Is there a cactus diet

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A miracle weapon against obesity: the Hoodia cactus in the Kalahari desert

The Hoodia cactus grows in large parts of South Africa. 20 other species belong to the Asclepiadaceae family. These unusual flat flowers bloom in marbled red, purple, brown or dark yellow.

Hoodia gordonii, also known as the "carrion flower", because its 5-11 cm salmon-colored flowers smell of decaying flesh. The stench attracts flies, which lay their eggs in the flowers and pollinate them in the process.


Hungry Cactus - Ancient slimming product South African Bushmen

The Kalahari desert in southern Africa is barren and hostile to life. As far as the eye can see nothing but wind, sand, dunes. For the inexperienced visitor, this landscape is simply nothing. Nothing but - desert. But anyone who knows the Kalahari knows that there is more here than sand, a few bushes and grasses. For the Bushmen from the Khoi-San tribe living there, the Kalahari is full of riches. For thousands of years they have coaxed secrets from it and learned to use them.

The San are the indigenous people of southern Africa. The San people, known for their art of survival, their rock drawings, trance dances and mystical symbiosis with their semi-deserts or savannas, are among the best-researched and at the same time poorest and most marginalized peoples in the world. For a long time the San were oppressed as a minority, as they represented an unpleasant competition for the European settlers as hunters. They have been robbed of their land, their rights and almost their language. The settlers used to hunt them. For a long time they were not considered human. And to this day they are outsiders, the losers of the modern world.

The Bushmen in the vastness of the Kalahari Desert have been chewing the Hoodia cactus for ages not from excess - but from lack. If there is nothing to eat all around, it gives a feeling of satiety. Reliable and natural. Without side effects.


Petrus Vaalbooi: "The Hoodia cactus is food for us Bushmen, it is also our drinking and our medicine. If you have pain, the cactus relieves it - and if you are hungry, it disappears too."

South African Bushmen have always chewed the hoodia cactus, which grow wild in the desert, in order to dampen their hunger during the hunt, which often takes several days. This ensures that the hunted prey does not immediately disappear into the stomachs of the hunters. Thanks to Hoodia, the family too can hope for their share.

Hoodia is a knee-high, prickly plant. It looks inconspicuous and not very nutritious. The Hoodia cactus grows in the semi-deserts in southern Africa. It doesn't really look very appetizing. But it is food for the Bushmen, their drinking, and their medicine. Anyone who tries the cactus will find that it tastes bitter.

On their long hunting trips, the San put a peeled piece of the plant into their mouths and chew on it: this is how they sometimes suppress hunger and thirst for days.

This appetite-suppressing effect was noticed by South African soldiers who used indigenous hunters as scouts and trackers. They had wondered why the slender Bushmen could go so long and persistently without food and drink in a hostile environment.

In 1996 scientists from the South African Research Council for Science and Industry (CSIR) took on the filling cactus. They managed to get the ingredient that suppresses the feeling of hunger. The scientists named the substance "P57" and had it patented.

A year later, the SCIR granted the license for development and marketing to the British company Phytopharm, which successfully tested the substance clinically.

The result:

The cactus reduces the daily calorie intake to only 2,200 kcal and thus helps with weight loss.

In well-conducted, double-blind studies, nine overweight Britons lost a few pounds when they swallowed the Hoodia cactus in capsule form: They only ate an average of 2,200 calories a day, although they were allowed to eat as much as they wanted. Another nine men who were fed with a placebo, on the other hand, shoveled 3,200 calories into themselves every day. Side effects were not found.


Shortly thereafter, the American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, already successful with the sexual enhancer Viagra, acquired the rights to "P57". Pfizer plans to market "P57" as an appetite suppressant for obese people. In the USA alone, the annual market volume for the treatment of obesity, overweight and their consequences is estimated at 3 billion dollars (around 3 billion euros).

However, the San, on whose knowledge the discovery was based, did not want the multi-million dollar tradition to be stolen so easily.

With the help of the terre des hommes partner WIMSA, the »Working Group for Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa«, and the WIMSA human rights lawyer Roger Chenells, the San managed to enforce their rights.

The shares amounting to 6% of the profit in the P57 diet product are to be paid to all regional SAN associations. A »San Hoodia Treuhandgesellschaft« was founded by CSIR and San associations, which also includes the South African Office for Science and Technology and the terre des hommes partner WIMSA.

From 2007, the Hoodia substance P57 should be available as a prescription drug. Then money also flows into the account of around 100,000 San.