I am an outspoken critic of hoodia gordonii scams and con artists, but a supporter of honest nutritional supplements and herbal medicine in general. I've followed this story for almost two years now, and was the first to reveal the "Pure Hoodia" scam. As a consumer health advocate, I speak out on anything that I see as ripping people off, whether it's drug companies, disease mongering psychiatrists, or counterfeit diet pills. In this case, the hoodia craze has attracted the most unscrupulous operators who continue to sell counterfeit hoodia diet pills simply because they know they can get away with it. But there are a few honest players in the market who offer genuine hoodia gordonii
, and I list them below.
Let me be clear about my position on hoodia: My complaint is not with the hoodia plant itself. I am a strong advocate of plant-based nutrition and various nutritional supplements. Nature is not the problem here; the con artists are the problem. They're selling so-called "hoodia diet pills" that actually contain no detectable levels of hoodia whatsoever, and that conclusion is based on High Performance Thin-Layer Chomatography (HPTLC) testing, digital microscopy and other lab tests.
Based on my conversation with Alkemist Pharmaceuticals, the top hoodia testing lab in the U.S., it is now clear that a minimum of 60 percent of the hoodia being sold in the United States is counterfeit and the actual number is probably much higher. I'm estimating that 80 percent of the hoodia being bought by consumers is adulterated (cut with cheaper ingredients) or just outright counterfeit.
In fact, odds are that if hoodia ads appear in the ad boxes for this article, some or all of those ads are promoting counterfeit hoodia products. It all depends on which ads appear, of course, and we don't control that, but make no mistake: Many of the top hoodia advertisers in the search engines are actually the top con artists. It's no exaggeration to say that your favorite search engine that starts with a "G" is making millions off counterfeit hoodia product ads. But not intentionally: They're being duped just like many consumers.
Who can you trust?
As I hinted above, there are honest players in the hoodia market. In no way do I claim to know all the honest players, but the ones that I definitely know to be honest are:
Strictly Health (Hoodoba brand, pictured at right) at www.Hoodia-DietPills.com
Millennium Health (Hoodia Hoodia brand) at www.HoodiaHoodia.com
Desert Burn at www.DesertBurn.com
These three companies consistently pass all the laboratory tests, batch after batch. Herbal Teas International, which sells bulk hoodia powder, also passes the tests, although they cater mostly to commercial buyers, not individual product sales.
If your company sells hoodia and you think you should be listed here, contact Alkemist Pharmaceuticals, "The Plant Authentication Experts," and start having your batches tested. I'll get word of your results and update this list as I learn more. I am no longer listing companies that fail the tests due to obvious legal ramifications.
How to really lose weight
My position on weight loss in general is simply this: There is no such thing as a magic weight loss pill
. Not from drug companies, nor from diet pill manufacturers, even if they're honest. Hoodia will not magically cause you to become thin and athletic looking. Yes, it can take the edge off cravings and hunger, and thus it can be a helpful tool in conjunction with a serious weight loss program, but it's no magic pill.
If you want a body that's fit, trim and healthy, it's going to take a whole lot more than swallowing some appetite suppressant pills. See my own pics if you're curious: I lost weight the hard way, the honest way. I gave up all soft drinks, sugars, bread, dairy products and white flour. I exercised regularly, got plenty of natural sunlight, and drank lots of water. I engaged in heavy nutritional supplementation and remineralization (both the macro minerals like calcium and magnesium, plus trace minerals). Over time, I lost 50 pounds of body fat and have kept it off for years. My "before" pictures are so embarrassing that I still refuse to post them publicly, but believe me, I was borderline obese and diabetic.
If you're interested in using hoodia as part of a serious weight loss program, then I recommend going with one of the companies mentioned above. There may be others who offer honest products that I'm simply not aware of. I don't claim to have conducted a sweeping review of the entire industry, testing hundreds of samples and producing a comprehensive report. That would cost six figures (at least), and since I don't take money from these hoodia companies, I have no way to fund such an effort. Perhaps the FTC can find the money to do it.
By the way, this is an important point: None of the companies mentioned here have paid us anything. We get no kickbacks or commissions. We're truly independent as described in our Declaration of Journalistic Independence. We have no motivation to bring you anything other than honest, useful information about hoodia.
Is hoodia safe?
One of the big questions about hoodia now being raised, often by promoters of conventional medicine who engage in crazy weight loss schemes like bariatric surgery, is that hoodia somehow isn't safe.
