Herbal Supplements for Weight Loss

herbal weight loss supplements
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Have you considered taking an herbal supplement for weight loss? There is no shortage of products that promise to melt fat or blast away pounds. But they don't always deliver the results that you expect. So it's important to gather the most current information about herbal supplements to lose weight safely and more effectively.

Herbal Weight Loss Supplements - The Basics

There are different types of dietary supplements.

  Herbal supplements for weight loss are those that come from plant sources and claim to help you lose weight. Sometimes they are also called botanicals or phytomedicines.  Herbal supplements often have a label that says they are natural and often have healthy-sounding names. But just because a product is natural doesn't mean it is safe. And just because a supplement is "healthy" doesn't mean it is effective. 

Several recent studies conducted on dietary supplements found that consumers who buy herbal supplements may not get the product that is advertised on the label. Unfortunately this is a trend that doesn't just happen with online vendors or shady back-alley dealers.  The State of New York recently cited several large retailers including Walgreens and GNC, for selling products that were not as advertised. Legislators in New York are pushing for stronger laws to protect consumers who buy herbal supplements for weight loss and for other health concerns.

Popular Herbal Supplements for Weight Loss

If you choose to supplement your weight loss program with an herbal product, you'll probably find  that popular products in stores and online contain one or more of these herbal ingredients.

  • Glucomannan. This natural fiber product comes from the konjac plant. While diet supplements that contain glucomannan say it is effective for weight loss, a recent 8-week study found that the herbal supplement did not promote weight loss.
     
  • Chitosan.  This product actually comes from fish but it is frequently listed as an herbal supplement to help you lose weight.  People who are allergic to shellfish should not take this product. Even if you are not allergic, recent studies have found not found it to be effective for weight loss.
     
  • Bitter orange. After ephedra was banned, some herbal supplement manufacturers started using bitter orange instead. Bitter orange may help you burn more calories, but researchers are not sure. Scientists have substantial concerns about the safety of the stimulant. Users of bitter orange have reported chest pain, anxiety, and increased blood pressure and heart rate.
     
  • Green tea extract. This herbal supplement is found on almost every drugstore shelf and many vendors sell the pills online. Unfortunately, many of the research studies that investigated the extract's effectiveness have not been high quality.  The NIH suggests that green tea may provide a modest weight loss benefit.
     
  • Raspberry ketone.  You'll see raspberry-related products in many herbal supplements for weight loss.  But there have been no high quality studies to demonstrate it's effectiveness as a diet aid in humans. 
     
  • Forskolin. This extract from the Coleus plant has not been studied enough to determine if it is effective for weight loss. And some medical experts believe the herbal supplement may have dangerous side effects.
     
  • Aegeline.  While this product should no longer be available, you may still be able to find it online or in stores. Aegeline (included in OxyElite Pro) was removed from the market and banned by the FDA after several cases of death and severe injury were reported.  The ingredient was included in popular fat burning supplements and body building products.   

Should I Take an Herbal Supplement to Lose Weight?

Before you take any supplement, be sure to consult your health care provider to make sure that the product is safe for you to use. Many products can be safe for some people but dangerous to others when combined with a medication, vitamin or health condition. So be absolutely sure that you tell your doctor about all of the supplements, pills, and herbal products that you take or plan to take.

While you're at your doctor's office, you may also want to ask if there have been recent scientific studies about the effectiveness of the product you're considering.  It's best to get this information from an unbiased source, like your doctor. You can also check the database provided by the National Institutes of Health(NIH) or the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements Fact Sheets.  According to the NIH, most supplements have been found to be ineffective for weight loss. 

There are some products that have been shown in limited situations to have some weight loss benefit, but you're not likely to slim down if you rely on the supplement alone. You're more likely to see results if you focus on proven methods such as a calorie-controlled healthy diet and regular exercise. Then add a supplement only if it is recommended by your physician.

Sources:

Herbal remedies and supplements for weight loss. Medline Plus. U.S. National Library of Medicine from the National Institutes of Health. Accessed: February 17, 2015. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/patientinstructions/000347.htm

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