Hoodia has been used by South African Bushmen as an appetite suppressant and thirst quencher during long hunting trips for more than 100,000 years. It was discovered during a study of indigenous foods by a lab in South Africa, and may represent a great opportunity for the South African economy as well as a diet miracle for many who have given up on other weight loss products. Hoodia is a succulent cactus–like plant, with stalks that look like spiky pickles. However, it does not belong to the cactus family. Hoodia plants grow up to about 1m tall, with large strong smelling flowers in the wild of the Kalahari Desert in South Africa. They are known to the indigenous people as Xhoba.
Hoodia Gordonii is the species that is being researched for its appetite suppressant properties. There are other Hoodia species, some of which are grown in gardens, but only Hoodia Gordonii is thought to contain the active ingredient, Hoodia P57.
The diet industry is a billion dollar industry. Following the media hype on Hoodia, many US supplement companies began selling pills which they claim to contain Hoodia. Demand for Hoodia pills skyrocketed. In a set of clinical trials, obese volunteers were given an extract of the Hoodia Gordinii plant. They ate, read, watched TV and slept without exercising at all. At the end of the 15-day trial period, they reduced their calorie intake by 1,000 calories per day. Hoodia seems to offer a ray of hope to those who have been trying to lose weight. It has also become more popular following rumors that TV actresses were taking Hoodia to stave off weight gain.
Pharmaceutical companies are trying to develop extracts of the Hoodia Gordonii, the active ingredient P57 and market them in diet pills. They are also trying to develop synthetic version of the Hoodia P57 molecule which is responsible for suppressing appetite. Unfortunately, the synthetic version is too expensive and difficult to mass produce. It seems Hoodia Gordinii from the Kalahari Desert is best in its natural form. There have yet been reported side effects from Hoodia users. However, further research is still required.
When combined with proper diet and exercise, Hoodia can speed up weight loss. It curbs hunger and cravings. However, it is difficult to buy real quality Hoodia supplement. Hoodia, being a native plant of the Kalahari Desert, requires the appropriate climate and soil to grow. Hoodia plant takes up to 6 years to grow and mature for harvest. Attempts to grow Hoodia in the USA, China and Mexico have been unsuccessful.
There is a severe shortage of Hoodia and yet, it is highly demanded by many who are desperate to lose weight. This is a highly profitable business that has given rise to unscrupulous companies selling counterfeit Hoodia products that they claim to contain real Hoodia.