Hoodia gordonii is a succulent plant native to southern Africa.

For centuries, the indigenous San people have used hoodia to diminish hunger pangs when food is scarce. In more recent times, supplement companies have sold it as an appetite suppressant, capable of boosting fat loss by easing your desire to eat.

What is hoodia exactly?

Is it an effective fat-loss supplement?

And is it safe?

Get evidence-based answers to these questions and more in this article.

(Or if you’d prefer to skip all of the scientific mumbo jumbo and just want to know if you should take hoodia or a different supplement to reach your goals, take the Legion Supplement Finder Quiz, and in less than a minute, you’ll know exactly what accessories are right for you. Click here to check it out.)


What Is Hoodia Gordonii?

Hoodia gordonii, or simply “hoodia,” is a cactus-like plant that grows in southern Africa.

The San tribespeople have used the hoodia plant for centuries as an appetite suppressant, thirst quencher, antidiabetic, and cure for abdominal cramps, hemorrhoids, tuberculosis, indigestion, and hypertension.

Between the late 1990s and early 2000s, several large pharmaceutical companies began investigating hoodia, and in particular, a compound it contains called P57, which they believed was responsible for the plant’s apparent hunger-reducing effects.

Following this interest, supplement companies began selling hoodia as a weight-loss supplement in pill, powder, and patch form. 

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Hoodia: Benefits

The most commonly touted benefits of hoodia are that it can suppress your appetite, which aids weight loss by helping you eat fewer calories.

Hoodia hawkers support these claims with three main pieces of evidence: 

  1. The indigenous hunter-gatherer cultures of southern Africa have used hoodia to mitigate hunger during times of famine for hundreds of years, and, therefore, it must work.
  2. A study conducted by scientists at Hallett Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology showed that P57 increases adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production in the brain by 50-to-150%, which may reduce appetite.
  3. Research conducted by scientists at the Technical University of Munich showed that compounds in hoodia increase cholecystokinin (CCK) secretion in the gut, which may curb hunger.

These arguments are flawed for several reasons.

For instance, just because something has been used medicinally for a long period doesn’t mean it’s effective or safe; there are countless examples of traditional plant-, animal-, and mineral-based remedies that have been used for centuries that confer no health benefits and may pose health risks. Don’t forget that people used to take mercury to cure syphilis and for thousands of years doctors used bloodletting to “cure” a variety of ailments. 

Another reason to be skeptical is that the research from Hallett Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology involved injecting P57 directly into rats’ brains. This is problematic for two reasons. 

First, it was animal research, which means it’s impossible to know whether we can generalize the findings to humans. And second, subsequent animal research shows that the body eliminates P57 during digestion, which means it doesn’t make it to the brain when taken orally.

In other words, unless you inject it into your brain (or that of a rat), it’s unlikely to have the desired effect.

Employees at Pfizer (one of the pharmaceutical companies that showed initial interest in hoodia and that, in 2001, bought the rights to license it for $21 million) also contributed to the study writeup, which increases the odds that financial interest colored the results.  

Similarly, the study conducted at the Technical University of Munich involved rats and was guided by a company that had a vested interest in the results. Thus the same caveats apply.

Another reason to doubt hoodia’s ability to help you lose weight is that other research shows it’s ineffective in this regard.

For example, in the only hoodia study conducted on humans, 49 women took either 1.11 grams of hoodia or a placebo twice daily for 15 days.

The results showed that both groups experienced similar levels of hunger and lost the same amount of weight. That is, the hoodia was no more effective than the placebo at controlling appetite or supporting weight loss.

However, unlike the women who took a placebo, those who supplemented with hoodia had a significant and worrying rise in blood pressure, pulse, heart rate, and bilirubin and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) blood levels.

While it’s not clear what caused these changes or what their long-term implications would be, it casts doubt over hoodia’s safety.

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Hoodia: Side Effects

The only study to investigate hoodia’s effect on humans reported several unwanted side effects, including increased blood pressure, pulse, heart rate, and bilirubin and ALP levels, headache, nausea, dizziness, giddiness, vomiting, flushing, flatulence, and skin reactions.

Consumers of a Hungarian hoodia product reported similar side effects to scientists at the University of Szeged, which led the researchers to investigate hoodia more deeply. In their subsequent work, they found that hoodia interacts with the sympathetic nervous system in rats and thus may negatively impact cardiovascular health. 

Another study conducted by scientists at Stellenbosch University found that rats that took hoodia for 14 days lost a significant amount of weight. However, much of the weight the rats lost was muscle.

These results suggest that hoodia may worsen your body composition, which could have a detrimental effect on your health and longevity.

Should You Take Hoodia For Weight Loss?

There’s no good evidence that hoodia lessens hunger or aids weight loss, and it can cause a raft of unwanted side effects. As such, it’s probably sensible to heed the advice of many experts and avoid it for the time being. 

If you’re looking for fat-loss supplements that are well-supported by peer-reviewed research and safe, here’s what I recommend:

  • 3-to-6 mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight per day. This will raise the number of calories you burn and also increases strength, muscle endurance, and anaerobic performance. If you want a clean, delicious source of caffeine that contains five other ingredients that will boost your workout performance, try Pulse.
  • 0.1-to-0.2 milligrams of yohimbine per kilogram of body weight before fasted training. This increases fat loss when used in conjunction with fasted training, and is particularly helpful with losing “stubborn” fat. If you want a 100% natural source of yohimbine that also contains two other ingredients that will help you lose fat faster, preserve muscle, and maintain training intensity and mental sharpness, try Forge.
  • One serving of Phoenix per day. Phoenix is a 100% natural fat burner that speeds up your metabolism, enhances fat burning, and reduces hunger and cravings. You can also get Phoenix with caffeine or without.

(Or if you aren’t sure these supplements are right for your budget, circumstances, and goals, take the Legion Supplement Finder Quiz! In less than a minute, it’ll tell you exactly what supplements are right for you. Click here to check it out.)

+ Scientific References