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Use of Herbs & Other Natural Products in Supplements to Reduce Weight
Ingredients in Herbal Weight Loss Supplements
When combined with sensible eating and physical activity, herbal weight loss supplements can help you to lose weight. But long-term use can lead to addiction and cause health problems.
In addition, lasting weight loss is only possible where other behavioral changes (e.g. concerning diet and exercise) are made. In order to lose weight and keep it off, you must learn to adjust your eating habits and exercise.
Ingredients in Herbal Weight Loss Supplements
Here are some commonly used ingredients/supplements in herbal weight loss pills.
Ephedrine in Herbal Weight Loss Supplements
Ephedrine is a common ingredient in herbal supplements used for weight loss. Ephedrine is used in asthma medicine, as well as to make methamphetamine, more commonly known as speed. In fact, there's only a slight difference chemically between methamphetamine and ephedrine.
Ephedrine can slightly suppress your appetite, but few studies have shown it to be independently effective in weight loss.
Ephedrine can also be dangerous. It can cause high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, insomnia, nervousness, tremors, seizures, heart attacks, strokes and even death. Ephedrine can also interact with many prescription and over-the-counter medications.
St. John's Wort in Herbal Weight Loss Supplements
This herbal product is primarily used as an antidepressant. Few studies have evaluated its effectiveness for promoting weight loss. St. John's Wort is one of the primary ingredients in herbal phen-fen.
If you are taking St. John's Wort, you should avoid tyramine containing foods (for example, aged meats, cheese, wines, etc.). You should also avoid medications such as Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Effexor, Remeron, Serzone, Buspar, and dextromethorphan (contained in various cold remedies). The use of St. John's wort for weight loss is potentially very dangerous.
5-hydroxytryptophan in Herbal Weight Loss Supplements
Found in some over-the-counter herbal weight loss supplements, 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) an extract from a West African plant has not been proven to effectively promote weight loss.
Pyruvate in Herbal Weight Loss Supplements
Pyruvate is formed in the body during digestion of carbohydrates and protein from food. It may have a slight effect in helping you shed pounds, according to some studies. Found in the form of pyruvic acid, pyruvate can be found in various foods including red apples, cheese and red wine. Pyruvate appears to be safe, but claims of boosting metabolism, decreasing appetite and aiding in weight loss need further supporting evidence.
Aloe in Herbal Weight Loss Supplements
Most often used as a topical product for wound healing, oral forms of aloe are added to herbal weight-loss supplements. Oral aloe produces a strong cathartic response (producing bowel movements) and many aloe weight-loss products are marketed as "internal cleansers." However, aloe or aloe containing products should not be ingested orally. Use of this agent orally has lead to side effects such as abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and problems with the body's mineral balance. In addition, it can interact with medications such as Lanoxin (digoxin), a medicine used to treat heart failure. The use of aloe has not been proven to keep weight off.
Dandelion in Herbal Weight Loss Supplements
Dandelion is a natural diuretic. It may produce significant weight loss by decreasing body water. However, it can cause allergic reactions and may even cause cancer.
Guarana in Herbal Weight Loss Supplements
Made from the seeds of a plant native to Brazil, guarana speeds up the brain's activity and is used to promote weight loss due to its stimulant and diuretic effect. Guarana contains 2.5% to 5% caffeine and may cause high blood pressure. Some of the extracts have been known to cause prolonged bleeding and interact with blood thinner medication such as Coumadin. Many advertisements state guarana is free from side effects, however this statement is not true. Side effects from guarana may include: nausea, dizziness and anxiousness.
Guar Gum in Herbal Weight Loss Supplements
Also known as guar, guar flour, and jaguar gum, guar gum is a dietary fiber obtained from the Indian cluster bean. Guar gum has been used extensively as a thickening agent for foods and medications. It has been noted to decrease appetite by providing a "feeling of fullness." However, like glucomannan, guar gum may cause obstruction of the esophagus. The water-retaining capacity of the gum permits it to swell to 10 to 20 fold and has led to gastrointestinal obstructions. Guar gum has also been known to cause significant fluctuations in blood sugar levels, thus people with diabetes should not use these preparations.
Herbal Diuretics in Herbal Weight Loss Supplements
There are many varieties of herbal diuretics that are commonly found in over-the-counter weight loss products as well as herbal weight loss preparations. Most of the diuretics used in over-the-counter treatments are derived from caffeine. You should avoid preparations that contain juniper seeds (capable of causing renal damage), equistine (neurotoxic, can cause brain damage) and horse tail or shave grass (includes several toxic compounds that can cause convulsions or hyperactivity). Most of the herbal diuretics are not toxic but have been known to interact with medications (for example, lithium (Lithobid, Eskalith), Lanoxin, or conventional diuretics such as Lasix or Esidrex). Most of the herbal diuretics do not provide enough water loss to be considered effective in losing weight.
Herbal Weight Loss Supplements - Warning
"Herbal weight loss supplements" sound safer than "weight loss drugs." Unfortunately, due to lack of regulation and fewer labelling rules, it's almost impossible to know exactly what you're taking when you use herbal weight loss supplements. Indeed, several ingredients in herbal supplements have been linked with severe illness, even death.
If you choose to use herbal weight loss pills or supplements, be sure to consult your doctor BEFOREHAND. Some herbal ingredients may be inappropriate for you, or may react with other medications.
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