Hoodia Gordonii is a cactus-like plant which grows in the countries of Southern Africa and the Kalahari Desert. Recently, the plant has gained massive amounts of publicity for its reported effect on hunger and weight-loss.
For thousands of years the San tribe's people of the Kalahari region have eaten Hoodia Gordonii. They found that the Hoodia helped to suppress their appetite and thirst for long periods of time, whilst boosting their energy levels when they were out on hunting trips in the desert.
The San tribe prepare the spiky cactus like Hoodia Gordonii plant by cutting off the spines to eat the inner parts and then drink the white latex inside.
Hoodia's reported effects have sparked interest, particularly in the Western world who face a spiralling problem of obesity. Clinical trials have been conducted to establish exactly what effect Hoodia has on the body (if any at all) and to find the active component of Hoodia Gordonii.
South African scientists found Hoodia to have a unique molecule present in its composition, which was later called P.57. British firm Phytopharm then conducted tests on the molecule, to see how it behaved in the human body.
They found that Hoodia Gordonii affected the part of the brain that senses glucose sugar levels, called the hypothalamus. According to Dr Richard Dixey; a scientist from Phytopharm, Hoodia appeared to contain a molecule (P.57) which is 10,000 times more active than glucose. Every time food is eaten, blood sugar levels increase, and a signal is sent to the brain to indicate that you are full - even when you have not eaten.
Mangold, Tom. BBC News: May 30, 2003. Sampling the Kalahari Hoodia diet.
Trials on Hoodia Gordonii are still being carried out to try and assess its full potential and acknowledge any side effects or drug interactions, which have not yet been established fully.