Monday, November 26, 2007


Here's a little fact that's good for a laugh. A popular herbal supplement for weight loss, commonly referred to as Hoodia, is made from a rare cactus that grows in the Kalahari Desert of South Africa.

Given the known mass of Hoodia gordonii plants in South Africa, and the known listed quantities of plant extract on all the products available on pharmacy and health food store shelves, there is apparently more Hoodia floating around in dietary supplements than there is in South Africa.

I'll say that again. If the labels on these supplements are totally accurate, there is a great deal more Hoodia crammed into capsules than there is growing in the Kalahari. Where did it come from? Are the supplement companies growing Hoodia cacti in farms somewhere?

(Hint: It's a lot more likely that they're lying on the labels.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a pedantic botanist, this drives me nuts, and it shows up all over the place in the current Hoodia market. Hoodia is not a cactus (cacti are basically only found in the New World; spiny succulents in Africa are mostly in the milkweed family).

However, I think the "cactus" claim does provide a good starting point for weeding out some of the numerous charlatans selling other stuff as Hoodia. If somebody (purportedly) selling Hoodia calls it a cactus, I'd probably take "cactus" at face-value, and assume there's no Hoodia in it. In fact, prickly pear cactus is one of the most common Hoodia adulterants.

Oh yeah, there ARE Hoodia farms in Africa. If you actually can get ahold of real Hoodia, it's unlikely to have been harvested from the wild.