Alternative Approaches: Herbs for Weight Loss

Alternative Approaches
Herbs for Weight Loss
by Jennifer LB Leese

Weight loss is an age-old struggle that just doesn't seem to be getting any easier.
We all have heard about ephedrine, ephedra, and ma huang. These terms are used to refer to the same substance derived from the plant ephedra. Ephedra is a shrub-like plant that is found in desert regions in central Asia and other parts of the world. The dried greens of the plant are used medicinally. This herb is thought to be unsafe. Ephedra "is a nervous system stimulant that can cause liver and kidney damage and high blood pressure," said William Collinge, PhD.
"In a study published in the December 1999 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers studied the effects of green tea extract on energy expenditure and fat burning in 10 men who took either the extract (which contains caffeine), caffeine alone, or a placebo. The men who took the extract increased their energy expenditure and burned more fat than did those who took either the caffeine alone or the placebo. No side effects were reported." (Chase Freedom)
"We still don't know whether people who take this extract will really lose weight," said Collinge. "Nor is it clear whether drinking regular green tea might have similar effects."
While dozens of such elixirs (herbal weight-loss products) crowd the shelves of health food stores, so far no herbal product has been proven safe and effective in controlled clinical trials," said Collinge.
Alternative Actions
Make a commitment: Permanent weight loss takes time and effort. It is a lifelong commitment and requires focus on your part because no one can make you lose weight - you need to be ready.
Your Eating Habits: is essential to losing weight. This goes right along with commitment. Eating healthier foods does not mean you have to give up taste and meal satisfaction...cutting back and choosing fruits and vegetables is a good start. Count those calories, look at the fat content, and pay attention to the serving size.
Exercise: Dieting in itself will help you lose weight, but to keep it off and burn calories faster, exercise is necessary. Adding a "30-minute brisk walk four days a week can double your rate of weight loss." (MayoClinic) Statistics show that exercise is one of the most effective means for losing body fat. Think about ways you can increase your physical activity throughout the day. For example, make several trips up and down stairs instead of using the elevator, or park at the far end of the lot or take a quick walk around the inside or outside of your office building during your lunch hour.
Change your Lifestyle: Changing your eating habits and exercising is an excellent start to losing weight, however, you have to change our lifestyle if you'd like to keep it off. To achieve this balance, you have to change the behaviors that helped you gain the weight. Attitude and persistence change and how you'll deal with the commitment will decipher whether you will lose the weight once and for all. There will be setbacks, but don't give up...just start anew the next day.
Seek Professional Assistance: Losing weight effectively may take your doctor's guidance. Everyone's body is different. Find out what your doctor thinks will work well for you. Whether it be slow metabolism, emotional eating, exercise, or stress...your doctor will help you through it - or at the very least find someone who can.
Stimulants: encourage the body to burn more calories.
Diuretics: cause the body to excrete water through excess urine.
Cathartics: cause evacuation of the bowels, reduce calorie consumption by impeding full digestion.
Appetite suppressants: reduce hunger by expanding in the stomach, altering mood, or satisfying taste.(END BOX)
Keep in mind that many herbs are not regulated by the FDA, therefore, it is strongly recommended that you consult a healthcare professional before beginning any herbal remedy treatment. Everybody reacts differently to herbs. Appetite suppressants do not work well for everyone. Here are a few of the most commonly used herbs in weight loss:
Herbal Remedies
Garcinia cambogia(malabar tamarind). "This herb is rich in hydroxycitric acid, or HCA, which is believed to promote weight loss by blocking the conversion of sugars and starches into fats. In addition to inhibiting fat production, it is also thought to aid in suppressing appetite by raising certain brain chemicals, such as serotonin." (DietChannel)
Chickweed(Stellaria media). This herb is limited in its uses. "As a diuretic its medicinal properties aid in the absorption of other herbs, helping them process and dissolve fat. Chickweed is extremely high in Vitamin C." (12 Herbs for Safe Weight Loss by Gloria Ruffell)
Dandelion(taraxacum officianale). This herb replaces minerals and takes away bad cholesterol and fatty acids before making their way into fat cells through the bloodstream. The dandelion leaf enhances metabolism and works as a mild laxative. (
Licorice root(glycyrrhiza glabra). It is not recommended to use licorice root on a regular long-term basis. Many people choose to use this powerful little herb in the beginning because it satisfies most cravings for sweets but there is some damage that can be done. Using licorice root while taking heart medications could actually result in a heart attack or the irregular heart beat. It can also cause potassium depletion, muscle pain, a feeling of weakness and even paralysis. (
Banaba leafITALICS)(Lagerstoemia speciosa). "A medical plant used in Southeast Asia, this herb claims to lower blood sugar and promote healthy insulin levels that are related to appetite. Keeping these areas regulated may moderate a person's cravings and caloric consumption." (12 Herbs for Safe Weight Loss by Gloria Ruffell)
Gymnema sylvestre. "It decreases sugar cravings by acting on the pancreas enabling it to maintain a steady blood sugar, which decreases cravings and hypoglycemia." (WomenFitness)
Chinese bitter orangeCitrus aurantium. "This weight loss herb is aimed at lessening a person's appetite and will help you a lot in losing weight. But there are some disadvantages to using this herb and they are the occurrence of stroke, heart attack, irregular hear beat, insomnia, high blood pressure and worst of all for some people death." (Lee Dobbins)
Hawthorn. "Reduces blood fat and improves circulation. Hawthorn berry helps with stagnant, undigested food accumulated in the stomach, they also stimulate the adrenal glands and improve thyroid function." (WomenFitness)
Herb Sauce
8 ounces package fat-free cream cheese
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon mustard
Tarragon, basil, parsley, or chives to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients then refrigerate (WebMD)
Oat Straw Tincture
This herb helps if you are having a difficult time with willpower. Try taking 1 teaspoon of tincture three times a day. (It's Your Health)
Clay Body Wrap
1 cup bentonite or green clay
1/4 cup sea salt
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups water
Boil water and add sea salt until it is dissolved. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Adjust the water if necessary to form a wet paste.
Rub the mixture over your entire body and cover yourself with thin towels or a clean white sheet. Most salons will recommend that you use proper wrapping sheets as the compaction helps to squeeze the tissues together for greater results.
Lay in the tub for a minimum of 45 minutes to one hour. (WebMD)
Full Feeling Mixture
The seed of the Indian plantain has an almost pure fiber coating. When exposed to water, it swells to four times its original size. The seed has the added benefit of reducing cholesterol levels while giving you that pleasant, full feeling. Take a half-hour before eating: Psyllium seeds: 1-teaspoon in 8-ounces of cold water. If this makes you feel uncomfortably full, reduce the dose to 1/2 teaspoon. (It's Your Health)
The articles "Alternative Approaches", published in the Picket News the first week of every month, are not intended to be a substitute for therapy or professional advice. It is simply an article meant to give our readers an "alternative choice". Naturally the most effective method to losing weight is eating a well balanced diet and exercising more often.
Resources is building a database of natural remedy brands that it tests and rates. Not all are yet available.
Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration has a program called MEDWATCH for people to report adverse reactions to untested substances, such as herbal remedies and vitamins (800-332-1088).
A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions.

Source: William Collinge, PhD, is the author of The Complete Guide to Alternative Medicine, "Holistic Herbal: A Safe and Practical Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies" by David Hoffmann, WebMD,, MayoClinic,, WomenFitness, 12 Herbs for Safe Weight Loss by Gloria Ruffell, and DietChannel.