|Hoodia Benefits and Side Effects
What makes Hoodia supplements so popular in the market?
A few years ago, Pfizer was planning to introduce a new diet drug made
from Hoodia, hoodia became in the news. Though Pfizer has abandoned its
research into hoodia, Hoodia gained its reputation. On November 21, 2005,
the CBS news program 60 Minutes aired a segment on hoodia (Hoodia
gordonii), further boosting the market demand for this herb.
Hondia (Hoodia gordonii) is a succulent plant in the milkweed family
(Asclepiadaceae ) from Namibia in southwestern Africa. Hondia may have
benefits on weight management by suppressing appetite.  Hoodia has
been used by San tribes for centuries. San used the hoodia cactus as an
appetite suppressant during their long marches and hunting trips through
the vast desert. So far, hoodia did not have apparent side effects.
According to a report, Hoodia is a rich source of steroidal glycosides,
antioxidants, fiber and other organic materials. 
What is the key ingredient of hoodia? What health benefits does
Researchers from Brown Medical School isolated a steroidal glycoside with
anorectic activity in animals, termed P57AS3 (P57), from Hoodia gordonii.
This steroid has homologies to the steroidal core of cardiac glycosides and
Intracerebroventricular injection of P57AS3 has a CNS mechanism of action-
increase of ATP content in hypothalamic neurons by 50-150%. In addition,
third ventricle (i.c.v.) administration of P57, which reduces subsequent 24-h
food intake by 40-60%, also increases ATP content in hypothalamic slice
punches removed at 24 h following the i.c.v. injections. In related studies,
in pair fed rats fed a low calorie diet for 4 days, the content of ATP in the
hypothalami of control i.c.v. injected animals fell by 30-50%, which was
blocked by i.c.v. injections of P57AS3. With growing evidence of metabolic
or nutrient-sensing by the hypothalamus, ATP may be a common currency
of energy sensing, which in turn may trigger the appropriate neural,
endocrine and appetitive responses as similar to other fundamental
hypothalamic homeostatic centers for temperature and osmolarity.
What do most commercial hoodia supplements contain?
Most brands deliver 250 mg of 20:1 concentrate of pure Hoodia. 20:1
extract means that it is 20 times as potent as regular hoodia. 250 mg of
Hoodia extract equals about 5,000 mg or 5 grams of the actual plant. Most
suppliers suggested to take 1 to 4 hoodia tablets in the morning before
breakfast on an empty stomach. Hoodia is packed in dosage forms of bulk
powder, capsules and tablets.
Is Hoodia a diet pill?
Not sure. There are not much scientific evidence.
Did FDA issue warning letters to hoodia suppliers?
Yes. FDA issued a warning to a supplier about the content of its
advertisement for a hoodia supplement on March 25, 2005. The content of
the advertisement is extracted: "Features 500 mg of Hoodia Gordoni
Cactus powder in each capsule. . . .[T]he first human clinical trial . ..the
company chose a morbidly obese group . . . . The group on Hoodia had
reduced their food intake by 1000 calories a day." These claims on the
labeling, including the website, establish that the product is a drug
because it was intended for use in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or
prevention of disease. The marketing of the product with these claims
violates the Act.
Are there any patents issued on the use of hoodia?
Yes, there are a few patents issued on the use of hoodia. Van Heerden, et
al patented on harmaceutical compositions having appetite suppressant
activities. The pharmaceutical composition (i.e. the chemical) contains an
extract obtainable from a plant of the genus Trichocaulon or Hoodia
containing an appetite suppressant agent having the formula (1). A
process for obtaining the extract and a process for synthesizing compound
(1) and its analogues and derivatives is also provided. The invention also
extends to the use of such extracts and compound (1) and its analogues
for the manufacture of medicaments having appetite suppressant activity.
The invention further provides novel intermediates for the synthesis of
compound (1). 
Is there scientific evidence demonstrating the benefits of hoodia?
Example 2 of US patent 6,376,657 shows that the test group of rats dosed
with the hoodia extract on day 5 displayed a substantially diminished food
intake over the next two days, while a control group did not disclose a
comparable reduced food intake.
What are the side effects of hoodia? Is it safe to take hoodie
Hoodia does not have apparent side effects, as it has been used by San
group for centuries. Experiment data in patent 6,376,657 indicates that
hoodia extracts does not impose acute toxicity in animals. However, it is
not sure if the composition used in patent 6,376,657 is the same as that
for commercial hoodia extracts or hoodia supplements. We should also
aware that those are only data from animal studies.
How do scientists prepare hoodia powder?
There are different ways of extractions and preparation. Patent 6,376,657
discloses one simple method. Harvested Hoodia plants are first stored at
4.degree. C. for 48 hours or less. The plants are washed in tap water and
thereafter sliced into .+-.1 cm slices. The sliced pieces are all combined and
then pressed through a hydraulic press at 300 bar pressure for a minimum
of 0.5 hour per pressing. During the pressing the sap of the plant is
collected separately. The sap is stored at -18.degree. C. until further
processing is required. Then, the sap is spray-dried under suitable
conditions to obtain a free flowing powder. The moisture content in the
powder is preferably less than 5% after spray drying and, if necessary, it is
further dried in a vacuum oven or using a fluid bed drier. Both the sap and
the spray-dried material have been shown effective as an appetite
suppressant in biological assays in rats.
What are the current research projects on hoodia?
John Hakkinen and co-workers at Phytopharm PLC, Godmanchester, GB,
are working on the application of hoodia extracts on heartburn,
oesophageal reflux disease or related diseases. They have found that a
compound is effective in reducing appetite and the secretion of gastric acid
in animal studies. The structure of this compound is disclosed in WO
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), e.g. aspirin (acetylsalicylic
acid), are well-known and widely used for their anti-inflammatory and
antipyretic properties. A major side effect is their tendency to damage the
wall of the stomach; this adverse property is acid-dependent and is generic
to the NSAIDs. The present invention is also concerned with means for
mitigating these adverse effects.
This article is for your information only. If you have any question, you should
consult with your doctor. All right reserved 2008 Zhion. Do not copy nor transfer the
article to other websites or other types of publications.
 HerbalGram. 2005;65:5,77.  J. Krone r, Hoodia believe? Jay sonkroner.library
onhealth.com Online Publication, December 13, 2005.  MacLean DB and Luo LG
Increased ATP content/production in the hypothalamus may be a signal for
energy-sensing of satiety: studies of the anorectic mechanism of a plant steroidal
glycoside. Brain Res. 2004 Sep 10;1020(1-2):1-11.  Van Heerden et al,
Pharmaceutical compositions having appetite suppressant activity, United States
Patent 6,376,657, April 23, 2002.
|photo by James Gathany
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