Authored by Cathy L. Chambers in Weight Issues
Published on 10-08-2009
The use of herbs as supplements in a weight loss plan is a subject that is full of contradictions. Yes, says one source, medicinal herbs are safe. No, says another, medicinal herbs are ineffective at best and dangerous at worse. There is no magic herb for weight loss, the truth about herbal supplements lies somewhere between the extremes. Some are very safe and can be used by almost everyone and others have been shown to be dangerous.
Thermogenic herbs are those that stimulate the body. They can increase heart rate and respiration. Green tea falls into this category and so does dandelion. Tea made from dandelion root is said to boost the metabolism and flush out the kidneys. Green tea is a stimulant like coffee that has the added benefit of being high in vitamin C and antioxidants.
Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin, the ingredient that gives spicy foods their “heat”. People who eat spicy foods raise their metabolism as much as 25 percent. These foods also stimulate thirst, which may also help in weight loss. If you have a taste for spicy foods, you may boost your metabolism and increase your weight loss.
Licorice root can help control blood sugar and reduce cravings for sweets. Since licorice can also raise blood pressure, it should not be used on a daily basis for more than five days in a row. People suffering from hypertension should avoid using licorice root altogether. Bee pollen is reputed to be an appetite suppressant. Bee pollen also boosts the metabolism.
Cinnamon is helpful in regulating blood sugar. A teaspoon added to your diet daily can be very beneficial. Pregnant women should use caution however, and not consume large quantities of cinnamon. Large doses of cinnamon bark and cinnamon oil can induce abortion.
While some herbal supplements are generally safe for use, others are not. Ephedra, which acts as a stimulant, increases heart rate, stimulates the brain and act to expand bronchial tubes making breathing easier. Ephedra is used in China as a treatment for asthma and the common cold. Ephedra also has a thermogenic effect, raising body heat. The connection between ephedra containing supplements and death caused the Food and Drug Administration to ban the sale of ephedra based supplements in the United States.
Ephedra is also the main ingredient in “herbal fen phen”. There are no clinical trials proving that herbal fen phen is effective for weight loss. There are reports of serious side effects such as stroke and irregular heartbeat associated with this supplement.
Losing weight is a difficult process and is something that many people struggle with on a daily basis. Although the process is difficult, it is important to remember that everything you put into your body should be beneficial to your overall good health. Before considering the addition of any supplement to assist in weight loss, the careful consumer should be aware of the potential risks of all ingredients. Most herbs are completely safe, even if their benefit may seem negligible. Those that pose potential health risks should be avoided.