Being overweight is a growing problem throughout the industrialized world. Although there are still countries with populations that are severely malnourished and under-fed, most of the developed countries are dealing with the opposite problem. There are over a billion overweight adults worldwide. Obesity rates around the world are reaching epidemic levels. Being overweight or obese may lead to many chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, stroke and even some forms of cancer.
With these bleak statistics it is no wonder that people everywhere are seeking help with weight loss and weight control. The important point to remember is that there is no product, pharmaceutical or otherwise, that will make fat melt off the body without some effort on the part of the person using it. Exercise and sensible eating is the best long-term course of action for permanent weight loss. The use of herbal products may help boost metabolism and support weight loss efforts without many of the damaging side effects of drug treatments or surgical procedures.
Increasing metabolism, converting fat to energy, and increasing overall energy expenditure is the mechanism employed by thermogenic and stimulant herbs to aid in weight loss. Cayenne is a hot pepper with capsaicin that stimulates the body's digestive process and boosts metabolic rates. It raises the core body temperature and helps improve circulation as well. Citrus Aurantium is another herb that may improve thermogenesis (the conversion of fat to energy.) Kola nut may also help mobilize fats for energy and acts as a stimulant as well. Cardamom is another thermogenic herb that may aid digestion too. Ginseng has long been touted for its stimulating effects and this may lead to an increase in metabolic rate. Green tea is another supplement that falls in this category. It serves as a stimulant, boosting the metabolic rate and overall energy expenditure. The caffeine in green tea acts as a stimulant, but the supporting minerals help to counter some of caffeine's negative effects. And finally, kelp, or seaweed, helps to regulate thyroid function which increases metabolism.
Appetite control is another area important for weight loss. "Hoodia", Hoodia gordonii, is an African herb that has been used by bushmen there for hundreds of years. It is gaining popularity worldwide as science catches up with the bush-medicine. It acts as an appetite suppressant by acting on the brain centers that control hunger. Nettles also work to suppress hunger by feeding the cells at a deeper level and reducing cravings. Garcinia cambogia contains hydroxycitrate which not only reduces hunger but has thermogenic effects as well. Flax seed also serves to reduce appetite by expanding upon consumption and the essential fats found in their oils have been found to have many beneficial properties. Fiber supplements are also helpful in controlling appetite as they add bulk to foods.
Blood sugar control is another significant area in weight loss. Cinnamon is an important supplement in the control of blood sugar. Gymnema sylvestre also supports the body through blood sugar control, which helps lower cravings for sugar and reduces insulin insensitivity.
The supplements mentioned above are generally safe in reasonable doses. Supplements to be avoided include ephedra (and supplements containing ephedra), herbal diuretics and laxatives. These herbal treatments are dangerous and the side effects include dehydration, malnutrition, dangerous arrythmias and even death. It is important to start with one or two herbs and evaluate their effectiveness before adding others. This also helps determine the culprit for any side effects. When using any herbal supplement for weight loss it is wise to consult your physician before beginning.