Weight Loss Herbs review of pills, supplements, herbal remedies, benefits, are they effective in helping shed pounds? by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
December 15 2016

You may be surprised to know that I, a medical doctor, do believe that there are certain herbs and supplements that help with weight loss. Even though the medical establishment is skeptical, if doctors learned more about these weight loss herbs and actually used them in their practice, they would soon find out that these herbs are quite effective.
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Weight Loss herbs, do they work, are they safe?
The following are promoted in the natural health industry as weight loss herbs. I have listed some of the claims made on TV, magazines, or on the internet regarding their benefit but not all these claims are necessarily true. Read about each one in the link provided and you will find the latest research with each. I will mention which of these are effective, and which have no research to support the claims made below.

Weight loss herbs and the claims that you will come across
These are not necessarily accurate claims, but you will find them mentioned by marketers of weight loss products. Click on the links provided to find out the actual research studies that support or refute these claims. Some of them work, others are not effective.

Acai is promoted as a weight loss herb but no human research is available.
Aloe is added to herbal weight-loss products as a strong cathartic response (producing bowel movements) and many aloe weight-loss products are marketed as "internal cleansers."
Apple cider vinegar is promoted as a weight loss herb but no human research is available
Banaba leaf is used in Southeast Asia to lower blood sugar and promote healthy insulin levels that are related to appetite.
Bitter Orange is the same as citrus aurantium
Bladder wrack is a sea vegetable, a type of brown seaweed, that is an excellent source of iodine. An ad says, "Bladder wrack is a thyroid stimulant and can fight obesity by increasing your metabolic rate so you can burn more calories."
Caigua has been popular in South America.
Caffeine speeds up body functions like heart rate, digestion, and respiration.
Cascara sagrada (Rhamnus purshiana, Cascara sagrada, bitter bark, chittem bark) - promoted as a laxative and diuretic. Cascara is a common ingredient used in weight loss herbal products. One of the few herbs approved as an over-the-counter drug by the FDA, it is a strong stimulant laxative.
Cassia senna
Cayenne pepper is a thermogenic weight loss herb that contains a substance known as capsaicin. Capsaicin that stimulates saliva, stimulates digestion and accelerates your metabolism.
Cha de bugre is an herb used in South America.
Caralluma Fimbriata extract is being promoted as a weight loss herb, or specifically as a cactus or succulent.
Cinnamon herb
Citrus aurantium is the same as bitter orange. Advantra-Z is a trademark name for bitter orange.
Coleus forskohlii has Forskolin, a chemical that activates the enzyme adenylate cyclase.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale, lion's tooth): promoted as a gentle diuretic and laxative. Dandelion may produce weight loss by decreasing body water. However, it can cause allergic reactions and heartburn.
Ephedra, also known as ma huang, acts as a fat burner, stimulant, appetite suppressant. Ephedra can raise blood pressure, increase heart rate, increase body temperature, cause heart palpitations, chest pain, and stimulates the central nervous system.
Ephedrine is found in ephedra. Ephedrine can cause high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, insomnia, nervousness, tremors, seizures, heart attacks, strokes and even death. In February 2004, the FDA officially banned the sale of ephedrine in any dietary supplement in the U.S..
Flax, a bulk laxative.
Fucus vesiculosis is a sea vegetable that is a concentrated source of minerals including iodine, potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron. As a source of iodine, it assists in the production of thyroid hormones, which are necessary for maintaining healthy metabolism in all cells of the body.
Garcinia cambogia appetite suppressant, fat burner, digestive aid. This herb has a high concentration of hydroxycitric acid, or HCA, which is believed to promote weight loss by blocking the conversion of sugars and starches into fats.
Ginger plant extract
Ginseng herbal product
Glucomannan (Amorphophallus konjac fiber) is a dietary fiber source obtained from the root of the konjac plant. glucomannan is said to contribute to weight loss by delaying the absorption of glucose from the intestines.
Green tea helps as a thermogenic weight loss herb Green tea has EGCG a potent antioxidant.
Guarana (Paullina cupana, guarana paste or gum, Brazilian cocoa, Zoom): contains 3% to 5% caffeine and may cause high blood pressure. Guarana grows mainly in Brazil. Guarana has caffeine combined with other compounds, namely theobromine and theophylline. Guarana is a nervous system stimulant that may suppress appetite. The people of Brazil chew guaranį seeds as a source of energy or drink the powder dissolved in water.
Guar Gum  (Cyamopsis tetragonolobus, guar, guar flour, Jaguar gum) is a dietary fiber obtained from the Indian cluster bean. Guar gum has been commonly used as a thickening agent for foods and medications. Guar gum decrease appetite by providing a "feeling of fullness."
Guggul is a resin which is produced by the stem of the commiphora mukul tree. Guggul extracts are approved in India for lowering elevated serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels.Guggul contains ketonic steroid compounds known as guggulsterones. Guggul is recommended by Ayurvedic doctors as a weight control herb.
Hercampuri has been popular in Peru
Hoodia gordonii is one of the most popular herbs on the market for weight loss.
Hydroxycitric acid is found in garcinia cambogia. Citrimax or Super Citrimax is a treademark extract that has hydroxycitric acid.
Irvingia gabonensis is known as African mango.
Kelp is also known as Laminaria
Kola nut
Licorice root satisfies cravings for sweets
P57 is an appetite suppressing substance found in hoodia
Pomegranate juice extract has been shown to have potent antioxidant activity protecting nitric oxide and acting as a detoxifier.
Psyllium laxative. Contains mucilage to build mass in the digestive tract and push waste day, reduces hunger
by providing a feeling of fullness.
St. John's wort herb seems to increase serotonin levels in the brain and suppress appetite, reduce depression-related overeating.
Seaweed has iodine and is a natural thyroid stimulant. It is normally found in kelp capsules or tablets.
Senna acts as laxative and diuretic.
White Kidney Bean. Phaseolus Vulgaris, derived from the white kidney bean, reduces the absorption of calories from a starch source. Many studies have shown that white kidney bean interrupts the digestive process that converts starch to sugar.
White willow bark. This herb carries anti-inflammatory properties and increases norepinephrine levels, which may stimulate fat metabolism, and lead to weight loss.
Yerba mate is a strong brain stimulant (the doses typically used mimic that of 100 to 200 mg of caffeine). The main side effects of yerba mate are excessive stimulation and increased blood pressure.

