A Brief History of the Hoodia Gordonii Cactus Plant

By: Joan Masterson

Hoodia Gordonii has already been used by the San Bushmen and their ancestors for centuries with no ill or harmful effects. It was purely by chance that the appetite suppressing properties were discovered when a study was being conducted by the CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) back in 1996.

During the studies of what foods the Bushmen ate, is was also found it made animals lose weight and this was exciting. Later it was also discovered that it was used quite commonly by the Bushmen on hunting trips.

After much research done by the CSIR during the year of 1997, a bioactive compound was isolated in Hoodia Gordonii that acted as an appetite suppressant and a patent was duly registered for this. The patent was later licensed to an overseas company by the name of Phytopharm and they named the molecule - P57. Incidentally P57 was not a scientific name but simply the product number they were researching at the time.

Originally the Bushmen were not compensated with any money for the find after the CSIR told Phytopharm that the bushmen tribe which discovered the Hoodia Gordonii plant had expired and therefore no royalties were due. Later however when the still thriving Bushmen discovered that Phytopharm stood to make billions of dollars off their knowledge, regarding the properties of the Hoodia Gordonii plant they were far from being happy.

After lobbying support for the Bushmen regards these issues a certain now well known Roger Chennells was able to convince the CSIR and Phytopharm to give the Bushmen their dues. Today any company that legally harvests Hoodia Gordonii from the Kalahari Desert must pay royalties to the Bushmen on an ongoing basis. Not only is this fair practice, it also provides an excellent way to check whether the Hoodia products you purchase are completely legitimate. You do NOT have a legitimate Hoodia Gordonii product if the producer is not paying royalties to the Bushmen that they can certify.

While Phytopharm will probably never produce viable product from P57 because it cannot be produced synthetically, they knew that Hoodia Gordonii was too powerful an appetite suppressant to give up trying to bring it to the market. In December 2004, Phytopharm announced that Unilever had concluded deal to market Hoodia Gordonii as a diet supplement. Both companies have yet to deliver on this promise but it seems that there will never be sufficient enough quantities to mass produce Hoodia.

As a parting note: after patent rights have been thrown back and forth whether Hoodia can be marketed with Phytopharm still holding the legal patent rights is possible in the forms produced on the market today. This is to say - you can sell a Hoodia Gordonii supplement, you just can NOT say it is for weight loss. This is why many of the best certified Hoodia supplements have very plain labels that just say "Hoodia Gordonii" but do not say anything about using it as a weight loss or appetite suppressant supplement.

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