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Herbs for Weight Loss

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Herbs are the drugs of alternative medicine and they have been proven to work in the treatment of different medical conditions. For weight loss, there is a long list of herbs claimed to work. Finding the ones that do provide some weight loss benefits will require sieving through a lot of clinical data and user claims. This article discusses nine of the most effective and safest herbs to include in your weight loss plan.

Herbs are the mainstay of traditional medicine and also a natural method for inducing weight loss. Some herbs are traditionally used to lose weight and treat diseases associated with weight in different cultures.

With the new advancements in medical sciences, it is now possible to determine which of the many herbs traditionally used for losing weight works and how they work.

Still, it must be mentioned that herbal supplements are not magic weight loss pills. They are simply supplements that can contribute to any weight loss plan. The main components of such a plan should be a restricted diet and regular exercise.

There are different mechanisms by which herbs help promote weight loss. Some of these are mentioned below

  • By serving as a thermogenic agent either as a stimulant that increases physical activity through muscular stimulation or by increasing the metabolic rate through increasing thyroid functioning
  • By preventing fat accumulation as well as the conversion of carbohydrates to stored fat and increasing fat elimination from the body
  • By increasing fat metabolism and the preferential burning of fat to generate immediate energy in the body
  • By reducing triglyceride and LDL (low-density lipoproteins or “bad” cholesterol) levels while increasing HDL (high-density lipoproteins or “good” cholesterol) levels
  • By increasing the feeling of satiety through the release of certain hormones in the body or neurotransmitters in the brain
  • By promoting diuresis which reduces water weight when excess water is eliminated in the urine
  • By increasing bowel movement to increase the elimination of unneeded components of foods.

While herbs are generally well tolerated, they are not without their side effects especially when taken in high doses.

Generally, children, as well as a pregnant and breastfeeding mother, should avoid herbs mostly because they are not enough evidence from safety studies to prove most herbs are safe for these groups of people.

Furthermore, herbs can interfere with the drugs being taken along with them. Therefore, you should consult your doctor before adding herbal supplements to the drugs you are already taken. The types of drugs most likely to cross-react with weight loss herbs include blood thinners, stimulant drugs, antipsychotics, anti-diabetic drugs, and anti-hypertensive medications.

With all these considerations taken, this article discusses the most effective herbs used for weight loss.

1. Dandelion           

Dandelion is a flowering plant in the Taraxacum plant family. Although it grows in gardens as a weed, it is also an important herb used especially for drinks including tea, wine, and beer.

Dandelion is an excellent source of vitamins and most of the essential nutritional minerals.

However, its medicinal benefits are derived from the phytochemicals it contains. These include taraxacin (taraxinic acid), taraxasterol, beta-sitosterol, caffeic acid, pectin, inulin, and alkaloids. These phytochemicals give dandelion diuretic and laxative properties. They also make the herb serve as an appetite stimulant, digestive aid, immunostimulant, and a cholagogue (stimulate bile secretion).

The major mechanism by which dandelion prompts weight loss is through its diuretic action. It can increase the volume and frequency of urination. In this way, it helps get rid of water weight.

However, since most weight gain is due to fat accumulation, the weight loss effect of dandelion is mostly seen when the weight gain is caused by water retained in the body especially due to edematous bloating.

Herbal supplements of dandelion are sold in various forms including as dried leaves, dried roots, leaf juice, and root tincture.

2. Garcinia cambogia

Garcinia cambogia is also known as Gambooge, a subtropical plant grown in Southeast Asia and tropical Africa. The fruit (actually the rind of the fruit) of garcinia is the plant part used as an herb. The fruits appear in bright colors, shaped like pumpkin but smaller.

The major phytochemical in garcinia is hydroxy citric acid or HCA. Hydroxycitric acid is a derivative of citric acid and its chief role is the inhibition of certain digestive enzymes such as citrate lyase.

Garcinia supplements are available as tablets, capsules, and powders. These are standardized around the hydroxycitric acid content.

The 2 ways by which garcinia promotes weight loss are by suppressing appetite and blocking the conversion of carbohydrates to fat.

By inhibiting citric lyase, garcinia prevents the body from turning carbohydrates into stored fat.

While this reduces the amount of fat that can increase the bulk weight of the body in the long-term, the immediate result of this blockage is that the liver is prompted to then release glycogen as a fuel source. The released glycogen is then converted to glucose and then energy. In this way, the body’s immediate energy needs are met without resorting to eating foods which may introduce more empty calories.

Garcinia is also known to reduce the fatty acid synthesis and to reduce plasma cholesterol levels.

3. Ginger

Ginger is the rhizome of Zingiber officinale, a plant native to South Asia, and now commonly grown in the Caribbean and East Africa for its culinary and medicinal uses.

The active phytochemicals in ginger are the gingerols, shogaols, and zingerone.

The gingerols are especially important; they are volatile oils and are responsible for the following medicinal properties of ginger: analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antipyretic, gastrointestinal motility, and sedative effects.

During cooking and processing, some of the gingerols in ginger are converted to equally potent compounds such as shogaols and zingerone.

Besides these phytochemicals, ginger is also a nutritional powerhouse. It is rich in dietary fiber and it contains B vitamins, vitamins A and C, iron, potassium, and phosphorus.

The 3 major ways by which ginger contribute to weight loss are:

  • By improving digestion
  • By speeding up the metabolism; and
  • By providing a feeling of “fullness” or satiety

By improving digestion, ginger promotes the quick absorption of essential body nutrients and it drives the body to expend energy by burning fat stores to drive the processes of digestion.

