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© Steven Foster

Common Names: hoodia, Kalahari cactus, Xhoba

Latin Names: Hoodia gordonii


  • Hoodia is a cactus-like plant that grows in Africa’s Kalahari Desert. Historically, the San Bushmen are believed to have used hoodia to suppress appetite.
  • Today, hoodia dietary supplements are promoted as appetite suppressants for weight loss.

How Much Do We Know?

  • We know very little about hoodia because only one study of this herb has been done in people.

What Have We Learned?

  • The one small study of hoodia in people involved women who were overweight. Those who took hoodia for 15 days didn't lose more weight than those who took a placebo.

What Do We Know About Safety?

  • Little is known about the safety of hoodia. However, the one completed study in people raises concerns. In that study, participants taking hoodia had more side effects than those taking placebos, including nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and odd skin sensations. Of concern, hoodia significantly affected some clinical and safety parameters, such as blood pressure, bilirubin, and electrocardiogram (heart function) measures.
  • Little is known about whether it’s safe to use hoodia during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
  • Whether hoodia interacts with medicines or other supplements is not known.

Keep in Mind

  • Take charge of your health—talk with your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Together, you can make shared, well-informed decisions.

For More Information

NCCIH Clearinghouse

The NCCIH Clearinghouse provides information on NCCIH and complementary and integrative health approaches, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.

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A service of the National Library of Medicine, PubMed® contains publication information and (in most cases) brief summaries of articles from scientific and medical journals. For guidance from NCCIH on using PubMed, see How To Find Information About Complementary Health Approaches on PubMed.


Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), National Institutes of Health (NIH)

ODS seeks to strengthen knowledge and understanding of dietary supplements by evaluating scientific information, supporting research, sharing research results, and educating the public. Its resources include publications (such as Dietary Supplements: What You Need To Know) and fact sheets on a variety of specific supplement ingredients and products (such as vitamin D and multivitamin/mineral supplements).


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Key References

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NCCIH has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by NCCIH.

Last Updated: August 2020