Can Caralluma Tame Your Hunger?

woman eating healthy food
People Images/E+/Getty Images

Practitioners of traditional Indian medicine have long used an herb known as Caralluma (Caralluma Fimbriata) to suppress appetite and enhance endurance. Now widely available in supplement form, Caralluma is often marketed as a weight loss aid, with some proponents claiming that the herb can fight the formation of fat in addition to curbing hunger. 

Research on Caralluma for Weight Loss

In a 2011 report published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, scientists note that pregnane glycosides (a class of naturally-occurring compounds thought to inhibit the formation of fat) found in Caralluma may act as anti-obesity agents and appetite suppressants.

However, there is currently very little scientific evidence to support the claim that Caralluma can promote weight loss. The available research includes a study published in Perspectives in Clinical Research in 2015. Caralluma Fimbriata appeared to be no more effective than a placebo in reducing weight, body mass index, waist-to-hip measurements, or appetite. The 12-week-long study involved 89 people classified as overweight or obese.

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.

A pilot study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine in 2013 suggests that Caralluma may reduce risk factors of metabolic syndrome in people who are overweight or obese.

In their analysis of data on 43 adults, the study's authors found that 12 weeks of supplementation with a Caralluma Fimbriata extract in combination with controlled dietary intake and physical activity significantly reduced waist circumference, body weight, and waist to hip ratio compared to a placebo with diet and exercise.

Possible Side Effects

Very little is known about the safety of long-term or regular use of Caralluma. It's important to keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances.

Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get further tips on using supplements here, but if you're considering the use of Caralluma, it would be wise to talk with your doctor first.

Where to Find It

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

There are many other species of Caralluma used in herbal medicine and they shouldn't be confused with Caralluma Fimbriata. For instance, Caralluma arabica is said to reduce inflammation, while Caralluma sinaica is purported to fight diabetes.

The Bottom Line

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), consult your healthcare provider before starting your supplement regimen. Self-treating and avoiding or delaying standard care can have serious consequences.

Sources:

Arora E1, Khajuria V1, Tandon VR1, Sharma A2, Mahajan A2, Gillani ZH1, Choudhary N1. To evaluate efficacy and safety of Caralluma Fimbriata in overweight and obese patients: A randomized, single-blinded, placebo control trial. Perspect Clin Res. 2015 Jan-Mar;6(1):39-44. doi: 10.4103/2229-3485.148812.

Astell KJ1, Mathai ML, McAinch AJ, Stathis CG, Su XQ. A pilot study investigating the effect of Caralluma Fimbriata extract on the risk factors of metabolic syndrome in overweight and obese subjects: randomized controlled clinical trial. Complement Ther Med. 2013 Jun;21(3):180-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2013.01.004. Epub 2013 Feb 23.

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.

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.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

Continue Reading