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How Abundant and Readily Available is Hoodia Gordonii?

Aug 17, 2007
When it comes to fast, reliable weight loss supplements, Hoodia Gordonii is the media darling. This ungainly succulent was originally used by the Sans Bushmen of the Kalahari to suppress appetite during times of food scarcity. Because it grows in one of the harshest regions of the world, Hoodia Gordonii comes with an air of mystery as well as weight loss benefits. Although extracts from this succulent can effectively suppress appetite, it has been a challenge to make Hoodia Gordonii readily available.

Hoodia Gordonii is a succulent that grows primarily in Angola, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. This plant looks just like a cactus, complete with spines and stem clusters. Because of its large flowers, it is designated as a succulent. Hoodia Gordonii and its related species tend to grow in gravel and shale. They also require the intense desert heat to grow and flourish.

The rights to grow and export this succulent are zealously guarded by the Sans Bushmen, their lawyers, and the African nations in which the plant originates. As an example, Hoodia Gordonii is a protected species in Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. In many cases, wild harvesting is not allowed, and farming and export rights are severely limited. Currently, it is believed that all Hoodia Gordonii supplements are derived from wild plants.

Although there are no exact statistics on the amount of illegal trade, it is estimated to be very high. Because Hoodia Gordonii is a "dietary supplement" it is not regulated the way prescription and over the counter medication are. Therefore, there is very little that can be done to control purity issues.

Contrary to popular belief, this specific plant is not endangered. There are several other succulents and cactus plants that look just like it. These in turn, are on the verge of extinction. Unfortunately for these other species, the high demand for Hoodia Gordonii causes them to be collected by mistake. Thus, species that have Red List Endangered Species Protection are at more risk than ever before.

Because of the difficulties associated with obtaining licenses to collect and export Hoodia Gordonii, this succulent is a prime target for poachers and other unsavory characters. These criminals have been known to harvest the wrong plants and pass them off as Hoodia Gordonii. This affects endangered species as well as create the potential for plants entering the supplemental food chain that are useless for weight loss. In some cases, these plants may be poisonous to humans, and do much more harm than good.

All of these complexities make extracts from Hoodia Gordonii difficult to obtain. This problem is compounded by the length of time required to produce a mature plant. It takes about five years for Hoodia Gordonii to flower. Before that time, it is not suitable for harvesting. While there may be farms dedicated to commercial growth of Hoodia Gordonii, it may be a few years before they affect the market.

The entire plant is not required for appetite suppression. Rather, it is one single molecule, P57 that creates the desired effect. P57 is found in the flesh of the plant, but not within the roots, spines, or flowers. The rights to all products developed as a result of studying Hoodia Gordonii are also fully under the control of the Sans Bushmen. Unfortunately, P57 is very difficult to isolate from the plant extract. It is also purported to be difficult to synthesize this molecule. It is not likely a cheaper, synthetic product will be created in the near future.

In the area of commercial development, Phytopharm (royalties go to the Sans Bushmen and their lawyers) has held the patent on P57 since 1995. They, in turn, sub-licensed to Pfizer for further development. While Pfizer spent millions of dollars to obtain this sub-license, they soon aborted the efforts to refine Hoodia Gordonii extracts. They were able to reproduce the appetite suppressant qualities from Hoodia Gordonii extract. At the same time, they also found that isolation of P57 from other molecules that cause liver damage was extremely difficult.

There are several prescription drugs on the market (like anti-cholesterol medications) that cause damage to the liver. It is not clear at this stage how the liver damage from the Hoodia Gordonii trials compares to that of trials run on animal subjects during the development phases of many other drugs. After Pfizer aborted the project, Unilever Pharmaceuticals took up the task of developing this dietary supplement, and they are still working on it.

While Hoodia Gordonii is only available on a limited basis, there is no question that it is an effective appetite suppressant. Obesity is a major issue in almost every nation. As manufacturers establish reputable supplies, it is only a matter of time before reliable products become readily available. Until then, care needs to be taken in choosing a Hoodia Gordonii vendor.
About the Author
Scott Meyers is a staff writer for Its Entirely Natural, a resource for helping you achieve a naturally healthy body, mind, and spirit. You may contact our writers through the web site. Follow this link for more information on Hoodia Gordonii.
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