Caralluma fimbriata (C. fimbriata) is a popular edible plant from India typically used as an appetite suppressant.
The C. fimbriata is a cactus-like plant that was first used thousands of years ago by some native Indian populations as a natural way to suppress appetites during long hunts and times of famine. Today, the extract of the plant is used as a supplement to help suppress appetite as well as lose weight. Researchers are also studying its antioxidant and antibiotic effect and its ability to fight atherosclerosis and treat diabetes.
C. fimbriata helps suppress appetites and leads to smaller waists. Fifty overweight adult men and women (ages 25-60) who took part in a placebo controlled randomized trial, were separated into two groups and given either a placebo or a daily dose of 1 g of C. fimbriata for 60 days.
After evaluating blood glucose and lipid levels, anthropometric measurements, dietary intake and assessment of appetite, it was determined that waist circumference and hunger levels significantly declined in the group supplemented with the plant extract (1).
The results were published in an issue of Appetite, a peer-reviewed journal.
C. fimbriata extract may help central obesity (excess accumulation of fat in the abdominal area). In a study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, it was concluded that supplementation with the extract while also controlling dietary intake and engaging in physical activity, played a role in curbing central obesity (2).
Also noted was a decrease in waist circumference, an improvement in waist-to-hip ratio as well as a significant decline in the palatability (visual appeal, smell and taste) of the test meal and sodium intake.
C. fimbriata can help control compulsive overeating in children and adolescents with Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS). (PWS) is a genetic disorder that affects approximately one out of every 15,000 births (3). According to the Foundation for Prader-Willi Research, PWS is recognized as the most common genetic cause of life-threatening childhood obesity.
Some of the common characteristics of those with PWS include small hands and feet, abnormal growth and body composition and insatiable hunger.
Participants from Australia and New Zealand took part in a 10-week, placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized trial. The results of the trial revealed that not only did C. fimbriata extract help to curb appetite, it did so without any adverse reactions (4).
Researchers are optimistic that this extract may become an effective therapy for the management of PWS.
C. fimbriata is shown to have anti-atherosclerosis properties in rats. To test the effect of C. fimbriata extract on preventing the development of atherosclerosis (a disease of the arteries characterized by deposits of plaques of fatty material), rats were randomly assigned to three groups: untreated group, rats fed a high-fat cafeteria diet and rats fed a combination of a high-fat cafeteria diet and a C. fimbriata extract treatment.
After the 90-day testing period, researchers found that treating rats with a high-fat diet concurrently with the extract completely prevented lipid accumulation (5).
C. fimbriata has antibiotic activity. Researchers interested in learning more about the role of plants in drug production zeroed in on C. fimbriata in a recent study. In an in vitro test, researchers concluded that extracts from the stems of C. fimbriata showed antibacterial activity against five bacterial strains: Escherichia coli (E. coli), Proteus spp, Pseudomonas spp and Bacillus and Staphylococcus aureus (6).
It was also determined that this stem extract was as effective against pathogenic organisms as gentamycin — a standard antibiotic medicine.
Researchers are hoping to carry out further studies on this plant to determine its future role in the treatment of various human infections.
C. fimbriata has antioxidant activity. Methanol and water extracts of this plant have been found to be rich in phenolic and flavonoid — phytochemical compounds that have potent antioxidant activity. Antioxidants help protect human cells against the damaging effects of free radicals. (7).
C. fimbriata has the ability to reduce blood glucose in diabetic rats. Scientists in the medical community are increasingly looking to plants and their bioactive compounds as an alternative therapeutic approach to the treatment of diabetes. The results of a study published in Pharmacognosy Magazine show researchers are getting that much closer to finding a possible alternative.
In one study, researchers used different concentrations of ethanolic extract of C. fimbriata leaf to investigate its antihyperglycemic effect. At the conclusion of the in vitro study, it was concluded that comparable to insulin and the type 2 diabetes medication, Metformin, the extract has promising potent antihyperglycemic activity. (8).
In another study, this time using methanol extract, the results were equally as compelling. Researchers from the Bharathidasan Institute of Technology in Tamil Nadu, India, separated diabetic-induced rats into different groups. At the end of the study, they noted that the methanol extract significantly controlled the diabetic condition (9).
Preliminary studies show that when taken at the recommended dosages, C. fimbriata is considered safe for consumption. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) added the hydroethanolic extract of C. fimbriata to the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list of food ingredients in 2014.
Mild side effects reported include stomach pain, constipation and other gastrointestinal issues.
The recommended dosage of the extract is 500 milligrams taken up to twice daily for 60 days. The long-term effects have not been studied, and therefore, taking longer than 60 days is not recommended.
As with any supplement, be sure to check with your doctor before taking it.
C. fimbriata is an edible, cactus-like plant from India that has been used in its natural form for thousands of years as an appetite suppressant. Today, the extract is sold in supplement form and continues to be taken as a weight-loss aid. While there have been many supplements on the market promising weight loss, many of them come with the risk of dangerous and even life-threatening side effects. Current studies show that C. fimbriata is not only effective in suppressing appetite and promoting weight loss, it does not appear to cause serious side effects when taken as recommended.
C. fimbriata may also play a future role in treating several conditions. Some animal studies show its antibiotic and antioxidant activity as well as its potential to help prevent or treat atherosclerosis and diabetes.