Skip to main content


Compilation by Armando Gonzalez Stuart, PhD

Scientific Name:

Hoodia gordonii (Masson) Sweet ex Decne

Other Common Name:

Ghaap, Hoodia “cactus”, South African “desert cactus”.

Parts of the plant used:

The succulent (fleshy) stems.

How is it used?

The native South Africans consume it fresh, by cutting a small piece of the stem and removing the thorns. Currently, extracts, teas, powders and capsules are commercially available. Some of the products sold may contain only Hoodia or combinations of this plant with other herbs or minerals, such as green tea and chromium picolinate, for example. The data related to clinical trials in humans is very limited at this time.

What is it used for?

As an appetite and thirst suppressant. Native South Africans, notably the Khoi-San herders, have used this plant for centuries in order to endure extended periods of time without food or water. This quality may render this plant useful as a treatment for obesity, but more controlled research in humans is needed. The active compound responsible for the plant’s appetite suppressant action is a pregnane glycoside (similar in structure to a cardiac glycoside), which has been isolated and patented as P57, although it is possible that more than one compound is responsible for this action. Hoodia gordonii also contains saponins. This compound acts on the central nervous system (CNS), but may also be active peripherally on appetite regulation, via the vagal afferent nerves, as well as on potentially anorectic peripheral hormones such as cholecystokynin (CKK), for example. Limited data involving a clinical trial with 18 obese men report a favorable effects related to appetite suppression and weight loss. In this trial, the plant was well tolerated by the participants and no significant adverse effects were reported.


Safety / Precautions


  • There are currently no known side effects with the proper use of this plant as a weight control supplement; however, there are only limited data pertaining to humans, so much more clinical research is needed in order to conclude if it is safe for long term use.
  • There are currently no studies evaluating the use of Hoodia during pregnancy and lactation, so its use cannot be recommended during this time.
  • If you currently have a disease related to the heart, liver, kidneys or thyroid gland, consult with your health professional first, before taking this or any other herbal / nutritional supplement.
  • Avoid use in children, as well as in the elderly, unless under medical supervision.

Before you decide to take any medicinal herb or herbal supplement, be sure to consult with your health care professional first. Avoid self-diagnosis and self-medication: Always be on the safe side!