In seeking support for weight loss goals, many people turn to herbal remedies. A variety of herbs offers potential for appetite control and weight loss. Herbs may also cause serious side effects when taken improperly. Always consult your doctor and use herbs under medical supervision for weight loss or medical conditions.
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Garcinia cambogia, also known as brindall berry, may promote weight loss and increase lean muscle mass, says Linda Blachly White, M.D., author of "The Herbal Drugstore: the Best Natural Alternatives to Over-the-counter and Prescription Medicines." Garcinia is also said to prevent the production of fat, though research on that effect of the herb is in preliminary stages. An extract of garcinia, known as hydroxycitric acid, has been shown to block an enzyme that converts carbohydrates into fat and is marketed under several trade names. Garcinia is not a stimulant and has not shown any harmful side effects at doses of 1,000 mg three times per day between meals.
Fiber remains a standard herbal treatment for promoting weight loss. Psyllium husk fiber was demonstrated effective at decreasing calorie intake, cholesterol levels and increased exercise levels in a study conducted at the Nutrition Department, The Pennsylvania State University, that incorporated psyllium along with telephone-based counseling sessions in 150 adults aged 25 to 70. Participants in the seven-week trial consumed four servings-per-day of high-fiber foods and had weekly phone coaching sessions. Researchers concluded that the protocol shows promise but long-term studies are needed in order to prove its effectiveness. The study was published in the April 2002 issue of the "Journal of the American Dietetic Association."
Ginseng, an adaptogen herb, helps reverse sluggish metabolism, particularly after long periods of stress. Ginseng is not regarded as a weight-reducing herb by itself but is found in many herbal weight-loss formulas due to its ability to reduce the effects of stress and promote more efficient metabolic function. Compounds in ginseng are calming to the brain and stomach. A tea made from ginseng uses 1 tbsp of fresh ginseng root in 88 oz. of water. Ginseng sometimes causes elevated blood pressure, insomnia or agitation, particularly when consumed with caffeine. Check with your doctor about using ginseng for weight loss.
Few herbs have shown effectiveness for promoting weight loss and some are associated with high risk of dangerous side effects, cautions Ellie Whitney, author of the book "Nutrition for Health & Health Care." Ephedra, also known as ma huang, was widely used for weight loss after showing good results in preliminary studies. However, side effects including cardiac arrest, hypertension, strokes, seizures and some deaths have been reported from ma huang use. Similarly, herbal laxatives, such as senna, cacara, aloe and rhubarb are not appropriate for weight loss and can disrupt electrolyte balance leading to potentially serious side effects. Sonsult your doctor before using these or any other herbal supplements for weight loss.