Pakistan has a rich tradition of herbal folk medicine. An ancient system called Unani Tibb -- literally, " Greek medicine" -- is still used today. Based on Hippocratic theories, Unani Tibb aims to promote health and treat disease by restoring the body's balance of the four bodily humors: blood, phlegm, bile, and black bile. To aid in weight loss, a Unani Tibb practitioner -- or hakeem -- might recommend natural herbal substances such as licorice root or fenugreek. Before embarking on any herbal or supplementary regimen for weight loss, consult your doctor.
Fenugreek -- botanically known as Trigonella foenum-graecum -- is prized in both Ayurveda and the Unani medical systems, where it is known as methi. Utilized for centuries by Asian and European cooks as a flavoring spice, fenugreek is also a traditional remedy for boils, cellulitis, tuberculosis, diabetes and obesity. According to Herbal Powers, fenugreek contains glucomannins, which bind to dietary fat and reduce its absorption into the body. Although clinical studies showing weight-reducing effects are lacking, Drugs.com credits fenugreek with many beneficial and therapeutic properties, including the ability to lower blood glucose levels, harmful LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. High in protein and beneficial dietary fiber, fenugreek seeds may help to promote weight loss.
Dosage and Precautions
The usual herbal medicinal dosage of fenugreek is 5 grams daily of the seeds, or 1 gram daily of a hydroalcoholic extract. Side effects of indigestion and abdominal distension have been reported, but are usually mild. Drugs.com reports that excessive amounts of fenugreek can cause hypoglycemia, and adds that fenugreek can interact with prescription drugs. Consult your physician before using fenugreek for weight loss, and don't use it if you are pregnant or nursing.
Licorice root -- botanically known as Glycyrrhiza glabra and also called sweet root -- is a staple of the Unani healing system, where it is known as mulethi and employed to treat myriad conditions, including ulcers, canker sores and indigestion. It has demulcent -- or soothing -- effects, as well as having expectorant properties. Herbalists have long recommended licorice for weight loss, and there is some scientific evidence supporting this use. In a clinical study published in the July 2005 issue of "Steroids," researchers found that topical applications of a cream containing glycyrrhetinic acid significantly reduced the thickness of the superficial fat layer in the thighs of female patients, leading them to conclude that the extract could be effective in reducing areas of unwanted body fat.
Dosage and Precautions
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, 1 gram to 5 grams of licorice root can be boiled and taken as a decoction three times a day. Licorice root is also available as an extract standardized to 20 percent glycyrrhizinic acid; the usual dosage is 250 milligrams to 500 milligrams three times a day. UMMC notes that the glycyrrhizin in licorice can have serious side effects, and recommends the use of deglycyrrhizinated licorice, or DGL. With prolonged use, licorice can cause a condition called pseudoaldosteronism, indicated by headaches, fatigue, high blood pressure and even heart attacks. Consult your physician before using licorice for weight control, and only use it under his supervision. Don't take licorice if you are pregnant or breast feeding, or if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart, liver or kidney disease.
- Medicinal Plants: The Unani System of Medicine
- Drugs.com: Complete Fenugreek Information
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Licorice
- "Steroids;" Glycyrrhetinic Acid, The Active Principle Of Licorice, Can Reduce The Thickness Of Subcutaneous Thigh Fat Through Topical Application; D. Armanini et al; July 2005