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Hoodia gordonii

Used for generations by the indigenous peoples of the Kalahari to quench their thirst, Hoodia gordonii is now widely used in the commercial production of slimming aids.
Hoodia gordonii in Namibia

Hoodia gordonii in Namibia

Species information

Conservation status: 

Not evaluated. However, in part of its range (Namibia) it has been assessed as Lower Risk - Least Concern according to IUCN Red Data List categories (SANBI, 2002).


Very dry rocky environments to sandy river beds.

Key Uses: 

Quenching thirst, appetite suppressant, slimming products, medicinal.

Known hazards: 

There are issues of quality control and clinical efficacy surrounding the unregulated trade in products claiming to contain 'Hoodia'.


Genus: Hoodia

About this Species

A modern-day example of the need to recognise not only the traditional uses of wild plants, but also to respect the communities that use them is illustrated by the commercialisation of slimming products containing Hoodia. For generations the indigenous peoples of the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa used Hoodia as a food to quench their thirst.

In the mid-1960s the National Food Research Institute in South Africa tested whether Hoodia did actually quench thirst; they discovered that it actually suppressed appetite. In the late 1990s the active principle in Hoodia was identified and patented as an appetite-suppressant, and Western drug and food companies then focused on how they could develop Hoodia-based products as slimming aids.

Because the development of these products was based on the traditional knowledge of the indigenous peoples, the companies had to negotiate a benefit-sharing arrangement with the San people. This agreement ensures that any company selling products containing the Hoodia appetite suppressant share the financial returns with the San people.


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