Health Care Professional Information

Scientific Name
Hoodia gordonii
Common Name

Xhoba, P57, Carrion plant, Queen of the Namib, African Hats

Clinical Summary

Hoodia gordonii is a cactus prevalent in southeastern Africa. The local tribesmen are known to consume Hoodia to ease hunger during periods of starvation. A compound isolated from Hoodia was shown to reduce food intake in rats (1). However, consumption of a hoodia extract did not affect body weight in healthy overweight women (7).

Currently, supplements containing Hoodia are being promoted for weight loss and some cancer patients use these for weight control. Patients should use caution as hoodia can interact with certain prescription drugs.

Purported Uses
  • Weight loss
Constituents

Steroidal glycosides: (P57AS3 or P57)
Steroidal derivates: Gordonosides
Calogenin glycosides
Fatty acids
(1) (3) (4) (8)

Mechanism of Action

Hoodia extracts are thought to have an appetite suppressant effect, but it is not clear what causes such an effect. In an experiment done in rats, intracerebroventricular administration of P57 resulted in an increase in ATP level in hypothalamic neurons. It is hypothesized that neurons in the basal hypothalamus may be sensitive to changes in ATP levels and thereby, regulate food intake (1). P57 also inhibited CYP 3A4 activity (5) (6).
In another study, pregnane glycosides specifically suppressed steroidogenesis by strongly inhibiting 11β-hydroxylase and steroid 17-alpha-monooxygenase, and weak inhibition of cytochrome P450 side chain cleavage enzyme and 21 Beta-hydroxylase (9).

Warnings

The FDA has warned the manufacturer and distributors of a Hoodia product against making unsubstantiated and misleading claims about weight loss (2).

Contraindications

None known.

Adverse Reactions
  • Headache, dizziness and giddiness, disturbance of skin sensation and nausea have been reported with repeated use of a Hoodia extract(7).
Herb-Drug Interactions

Cytochrome P450 3A4 substrates: A compound isolated from Hoodia inhibits CYP3A4 and can affect the intracellular concentration of drugs metabolized by this enzyme (6).

Dosage (Inside MSKCC Only)
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References
  1. MacLean DB and Luo LG. Increased ATP content/production in the hypothalamus may be a signal for energy-sensing of satiety: studies of the anorectic mechanism of a plant steroidal glycoside. Brain Res 2004; 1020(1-2):1-11.
  2. US Food and Drug Administration. Warning Letter for Weight Loss Products. 2004. Accessed July 29, 2013.
  3. Dall'Acqua S, Innocenti G. Steroidal glycosides from Hoodia gordonii. Steroids. 2007;72(6-7):559-68.
  4. Pawar RS, Shukla YJ, Khan IA. New calogenin glycosides from Hoodia gordonii. Steroids. 2007;72(13):881-91.
  5. Madgula VL, Avula B, Pawar RS, et al. In Vitro Metabolic Stability and Intestinal Transport of P57AS3 (P57) from Hoodia gordonii and its Interaction with Drug Metabolizing Enzymes. Planta Med. 2008;74(10):1269-75.
  6. Madgula VL, Avula B, Pawar RS, et al. Characterization of in vitro pharmacokinetic properties of hoodigogenin A from Hoodia gordonii. Planta Med. 2010 Jan;76(1):62-9.
  7. Blom WA, Abrahamse SL, Bradford R, et al. Effects of 15-d repeated consumption of Hoodia gordonii purified extract on safety, ad libitum energy intake, and body weight in healthy, overweight women: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Nov;94(5):1171-81.
  8. Russell PJ, Swindells C. Chemical characterisation of Hoodia gordonii extract. Food Chem Toxicol. 2012 Jan;50 Suppl 1:S6-13.
  9. Komarnytsky S, Esposito D, Poulev A, Raskin I. Pregnane glycosides interfere with steroidogenic enzymes to down-regulate corticosteroid production in human adrenocortical H295R cells. J Cell Physiol. 2013 May;228(5):1120-6.

Consumer Information

How It Works

Bottom Line: Hoodia's appetite suppressant effect is based on experiments in rats. No human trials have been conducted.

Hoodia gordonii is a cactus found in the Kalahari desert and in Namibia. The local tribesmen consume Hoodia to survive long periods of starvation. Supplements containing Hoodia are being promoted for weight loss and some cancer patients use them for weight control. But there are no clinical data to support this use.

Purported Uses
  • Weight Loss
    A single study performed on rats showed that Hoodia can decrease appetite. But consumption of a hoodia extract did not affect body weight in healthy overweight women.
Patient Warnings

The FDA has warned the manufacturer and distributors of a Hoodia product against making unsubstantiated and misleading claims about weight loss.

Do Not Take If
  • You are taking drugs that are substrates of Cytochrome P450 3A4 (Hoodia may increase the risk of side effects of these drugs).
Side Effects
  • Headache, dizziness and giddiness, disturbance of skin sensation and nausea have been reported with repeated use of a Hoodia extract.
E-mail your questions and comments to aboutherbs@mskcc.org.