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The Facts About Hoodia Gordonii

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: Rhonda Callow • updated: 3/12/2010

Hoodia gordonii is a CITES listed plant native to the southern part of Africa. The Sans Bushmen have used it for centuries when on long hunting trips. Modern medicine has seen the patents for the plants main ingredient change hands several times. Is hoodia the magic cure all for weight loss?

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    Overview of Hoodia

    Hoodia gordonii is one of the hottest diet and weight loss supplements available on the market today. It is touted as the miracle weight loss product. From teas, to drinks and supplements it seems like every diet or weight loss product contains hoodia. Consumers should be aware that many of the hoodia products on the market contain little or no actual hoodia gordonii. Before purchasing your next batch of hoodia weight loss supplements read the facts below. It may surprise you.

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    Wikimedia Commons: Hoodia gordonii

    Hoodia gordoniiHoodia godonii, in flower
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    What is Hoodia Gordonii?

    The plant hoodia gordonii is a succulent native to South Africa. It takes five years for the plant to flower. At that point it is ready for harvesting.

    Hoodia gordonii is listed as an endangered species and it is listed as CITES II endangered species. CITES II classification (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species) requires one to obtain a permit in order to collect, harvest, import or export any part of the plant. It is not easy to get permit approval. The only country allowed to export hoodia gordonii is South Africa. Permits that show plants being imported from anywhere else are fake.

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    The Sans Bushman

    A native people to Africa, the Sans Bushman, use hoodia gordonii on long hunting trips. This has been a common practice with them for centuries. They chew on the plant in order to keep hunger at bay so they can focus on the task of hunting. Currently, the Sans Bushman have a large number of available permits to collect hoodia gordonii.

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    Weight loss is big business. The active ingredient in hoodia gordonii has been isolated and identified as P57. Apparently, it is difficult to isolate and expensive to create in a lab. The patent to P57 was owned by Pfizer. In 2000 it was sold to Unilever. Currently, Unilever holds the majority of the valid CITES permits to collect hoodia gordonii.

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    Please continue on to page two to find out how you can tell if what you're buying is really hoodia gordonii, scams associated with hoodia, and the science behind hoodia and how it works.

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    How Does Hoodia Work? Buyers Beware - Page 2Many weight loss supplements on the market claim to contain hoodia gordonii, but this isn't always the case. How do you know if the weight loss supplement you're buying contains real hoodia gordonii? Does Hoodia even work as a weight loss treatment or is this yet another scam? Learn all about hoodia by reading this dieting tips article.
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    One would think that with all of the products containing hoodia gordonii it would be readily available and easy to obtain. This is not the case. Many products that claim to have hoodia gordonii may in fact have no hoodia gordonii at all. Others may have extracts from different species of hoodia, there are six in all. Only hoodia gordonii contains the P57 chemical that controls hunger.

    The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is currently suing Nutraceuticals International, LLC and Stella Labs LLC, for false advertising and deceptive business practices regarding their hoodia gordonii products. Stella labs claim they are the only licensed importers of hoodia gordonii in the United States. Furthermore, both companies claim hoodia gordonii will decrease calorie intake, will cause a person to lose weight and that it is a cure for obesity. According to the FTC, these claims are false. Legal action was brought against both companies. See Case: 2:09-cv-01262-WJM-CCC filed March 20, 2009 in US District Court, District of New Jersey. This is not the only diet product with problems. Hydroxycut has been realled by the FDA.

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    How Does Hoodia Work? The Science Behind It

    As mentioned earlier, the active ingredient in hoodia gordonii is a steroidal glycoside called P57. This means that it is a sugar molecule chemically bound to a steroid. In the case of hoodia gordonii, it is three sugar molecules bonded to a steroid.

    When hoodia gordonii is ingested, P57 sends a chemical signal to the body’s hypothalamus. This signal tells the body that the stomach is getting full and it shuts off the hunger signal. That is all P57 does.

    Here is what hoodia gordonii will not do. It does not reduce calorie intake, it does not cure obesity and it does not control the urge to eat when a person misinterprets thirst for hunger. All hoodia gordonii does is shuts off the hunger switch. It will not control emotional eating. There is no evidence that P57 as an isolated chemical will perform the same as the whole plant.

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    Buyer Beware

    Before purchasing your next batch of hoodia gordonii, ask to see the CITES permits from the company. Get the permit number and confirm it with the USDA. True hoodia gordonii should be expensive. It is hard to obtain and the true supply is limited. There are reputable companies selling the real thing. Make sure you know what you are buying.