What is Hoodia? Nopal Opuntia
Hoodia is a succulent
plant found in the Kalahari desert of South Africa. The genus encompasses a number of varieties of plant of which Hoodia gordonii is one species. Hoodia plants are succulents, not cacti, although they do have a spiny appearance similar to cacti
How has Hoodia gordonii been used in the past?
For many centuries the San bushmen of the Kalahari desert have used Hoodia plants as a food. The species Hoodia gordonii was less often used because of its lingering bitter taste being considered unpleasant. However, in times of hardship, or being away from familiar areas, it was sometimes eaten.
How did the CSIR's research into Hoodia gordonii commence?
Due to the tradition of food use of Hoodia plants, certain species were included in a scientific research project established by the South African statutory council known as CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) to screen a large number of bush foods. As part of the screening process, extracts of plants were made and tested for toxic effects. Surprisingly, it was observed that the Hoodia extracts caused a decrease in appetite and body weight in animals that did not appear to be due to a direct toxic effect of the extract.
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