These accusations against hoodia are completely out of touch with reality. When FDA-approved prescription drugs are killing 100,000 Americans each year (that's twenty times as many American soldiers who have died in Iraq), when over-the-counter painkillers kill another 16,500 Americans each year from gastrointestinal bleeding, and when routine medicines like statin drugs or blood pressure medications cause severe liver damage, brain damage and heart damage, it is obscenely disproportionate to suggest that a ground-up succulent is somehow the greater danger.
Plant-based medicine is magnitudes of order safer than pharmaceutical medicine. Not every plant is safe to consume, of course, but toxicity risks are generally low compared to everyday drugs like ibuprofen, which has just recently been found to cause severe liver damage. And it's sold over the counter!
If you want to talk about dangerous medicine, head over to our DangerousMedicine.com bulletin board and read some of the horror stories.
Ritalin is an amphetamine, a powerful psychotropic drug. Parke-Davis, a subsidiary of Pfizer, actually promoted and sold cocaine. It even produced a "cocaine injection kit" complete with a syringe for shooting up. Here's a picture of it. "Meth" (methamphetamines) is manufactured from over-the-counter cold medicines like Sudafed, using a garage recipe that anybody can find on the Internet.
If you want examples of really dangerous medicine being sold to consumers, look no further than Big Pharma and FDA collusion. Compared to the harm that's taking place in the pharmaceutical industry, hoodia isn't even a blip on the radar.
The campaign to discredit all herbs
It doesn't mean hoodia won't find itself under fire by conventional medicine, of course. Remember ephedra? It was a perfectly safe Chinese herb that's now illegal to import, sell or prescribe to patients in the United States. It was used safely and effectively in Chinese Medicine for literally thousands of years, with no toxicity problems whatsoever. But when some American companies got their hands on it, they isolated the herb (which Chinese doctors never
do), amplified its active chemicals, and sold them to consumers who started taking them by the handful. Not surprisingly, a couple of weak-hearted overweight people suffered heart attacks and died.
From that isolated abuse of the herb, the FDA banned all ephedra. But here's the smoking gun: It kept Sudafed legal even though Sudafed contains the same chemical constituents as ephedra! That's where the name of the drug comes from: "pseudo" and "ephedra." Put them together and you get "Sudafed."
So why was the herb (ephedra) banned while the drug (Sudafed) was kept on the market? You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out: Because Sudafed was making lots of money for its manufacturer, a drug company. And the FDA consistently acts in favor of drug companies rather than consumers.
Hoodia is likely to suffer the same fate as ephedra. Sooner or later, somebody is going to keel over from popping a whole bottle of counterfeit hoodia pills that don't even contain real hoodia. The FDA will issue a misinformed warning statement and the press will go ape nuts crazy over it. Television shows will find "experts" who will testify that hoodia is dangerous. Hoodia will get banned, and that just might be the end of the hoodia industry.
So if you want genuine hoodia gordonii, you may want to order it now. Don't buy it retail: None of the retail hoodia products that I'm aware of are made with genuine hoodia gordonii. As far as I can tell, only a few Internet companies are offering real hoodia products. Then again, as a disclaimer, I haven't tested every single product on the market, either. So buyer beware. Don't trust CITES certificates, as they can be easily forged or Photoshopped.
The bottom line on hoodia
What's the bottom line on hoodia? It can be a useful weight loss tool in conjunction with exercise and major dietary changes, but it's no miracle weight
loss pill. By itself, hoodia (even real hoodia) won't make you look fit and trim, although it can no doubt help you get there if you're willing to exercise and eat right.
Most of the hoodia being sold today is counterfeit. Only a few providers are offering the real McCoy.
Genuine hoodia has a wide safety margin, especially compared to pharmaceuticals. It's a succulent, not a drug, and if you've ever chewed on various cacti (I have), you already know that they taste terrible but certainly don't make you sick. There may be exceptions found in particularly poisonous succulents, but hoodia certainly isn't one of them. Remember: The San tribesmen have chewed on this for eons. Indigenous use of herbs is actually a good indication of long-term safety, despite the frustrating fact that conventional medicine ignores all such cultural evidence.
Do I recommend hoodia? Conditionally yes, for those who are serious about weight loss and are willing to radically alter their diets and engage in serious physical exercise at the same time. Hoodia can help you, but it won't take over for you. If you want to look athletic, you have to be athletic.