The Hoodia Gordonii plant, which is a bitter spiny botanical plant, is only found in the infertile areas of the North Western parts of South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. It has been used for generations by the Kalahari San people to stave off hunger and thirst while on long hunting trips. But it wasn't until recently that it was introduced to the Western civilization.
Long before Latin names were given to plants, the San people knew the Hoodia plant by several different names. Some of the names the plant was known by include xshoba, ikhoba and xhooba. Although the San people knew this plant was safe to eat, it was not a preferable source of food because of its flavor.
While it was not a popular choice on the dinner table, the San people did put the Hoodia plant to good use. The bushmen often went on long hunting trips to bring home food for the family, and would often be gone for days. In order to fight off the constant feeling of food and water deprivation, the men would eat Hoodia Gordonii.
At the time, there was no fear of the safety of the plant, as it was often used for abdominal cramps and indigestion as well. It was even used for awhile to treat hypertension and diabetes. Down the road is when questions of the safety of the Hoodia plant arose.
A botanist by the name of Francis Masson, who sailed with James cook, is credited with giving the plant its Latin name of Stapelia Gordonii. He actually wrote a book on it and other species of gordonii. The name was later on changed to hoodia in honor of an enthusiastic succulent grower named Van Hood.
In the 1960's, scientists at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research studied many plants used by native people for medical purposes. The scientists identified what they believed to be an active molecule in Hoodia Gordonii and patented the molecule. The scientists continued to actively investigate the safety and effectiveness of the plant.
After several years of the Hoodia plant being transferred from Phytopharm to Pfizer and back to Phytopharm, Hoodia Gordonii was finally brought to the market. News of the plant as a natural appetite supplement is continuously coming in, and for now it is one of the hottest diet pills on the market.
In 2006, Phyopharm announced that they and their partner Unilever had completed the first phase of a five phase clinical research program with the Hooida plant looking into the safety and effectiveness. Only time will tell how effective this appetite supplement really is.