A multitude of herbs have been used to help weight loss. The easiest way to start using them is to spice up meals with flavorful culinary herbs such as cayenne, cinnamon, coriander, garlic and ginger. These herbs are warming, strengthen the spleen, improve circulation and encourage metabolism and the burning of brown fat and are thus referred to as thermogenic or metabolism increasing.
These herbs can help to lose weight by providing important nutrients, improving digestion and curbing cravings. Start with one and add more as needed. People with medical condition should speak to a health practitioner before taking any herb for weight loss.
Burdock is a chologogue, choleretic, diuretic, expectorant, laxative (mild), nutritive and rejuvenative. Burdock improves the elimination of metabolic wastes through the liver, lymph nodes, large intestines, lungs, kidneys and skin. It makes an excellent spring detox or fasting tea. It also contains vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc and a starch called inulin, which aids in the metabolism of carbohydrates. It can be used as a tea or tincture or eaten as a vegetable. Grate it into salads. Burdock stimulates bile production, thus enabling fat breakdown in the body.
Cayenne is high in beta-carotene and vitamin C. It causes the brain to secrete more endorphins. It is considered thermogenic, meaning it can rev up metabolism and aid in weight loss.
Chickweed has laxative, liver-cleansing, and nutritive properties. Chickweed nourishes the yin fluids and dissolves plaque in the blood vessels and fatty deposits in the body. It reduces inflammation and clears toxins. Chickweed can be added to juices, salad, soup, and other dishes. It contains vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium, copper, zinc, and lecithin.
Cinnamon, a circulatory stimulant and diuretic, contains calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc. It helps dry dampness in the body and it is also thermogenic.
Cola nut is valued as a diuretic and stimulant. Cola nut is used to remedy fatigue and obesity. It does contain caffeine and theobromine. African natives chew the seeds to curb hunger, allay thirst and enable them to work hard in hot conditions. Note: Those with high blood pressure, heart palpitations, and peptic ulcers should avoid this herb because of the caffeine content.
Dandelion leaves and roots are laxative, lithotriptic and nutritive. Dandelion is also a blood purifier, which aids in the process of filtering and straining wastes from the bloodstream. It is useful in treating obstructions of the gallbladder, liver, pancreas and spleen. Dandelion is used to help clear the body of old emotions such as anger and fear that can be stored in the liver and kidneys. It is an excellent herb for weight loss, as the root improves fat metabolism and the leaves are diuretic.
Fennel seed was consumed by ancient Greek Olympic athletes so they would gain strength but not weight. Roman women ate fennel seed to prevent weight gain. The poor ate the seeds during the Middle Ages when they had nothing else or during long church sermons or days of fasting to stave off hunger. Fennel seeds are delightfully sweet and help to curb the appetite by stabilizing blood sugar levels. Fennel is used to improve bloated stomach conditions. Chewing the seeds after a meal freshens the breath.
Flaxseed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein and vitamins A and B. It contains more vitamin E per volume than any other known seed. Flaxseeds curb hunger because of their bulk and promote better bowel movements through their colon-lubricating activity. Eat 1 to 2 tablespoons (8 to 16 g) of seeds, chew well, or grind or soak the seeds beforehand. Be sure to consume plenty of fluids to aid this excellent bulk laxative. Better yet, learn to make flaxseed crackers.
Garcinia (Garcinia cambogia) is a member of the Clusiaceae family. The rind of the fruit is thermogenic and has been used to treat obesity by helping to curb hunger by making meals more filling.
This plant prevents the body from turning carbohydrates into fat by inhibiting the synthesis of fatty acids. It lowers the production of low density lipoproteins and increases the production of glycogen. It contains hydroxycitric acid, similar to the citric acid found in oranges and grapefruits, which reduces appetite, stabilizes blood sugar levels and enhances digestion. Garcinia also appears to improve the body’s ability to burn calories.
Those allergic to citric acid (citrus fruits, tomatoes) may have sensitivities to garcinia, though it has been safely used as a food for many centuries. Avoid it during pregnancy and nursing. Take three capsules one half hour to an hour before each meal.
Ginger rhizomes are choleretic, thermogenic, and improve spleen function. Ginger stimulates amylase concentration in the saliva and aids in the digestion of starches and fatty foods. Ginger is composed of sulfur, protein, and the proteolytic enzyme zingibain.
Guar gum (Cyamoposis tetragonoloba, C. psoraliodes) is a member of the Fabaceae (bean) family. The seeds and pods are laxative. Guar gum helps lower serum cholesterol levels and blood glucose levels. It slows down the absorption of carbohydrates. It tends to swell up in the digestive tract, causing a feeling of fullness and thus decreasing hunger. It is used in capsules. Use only the suggested dose.
