Hoodia gordonii: to eat, or not to eat

J Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Sep 11;155(2):987-91. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2014.06.033. Epub 2014 Jun 21.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Hoodia gordonii (family Apocynaceae) has become known globally for its claimed effect of appetite suppression. Despite a relatively large body of evidence of the plant׳s chemical make-up, peer-reviewed studies to provide scientific information on physiological effects of Hoodia gordonii are relatively sparse. The role of the pregnane glycoside P57-commonly accepted to be responsible for appetite suppression-has been questioned recently. Furthermore, a variety of physiological side-effects associated with consumption of the plant in extracted form questions its suitability for consumption. Although adverse effects have been described before, the relative abundance of non-peer-reviewed data originating from patent documents and lay publication for advertising, which specifically only focus on beneficial outcomes, skews the view of the risk-benefit-balance. Here we provide a review of peer-reviewed studies on the plant׳s physiological effects. Novel data from an in vivo rodent study further elucidate the benefit-to-risk ratio associated with consumption.

Conclusions: we conclude that although Hoodia gordonii seems to have a desired effect on appetite and weight loss, this effect may at least in part be a secondary symptom of the serious adverse effects that are associated with consumption of the high doses required to achieve therapeutic clinical effect.

Keywords: Appetite; Gastric emptying; Sympathomimetic; Ventricular hypertrophy; Weight loss.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apocynaceae / chemistry*
  • Appetite / drug effects
  • Appetite Depressants / adverse effects
  • Appetite Depressants / isolation & purification*
  • Appetite Depressants / pharmacology
  • Ethnopharmacology
  • Humans
  • Plant Extracts / adverse effects
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / isolation & purification
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Weight Loss / drug effects


  • Appetite Depressants
  • P57 compound
  • Plant Extracts