a long hunt into the Kalahari ate the stem of the Hoodia plant to suppress their hunger. The tribe also used it for treating indigestion and infection. Given the fact that this plant only grows in the Kalahari, and smells like rotted meat, it is surprising that so much attention has been given to this plant. According to Kathleen Doheny, of WebMD, Hoodia has a “lot of hoopla” but very little science to back up the claims that it works as claimed. Apparently Hoodia tricks your brain into thinking you are full. The problem is the lack of scientific proof. Plus, there is no indication that it will work long term.

It seems that P57 is the molecule that is the active agent in the hoodia. The patent on P57 is held by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). Phytopharm, a British pharmaceutical company, holds the only license to hoodia. In the Hoodia Fact File on the Phytopharm website, hoodia extract will be available in a few years when the clinical studies are done. Phytopharm also claims to owning several hoodia plantations in Afraica, since the plant is rare in the wild.

There are some disturbing facts to report in the world of hoodia scams. Natural News.com released a consumer alert in 2005 that Pure Hoodia, Inc., had sold hoodia supplements with more sawdust than hoodia. Yes, there was hoodia in it, but very few grams. Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD, over at Medicine.Net wrote “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.” It is also wroth bearing in mind that given the scarcity of the plant, how is it that so many companies can claim to sell pure hoodia?

Until the scientific tests are complete – and that means clinical trials, which often last for years, and studies of effects and side effects – the use of hoodia in medicine is going to be limited. It would be good to remember that Phytopharm, the only licensed holder for Hoodia, says it will be “years” before they release it. Some companies release what they claim is hoodia, and they can, because the FDA does not review dietary supplements, which is why Natrual News.com discovered some were selling minuscule amounts of hoodia with massive amounts of sawdust, per pill.

It pays to remember “buyer beware.”