New Year's Resolution, Lose Weight with Help from Herbs

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The desire to lose weight is the number one New Year’s resolution, and although it is a noble one, losing those excess pounds is often a challenge. You may get some help from herbs that have been shown to promote weight loss.

Herbs for weight loss should be used with caution

Green tea contains two ingredients that can help promote weight loss, caffeine and catechins. A recent report from The Netherlands noted that green tea-caffeine mixture improves weight maintenance through oxidation of fat and thermogenesis (the process by which the body produces heat).

In a meta-analysis of 11 studies of the effects of green tea on weight loss, the authors concluded that the catechins, including epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and caffeine in green tea together have a “small positive effect” on weight loss and weight maintenance.

Ginseng is often used as a weight loss aid, although many of the studies have been done in animals. One of those studies found that Korean white ginseng was associated with significant weight loss in obese mice fed a high-fat diet. In addition, a study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology named ginseng as one of the herbal supplements effective in managing obesity.

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Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) is another herb that has demonstrated benefits in assisting weight loss. Researchers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa recently conducted a study of bitter melon juice in rats and reported that their results may prove bitter melon juice “to be an effective complementary or alternative therapy to reduce adipogenesis [the development of fat cells] in humans.” Bitter melon was also one of the herbal supplements identified in the World Journal of Gastroenterology article as being effective in weight loss.

The Food and Drug Administration warns that there are certain stimulant herbs that should be avoided when trying to lose weight, as they may cause serious or even fatal side effects. These herbs include ephedra (and products that contain ephedra) and herbal laxatives such as senna and cascara sagrada, which can cause serious intestinal problems.

Another herbal remedy purported to help with weight loss is hoodia (hoodia gordonii). Very limited research has been done on this herb, which some claim can stop the hunger mechanism in the brain. A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy & Therapeutics noted there are still too many unanswered questions about hoodia and its safety, effectiveness, and dosing to be used as a weight loss aid.

If your New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, herbs may be able to help. Before you try any weight loss program and supplements, you should consult your healthcare provider. He or she can help you identify the best dose for your needs and that complements your state of health.

SOURCES:
Hursel R et al. International Journal of Obesity (London) 2009 Sep; 33(9): 956-61
Lee YS et al. Cytotechnology 2010 Aug; 62(4): 367-76
Nerurkar PV et al.BMC Complement Altern Med 2010 Jun 29; 10:34
Westerterp-Plantenga MS. Physiology & Behavior 2010 Apr 26; 100(1): 42-46
Whelan AM et al. Journal of Clincal Pharmacy & Therapeutics 2010 Oct; 35(5): 609-12

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