Womens Health

The Truth About Herbal Weight Loss Supplements

When it comes to weight loss, there is no shortage of fad diets and supplements claiming to be the be-all-and-end-all of our dietary woes. Among such competition is what is touted as being the more �natural� route to rapid weight loss: herbal supplements. But how do such claims stack up? And do taking herbal weight loss supplements really offer any strong benefits over other forms of diet pills?


What Are Herbal Weight Loss Supplements?

Herbal weight loss supplements are essentially herbal dietary supplements that are marketed as being an effective way to lose weight. Some, such as the popular drug Hoodia, are held to be great appetite suppressants, while others are supposed to increase our metabolism.

The benefit most herbal supplements claim to have over any other form of diet pill is the fact that they are �natural�, as they are often derivatives of naturally occurring herbs or plants. The problem, however, is that like all forms of dietary supplements, herbal remedies are not subjected to the same rigorous standards as prescription or over-the-counter medications before they are placed on the market. Instead, their marketers conduct their own reviews and release their claims based on this data, as they can do so without the approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

And even the supposedly natural weight loss pills often contain a combination of many ingredients � sometimes up to 20 different herbs, botanicals, vitamins, minerals, and the list goes on. The interaction of all these ingredients with your body is considered to be somewhat of a risky endeavor � especially if you have other health problems or are taking other medications.


Some Common Herbal Supplements

Here is a list of some of the more common forms of herbal weight loss supplements, including the claims they make and the truth behind them:


  • Bitter orange: This herb is advertised for its appetite-suppressing benefits, and is often used as a substitute for the recently banned diet pill ingredient, ephedra. The problem is that it may cause some of the same health problems as ephedra, and its long-term effects are largely unknown.


  • Country mallow (heartleaf): An Ayurvedic herb, country mallow is also designed to suppress the appetite while at the same time increasing the number of calories burned. The problem is that it contains ephedrine, an ingredient found in ephedra, which has been proven to have dangerous side effects.


  • Green tea extract: Long thought to have a variety of health benefits (including being a cancer preventative),  herbal tea extract is also said to increase our metabolism as well as decrease our appetite. But really, what are the health benefits of herbal green tea? Surprisingly, there is limited scientific data to back up this claim. Additionally, consuming the extract of green tea means also consuming large amounts of caffeine. It can also cause side effects such as vomiting, indigestion, and diarrhea.


  • Hoodia: Found only in the remote Kalahari Desert of South Africa, this natural weight loss method claims to dramatically decrease appetite with no negative side effects. The problem is that these claims have not been subjected to scientific scrutiny, and that the drug is currently being sold on the U.S. market despite the fact that most contain little to none of the active ingredient.


  • Vitamin B5: This vitamin is supposedly able to increase our ability to burn fat, although, unsurprisingly, there are no human trials support the claim.


  • Dandelion: This herb�s weight loss claim is that it aids in the elimination of water build-up in the body, leading to rapid weight loss. While the use of dandelion as a diuretic has been confirmed, its use in the context of weight loss has not. Scientists, however, say that using it for such purposes can have negative side effects similar to those of other diuretics and laxatives, such as dehydration.

The bottom line? There is no quick fix to weight loss, despite our wishes to the contrary. The only true way to achieve sustainable weight loss is by changing your lifestyle to incorporate healthy eating and a fitness routine that works for you. And remember to always consult with a physician before beginning any new medication, natural or otherwise.


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