Hoodia gordonii is a species of succulent that grows wild in areas of southern Africa. The only published hoodia research to this date was performed by scientists at Brown University. They injected rats with an extract from the hoodia gordonii plant and reported no dangers of hoodia, but that was not the purpose of their research. They were interested in why hoodia gordonii could suppress the appetite. They learned that naturally occurring glycosides (chemical substances which when dissolved in water produce a sugar) in hoodia gordonii affect the nerve cells in the hypothalamus which are responsible for monitoring blood glucose levels.
In easier to understand terms; this hoodia research indicates that substances within the plant triggers a reaction in the brain that mimics the brains response to increases in blood glucose levels. Blood glucose levels increase when we eat; the brain reacts to this by sending out a “not hungry” signal. Concerns over the dangers of hoodia gordonii probably result from the known dangers associated with other plants and herbs. Ephedra is a species of bushy plant, but when used as an appetite suppressant, it has caused undesirable side effects and even death.
Phytopharm’s hoodia research continues to ensure that there are no possible dangers of hoodia use as an appetite suppressant. Research to this time has been promising. Animals that have been fed hoodia gordonii lost weight, but not due to any detectable toxic effect. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was looking for toxicity in desert foods that were commonly consumed by native peoples when they learned that hoodia gordonii had been used to ward off hunger and thirst, when food and drink were not available. This led to more hoodia research, because pharmaceutical companies saw the increasing need for an effective appetite suppressant. The dangers of other herbs and plant products are usually a result of misuse. The root of the Kava plant, when taken as directed, can create a relaxed state, soothing the nerves. A woman died as a result of drinking large quantities of Kava tea. The dangers of hoodia, if they are present at all, will probably arise from failure to follow recommended dosages.
Phytopharm is also working on a synthetic version of what they believe to be the active molecule in hoodia gordonii. Their hoodia research involves the use of this molecule, not the plant itself. Synthetic versions of natural occurring substances often have dangers that are not present in the original substance. Their may be dangers of hoodia synthetic version. This remains to be seen.
The best advice for anyone interested in trying hoodia as a natural appetite suppressant is to consult your doctor, make sure you are in reasonably good health. Hoodia gordonii appetite suppressants should not be used by pregnant women, nursing mothers or children. Hoodia seems to suppress the physical urge to eat, but psychological cravings may still be present. Available hoodia research does not indicate that it has any of the side effects associated with appetite suppressants which contain stimulants, but not all hoodia products are stimulant free. Check the label. The final word about the dangers of hoodia will be left to Phytopharm and the general public.