Evidence for the efficacy and safety of herbal weight loss preparations

J Integr Med. 2019 Mar;17(2):87-92. doi: 10.1016/j.joim.2019.01.009. Epub 2019 Jan 30.


Rising rates of obesity across the globe have been associated with an increase in the use of herbal preparations for weight control. However, the mechanisms of action for these substances are often not known, as is the potential for interaction with other herbal preparations or prescription pharmaceutical drugs. To investigate the reported efficacy and safety of herbal weight loss preparations, we conducted a review of the literature focusing on herbs that are most commonly used in weight loss preparations, specifically, Garcinia cambogia, Camellia sinensis, Hoodia gordonii, Citrus aurantium and Coleus forskohlii. There was no clear evidence that the above herbal preparations would cause sustained long-term weight loss in humans in the long term. Serious illness and even death have occasionally resulted from the use of herbal weight loss preparations. Few clinical trials have been undertaken to evaluate the efficacy and/or safety of herbal weight loss preparations. In addition, potential issues of herb-herb and herb-drug interactions are often not considered. Regulation of these products is much less rigorous than for prescription medications, despite documented cases of associated hepatotoxicity.

Keywords: Complementary medicine; Hepatotoxicity; Traditional Chinese medicine; Weight loss.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Herb-Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Obesity / drug therapy*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plant Preparations / adverse effects
  • Plant Preparations / therapeutic use*
  • Weight Loss / drug effects*


  • Plant Preparations