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Caralluma for Weight Loss

What You Need to Know About Caralluma

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Updated January 05, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Caralluma (Caralluma fimbriata) is a type of edible cactus. Long used as an appetite suppressant and endurance enhancer in traditional Indian medicine, caralluma extract is now widely available in supplement form.

Proponents claim that taking caralluma supplements can help promote weight loss. Caralluma contains pregnane glycosides, a class of naturally occurring compounds thought to inhibit the formation of fat.

Caralluma and Weight Loss

Currently, there is very little scientific evidence to support the claim that caralluma can promote weight loss. However, some preliminary research suggests that caralluma may help fight obesity. In a 2011 report published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, for instance, scientists note that pregnane glycosides found in caralluma may act as anti-obesity agents and appetite suppressants.

The available research on caralluma and weight loss includes an animal-based study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism in 2010. In the study, researchers found that placing rats on a caralluma-enriched diet helped reduce their food intake and prevent gains in body weight and fat mass. What's more, caralluma appeared to protect against atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

In an earlier study (published in the journal Appetite in 2007), researchers assigned 50 overweight adults to two months of treatment with either caralluma or a placebo. Compared to members of the placebo group, participants given caralluma experienced significantly greater decreases in hunger levels and waist circumference. However, body weight, body mass index, body fat, and calorie intake did not significantly differ between the two groups.

Other Types of Caralluma

There are several other species of caralluma used in herbal medicine. For instance, Caralluma arabica is said to reduce inflammation, while Caralluma sinaica is purported to fight diabetes.

Is Caralluma Safe?

Very little is known about the safety of using caralluma in the long term. If you're considering the use of caralluma, talk to your doctor before beginning treatment.

Where to Find Caralluma

Widely available for purchase online, caralluma supplements are sold in many natural-food stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements.

Should You Use Caralluma for Weight Loss?

Due to a lack of supporting research, caralluma cannot currently be recommended as a weight loss aid. If you're looking to lose weight, the National Institutes of Health recommend following a weight-management plan that pairs healthy eating with regular exercise. Keeping a food diary, getting eight hours of sleep each night, and managing your stress may also help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.

There's also some evidence that certain mind-body techniques (such as yoga, acupuncture, and tai chi) may support your weight-loss efforts.

If you're considering the use of caralluma (or any type of dietary supplement) for weight loss, consult your physician before starting your supplement regimen.

Sources:

Dutt HC, Singh S, Avula B, Khan IA, Bedi YS. "Pharmacological Review of Caralluma R.Br. with Special Reference to Appetite Suppression and Anti-Obesity." J Med Food. 2011 Dec 22.

Kamalakkannan S, Rajendran R, Venkatesh RV, Clayton P, Akbarsha MA. "Antiobesogenic and Antiatherosclerotic Properties of Caralluma fimbriata Extract." J Nutr Metab. 2010;2010:285301.

Kuriyan R, Raj T, Srinivas SK, Vaz M, Rajendran R, Kurpad AV. "Effect of Caralluma fimbriata extract on appetite, food intake and anthropometry in adult Indian men and women." Appetite. 2007 May;48(3):338-44.

National Institutes of Health. "Weight-Control Information Network - Weight Loss for Life". NIH Publication No. 04–3700. January 2009.

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