Herbal weight loss supplements have become so popular in the last decade that manufacturers are spinning out more and more products. This leaves us, the consumers, dizzied by the choices. Some of the more popular herbal weight loss supplements are hoodia, guarana, dandelion, cascara, St. John's wort and green tea extract.
Hoodia gordonni is one of the newest herbal weight loss supplements. Hoodia is a cactus found mostly in Africa. It has been touted as an effective appetite suppressant. Apparently, it tricks the brain into thinking blood glucose levels are normal thus suppressing the body's natural response to low blood sugar which is the sensation of hunger. While this sounds promising, there have not been significant studies proving its efficacy in weight loss.
Guarana is a stimulant and diuretic that is made from the seeds of a Brazilian plant. It contains caffeine and though it does speed up the body, thus producing a slight increase in metabolism, its side effects outweigh its efficacy as an herbal weight loss supplement. Some potentially negative effects are high blood pressure, nausea, dizziness and anxiousness.
Dandelion is another diuretic. Side effects are relatively harmless, though allergic reactions have been reported. A diuretic merely increases the body's production and excretion of urine. The immediate result is water weight loss which is temporary at best leaving this herbal supplement ineffective for long-term weight loss.
Cascara is a laxative used in many herbal weight loss supplements. Any laxative will help a person lose weight just like any other form of "purging." Just because it is marketed as an herbal weight loss supplement doesn't make it any better. Also, its overuse can cause depletion in vital nutrients.
St. John's wort has been used as an herbal anti-depressant, but its efficacy as a weight loss supplement has not been proven. In addition, the list of side-effects and potential drug interactions is so extensive that I would need to write a separate article solely on that topic.
Green tea extract is probably the most popular yet safe herbal weight loss supplement. It has appeared in vitamins, energy drinks and even in concentrated pill form. Overall, green tea extract appears to be somewhat effective in increasing thermogenesis which in turn increases energy expenditure. Some studies show positive results for increased weight loss with the use of green tea extract so long as healthy eating and exercise habits are also being followed.
Thousands of dollars are spent on these herbal weight loss supplements, yet there is very little proof that any of them are effective in losing weight. Many of the above herbal supplements can be found in a vast array of teas, juices, energy drinks, vitamins and pills and the price tag reflects the demand for the product. A few products containing hoodia that I've seen are being sold for close to $50.00 for a one month supply. I'm beginning to think that the only weight loss one can expect is more evident in our wallets than around our belly.
Ultimately, there is no more promise in the herbal weight loss supplement than there is in any "miracle in a bottle." A few may offer a bit of assistance when trying to lose weight, but the herbal supplement will not work when used without a healthy weight loss plan.