People have been searching for a magic bullet to promote weight loss ever since agricultural technology improved to the point where man was suddenly able to produce more calories than he needed to consume to survive.
Unfortunately, even though we have been able to engineer fake fats, fake sugars, and even surgically shrink stomachs or suck fat out of the body, we still haven’t been able to produce a weight loss miracle cure.
While herbal supplements aren’t a magic weight loss bullet or a miracle fat burning cure, they can be used safely to promote healthy weight loss.
Herbal supplements can promote healthy weight loss two ways. They can either suppress the appetite or stimulate the metabolism to burn more calories. Other herbs can also cause weight loss by either functioning as diuretics, flushing water out of the body, or cathartics, which flush out the bowels, preventing full nutritional absorption of consumed foods. Neither of these methods is considered a heathy way to promote long term weight loss or weight maintenance, as they can lead to serious dehydration and nutritional deficiencies.
One of the most popular appetite suppressants on the market is hoodia gordonii, popularly know as just hoodia. Supplement makers claim that Kalahari tribesmen chewed hoodia during long hunting trips to help stave off hunger and thirst. Hoodia can be found at almost any herbal shop, supplement store, or health food store, and it is also one of the ingredients in Trimspa. Hoodia should be used with caution however, as there are possible liver side effects.
Fennel has also been purported to suppress appetite while improving energy. It should also be approached with caution, however, as it has diuretic effects.
Gymnema Sylvestre has been touted to reduce sugar cravings specifically.
Garcinia Cantbogia supposedly promotes fat digestion and reduces food cravings. One compound in the herb, hydroxycitrate or HCA, is used in many mass produced over-the-counter weight loss supplements.
Phyllium is a fibrous herb known to suppress appetite and stimulate bowel motility.
Possibly the most famous herbal metabolic stimulant is ma huang, which was the basis Ephedra and herbal fen-phen. It should be avoided, as it can have serious cardiac, neurological, and pulmonary side effects. Ephedra was linked to at least two deaths.
Cayenne has been shown to aid weight loss by promoting digestion and stimulating the metabolism.
Green tea stimulates the metabolism with caffein, much the way good old fashioned coffee does, but with the benefit of additional healthy vitamins and anti-oxidants. Of course, coffee packs a strong anti-oxidant punch itself.
Kelp and seaweed have both been reported to stimulate metabolism by aiding the thyroid gland. They are also both rich in nutrients and anti-oxidants.
A few words of caution.
Because herbal supplements are regulated as dietary supplements in the US rather than as drugs, the FDA has no authority to regulate them, and they are subject to only very loose labeling laws. Studies have shown that herbal supplements often contain additional herbs that don’t even appear on the label, and that the doses of herbs the supplements do contain often vary wildly from the dosage claimed on the label.
Always consult a physician before beginning a course of herbal supplements. Because herbs do interact with your body, they can produce uncomfortable or even serious side effects. They can also interact with any over-the-counter or prescription medications that you care taking. When visiting a physician or a hospital, be sure to mention any herbal supplements you are taking when the physician asks what medications you are on.
Used appropriately and with care, herbal supplements can help you with your weight loss goals, but they aren’t a magic bullet. You’re still going to have to deal with the old fashioned equation of more exercise and less food if you want to see real lasting results.