Weight loss supplements
Caffeine is found in guarana seed or kola nut
Carnitine or L-Carnitine is a common ingredient in many diet pills and supplements
Chitosan, derived from chitin found in crustacean shells, is a positively charged polymer thought to prevent fat absorption by binding negatively charged fat molecules within the intestinal lumen. Chitosan also comes from shrimp, crab, and other shellfish. Promoters say chitosan binds to the fat and cholestrol in your food before your body has a chance to absorb it. Chitosan itself cannot be digested, and the body simply eliminates the chitosan and the fat mass attached to it.
CLA or Conjugated linoleic acid refers to a family of trans-fatty acids that have been found to reduce fat deposition in obese mice, possibly through increased fat oxidation and decreased triglyceride uptake in adipose tissue.
Corosolic Acid
Phenylalanine is an amino acid that may trigger the release of an appetite-suppressing hormone in the gut called cholecystokinin
Pyruvate - Six weeks of pyruvate, in a dosage of 6 g per day, was associated with a weight loss of 1.2 kg (2 lb, 10 oz), compared with placebo. Pyruvate is formed in the body during digestion of carbohydrates and protein from food. Found in the form of pyruvic acid, pyruvate can be found in various foods including red apples, cheese and red wine.
Soy Protein
Tyrosine is an amino acid
Yohimbe or yohimbine is an indirect adrenergic agonist. Anxiety, elevated blood pressure, queasiness, sleeplessness, tachycardia, tremor, and vomiting are potential side effects related to this agent.

Weight loss hormones over the counter without a doctor's prescription
DHEA is an adrenal hormone that may help with weight loss but side effects occur quite readily

Categories of weight loss herbs
1. Appetite suppressants reduce hunger by changing neurotransmitter levels. Hoodia gordonii is one example.
2. Stimulants increase metabolism to burn more calories. Ephedra is a typical example.
3. Diuretics cause the body to excrete water through excess urine. Dandelion is such an herb.
4. Cathartics or laxatives cause evacuation of the bowels, reduce calorie consumption by impeding full digestion. Cascara sagrada, bisacodyl, senna, magnesium hydroxide, and magnesium citrate fall into this category. Oral aloe produces a strong cathartic response.
5. Fibers absorb water and make the stomach feel more full. Psyllium and guar gum are examples of this kind of weight loss herb.
6. Fat absorbers such as chitosan. Chitosan supposedly binds to fat in the stomach and intestines and excretes it.
7. Starch blockers such as white kidney bean extract that blocks carbohydrate metabolism.
8. Mood lifters, such as St. John's wort, may reduce food consumption in those whose propensity to overeat is due to low mood.

Can weight loss herbs be combined with anti obesity drugs?
Q. I am a medical doctor specializing in weight loss. I have patients who take some of the following anti-obesity drugs. Can over the counter herbal remedies be combined with the following meds?

Adipex-P Phentermine
Alli Orlistat
Belviq, Belviq XR Lorcaserin
Bontril PDM, Bontril SR Phendimetrazine
Desoxyn Methamphetamine
Didrex Benzphetamine
Meridia Sibutramine
Qsymia Phentermine and topiramate extended-release capsules.
Suprenza Phentermine
Xenical Orlistat
Contrave Bupropion hydrochloride-naltrexone hydrochloride
Saxenda Liraglutide

A. We are not aware of research with these combinations. If combined we suggest using half of the normal dose of each.