Beyond digestion, ginger can also increase the metabolic rate directly. In one study, it was determined that ginger can increase metabolism by as much as 20%.

Speeding up metabolism is an excellent way for the body to increase its energy expenditure by burning up more of its stored fat.

Lastly, ginger reduces the feeling of hunger. When it suppresses the appetite, ginger can help reduce caloric intake and tailor the amount of food ingested to the energy needs of the body. Therefore, improving satiety prevents unnecessary snacking and the compulsive eating of high-calorie foods.

4. Guggul

Guggul refers to a flowering shrub or short tree that grows in arid to semi-arid areas. This hardy plant is found in dry parts of North Africa and Central Asia. Guggul is an important herb in Ayurveda, the Indian traditional medicine.

The herbal remedy obtained from his plant is taken from the resinous sap of its bark.

This sap is known as gum guggul and its extract is known as guggulipid. The active phytochemical in guggulipid is a class of plant steroids known as guggulsterone. Also present are the related guggulsterols as well as essential oils such as myrcene.

There are 2 types of guggulsterones: Z-guggulsterone and E-guggulsterone. Besides these, there are 3 types of guggulsterol.

Guggul can contribute to weight reduction by improving the lipid profile of the body and by increasing the production of thyroid hormones.

In improving the body’s lipid profile, guggul lowers the LDL and triglyceride levels while increasing the HDL levels. Guggul also increases the elimination of cholesterols from the body while reducing the absorption of fats in the intestines.

When guggul increases thyroid functioning, it increases the release of thyroid hormones: triiodothyronine or T3 and thyroxine or T4. These hormones are known to increase the rate of metabolism, and they contribute to weight loss by reducing the fat stores of the body.

5. Guarana

Guarana is one of a number of stimulant herbs. It is prepared from the seeds of a Brazilian tea.

The weight loss effect of guarana is mostly due to its caffeine content. Therefore, it has a diuretic effect and is also a stimulant.

The diuresis caused by guarana can help shed some water weight but its stimulant effect can have a thermogenic benefit. As a central nervous system stimulant, guarana can increase physical activity and, therefore, help burn some stored fat.

As a stimulant herb containing caffeine, guarana should not be combined with other stimulant medications or herbs or it may cause high blood pressure. It may also interact with anticoagulants such as warfarin.

6. Yerba Mate

Yerba mate is the herbal extract prepared from the leaves of a tree native to Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina.

The major phytochemicals in this herbal extract are caffeine and theobromine. Both of these alkaloids are stimulants. Therefore, yerba mate is regarded as a tonic and stimulant beverage.

Yerba mate reduces body weight by suppressing appetite, by promoting diuresis and by increasing the metabolic rate. The combined result of these effects is the elimination of water and stored fat, and therefore, weight loss.

Yerba mate is a potent stimulant that should not be taken in large amounts or combined with other stimulant medications or herbs.

7. Guar Gum

Guar gum also is known as guar flour and it is a dietary fiber source obtained from the seeds of guar plant which is native to India.

Its high fiber content is its most important health benefits. This reduces the level of LDL cholesterol in the body, but the most significant effect of the fiber content of guar gum is to prevent the absorption of fats from the gut.

To do this the fibers of guar gum bind to fats and eliminate them with feces.

In addition, the fiber content of this herb fills the stomach and provides a feeling of fullness that helps suppress appetite.

Therefore, guar gum may contribute to weight loss by increasing the elimination of fat before they are absorbed and by reducing the craving for filling foods filled with empty calories.

8. Green Tea

Green tea is the most healthful of teas. It is prepared from the slightly oxidized leaves of Camellia sinensis. Although native to China, green tea is now grown and taken in most parts of the world.

Green tea is especially known for its high levels of antioxidants including vitamins such as vitamin C and polyphenols such as epigallocatechin gallate. Green tea also contains caffeine.

The phytochemicals in green tea are known for their thermogenic properties. Green tea stimulates metabolism and helps burn body fat.

A 2005 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is one of the many studies that demonstrate the weight loss potential of green tea. In that study, 690 mg of green tea extract given daily over a period of 3 months was sufficient to produce significant weight loss in a group of volunteers.

Green tea can eliminate both water weight and bulk fat weight. It is available in different forms including as capsule and liquid but the most popular form of the herb is the powdered tea leaves.

9. Cocoa

Although not strictly an herb, cocoa is prepared the same way as the herbal teas discussed above. With its rich store of nutrients, cocoa may be the most healthful of foods.

By cocoa, this article refers to the raw cocoa beans or the powder cocoa made out of those beans. Unlike cocoa butter, which is also used in making chocolate, cocoa contains no fat.

Among the 300 compounds found in cocoa are caffeine, theobromine, calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, manganese, sulfur, zinc, copper, phosphorus, B vitamins, and amino acids such as tryptophan.

The caffeine and theobromine in cocoa can decrease appetite, increase water loss through diuresis, and increase fat shedding through their thermogenic effects, but the flavonoids in cocoa provide even greater weight loss benefits.

Cocoa also contributes to weight loss by:

  • Inhibiting digestive enzymes such as lipases and amylases
  • Modifying the expression of genes responsible for proteins involved in fatty acid transportation and thermogenesis; these effects result in lower body weight, fat accumulation, and triglyceride levels
  • Increasing the release of adiponectin, a protein hormone produced in the adipose tissue and released into the blood. Adiponectin reduces the amount of fat stored in the body





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