Hoodia is a succulent plant resembling a cactus that thrives in the arid conditions of the Kalahari desert in Mzansi. In historical accounts, it has been believed that the San employed hoodia as a means to mitigate their appetite. Currently, there are a number of products made out of hoodia as dietary supplements that can suppress appetite and facilitate weight loss.
Hoodia dietary supplements are being marketed as effective appetite suppressants to people seeking to lose weight. There are various hoodia plant products available on the market, such as tea, oils, tablets, liquid extracts, powder, and patches. These products are designed to enhance weight loss efforts.
You can also plant and grow it yourself.
A tough cookie
According to Kwanele Dlamini, a soil scientist and agronomist based in Johannesburg, the propagation of hoodia is primarily achieved through seeds, which the plant typically produces during the months of October and November.
“The Hoodia plant, which the Khoi know as Khobab, occurs along the eastern part of the Western Cape in Southern Africa, north regions and northwestern regions in the Northern Cape.”
This plant can withstand high temperatures, even exceeding 40°C, as well as endure low-temperature conditions. Dlamini says this particular species is typically found in the depths of dry stony slopes and has the potential to thrive for up to 25 years, given ideal circumstances.
Growing a hoodia plant
It is observed that during the early phenotypic stages, only one stem is produced. However, as it progresses, branching begins, and it can eventually develop up to 50 separate branches when it reaches maturity.
“The thorns of the seeds must be dry, and well split vertically down the middle before they can be collected, and they mostly prefer a sandy loam growth media with sieved compost to do exceptionally well,” Dlamini explains.
In addition, it is important to note that hoodia should not be planted deeper than 0.5 cm. Also, one should exercise caution when irrigating, particularly during the germination stage.
Hoodia plants do not tolerate excessive water and are drought-tolerant during this stage. Overwatering can lead to rotting. Under warm conditions (around 28°C), it is recommended to irrigate them four times a week with a consistent amount of water.
“Hoodia grows very quickly and within a space of three years they can get to a height of 250mm.”
Precautions to take when consuming hoodia plant
Dlamini cautions that there are several disadvantages compared to the advantages, according to research. He explains that some of the side effects of this plant include nausea, skin reactions, and vomiting.
According to the US National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, a study has shown taking hoodia had more side effects than those taking placebos, including nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and odd skin sensations. “Of concern, hoodia significantly affected some clinical and safety parameters, such as blood pressure, bilirubin, and electrocardiogram (heart function) measures,” it says.
Dlamini advises pregnant women against consuming the hoodia plant due to ongoing debates and discussions surrounding its safety.
Don’t fall for online recipes
Consuming it directly from the soil can pose certain risks, particularly for those who are new to its usage. It is important to note that the instructions or recipes available on the internet may lack peer-reviewed validation or endorsement from food scientists, adds Dlamini.
He emphasises that when it comes to indigenous plants with purported medicinal properties, it is prudent to acquire them from reputable sources instead of ingesting these plants without proper dosage knowledge.
Get the Health For Mzansi newsletter: Your bi-weekly dose of kasi health, wellness and self-care inspiration.