Gymnema, also known as gurmar (Gymnema sylvestre), is a member of the Asclepiadeceae (milkweed) family. Gymnema has long been used to treat obesity.
Gurmar means “sugar destroyer,” and when one chew some of this leaf and then place sugar on the tongue, the sweet taste is eliminated in a few seconds. The molecules of the gymnemic acid fill the receptor sites for one to two hours, preventing taste buds from being activated by the sugar molecules in food and actually block sugar from being absorbed during digestion. Gurmar improves glucose utilization, enhances insulin production, and helps to overcome sugar addiction. It contains stigmasterol, betaine, and choline. Note: If one is using gymnema and are insulin dependent, consult with a physician, as insulin medication may need to be readjusted.
Hoodia gordonii looks like a cactus, but it’s actually a succulent in the Asclepiadaceous (milkweed) family from the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa. Bushmen from the area have used hoodia for centuries to help ward off hunger during long trips in the desert. That’s because hoodia tricks the brain into thinking one’ve eaten and makes feel full.
Studies show that it reduces interest in food, delays the time after eating before hunger sets in again, and promotes a full feeling more quickly. It contains a substance known as P57 that is believed to suppress the appetite by affecting the nerve cells that send the brain glucose, causing to feel satisfied. It is not a stimulant and has no known side effects.
Yerba mate leaves are alterative, antioxidant, antiscorbutic, aperient, astringent, diuretic, rejuvenative, stimulant, stomachic and tonic. Maté cleanses the blood, stimulates the mind, and respiratory and nervous systems, and decreases the appetite.
Yerba maté contains beta-carotene, vitamins B and C, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, silicon, sulfur, and tannins. The tannin content tends to bind with the caffeine, thereby reducing both compounds’ effects. Most people who find caffeine impairs sleep will not experience this with maté. Note: It’s best to avoid consuming maté with meals, as the high tannin content can impair nutrient assimilation. Use cautiously when suffering from anxiety, heart palpitations and insomnia.
Nettle leaves are used medicinally as an adrenal tonic, alterative, antioxidant, cholagogue, circulatory stimulant, diuretic, endocrine tonic (seed), expectorant, nutritive, rejuvenative (seed), and thyroid tonic (seed). Nettles are used to improve acne, cellulite, and obesity. Nettle leaf and root tone and firm tissue, muscles, arteries and skin. Nettles help curb the appetite and cleanse toxins from the body.
Because nettles are energizing, they help with motivation to stay on a healthy diet. Nettles contain protein, beta-carotene, xanthophylls, vitamins B, C, E and K, flavonoids, calcium, chromium, and iron.
Psyllium (Plantago psyllium, P. ovata) is a member of the Plantaginaceae (plantain) family. The seeds and outer husk of seeds are employed as a laxative and stool softener and are traditionally used to treat constipation and obesity. One teaspoon is taken in a bit of water or juice to curb hunger by causing a feeling of fullness in the stomach and promotes normal elimination. Drink it quickly before it jells up. It can also be taken in capsules.
Psyllium is high in mucilage and essential fatty acids. The seeds absorb eight to fourteen times their weight in water. Their fibrous qualities make them laxative, yet they also provide intestinal bulk, which can stop diarrhea. Because they tend to swell and create a feeling of fullness, they can help curb the appetite.
Note: Always use psyllium with plenty of liquids—otherwise it can cause constipation. Psyllium can dilute digestive enzymes and is best taken between meals—especially before bed or first thing upon rising rather than with food.
Green tea contains carotenoids, chlorophyll, caffeine, theophylline, theobromine, gamma-amino butyric acid, polysaccharides, fats, vitamins C and E, manganese, potassium, zinc, and fluoride. Green tea is diuretic and thermogenic.
Green tea prevents the blood from “clumping together” and forming clots that can lead to stroke. The catechin content of green tea helps to break down cholesterol and increase its elimination through the bowels.
Green tea also helps to keep blood sugar levels moderate and promotes clarity and energy. Even though caffeine gets a bad rap, the caffeine in green tea increases the synthesis of catecholamines, which are stimulant chemicals that relay nerve impulses in the brain.
Green tea has about 25 mg of caffeine per cup (black tea has about 35 to 40). The caffeine content of green tea is about as much as a soda and one-third to half as much as a cup of coffee. Note: Excessive use of green tea can cause nervous irritability and aggravate ulcers. Avoid it in cases of hypertension and insomnia.
Health food stores carry herbal combinations in tea, capsule and tablet form that can be used along with a good diet and exercise program to help let go of unnecessary weight.