What Is Caralluma?


Look out, hoodia—there's a new weight-loss supplement hitting the market. Caralluma fimbriata, a member of the cactus family, has long been used in India as part of the food chain. It is now being widely reputed to have weight-loss effects by causing fat burning and by suppressing appetite. Never heard of caralluma? You're not alone. But with initial studies indicating both a positive effect on weight loss and the apparent safety of the product, caralluma will likely be on the shelves in a store near you.


Caralluma (full name caralluma fimbriata) is a star-shaped plant in the cactus family and has been around for hundreds of years in India. It is traditionally eaten either cooked or raw—either with spices or preserved like pickles or chutney—and is known as “famine food,” since it has appetite-suppressing properties. Tribal Indians have used caralluma for centuries to fight hunger and increase stamina and endurance. Similar to hoodia gordonii, caralluma is growing in its popularity and usage as a weight-loss aid.

How It Works

It is believed that caralluma fimbriata works in two ways. First, it may block certain enzymes and block the establishment of fat, thus forcing fat in reserve to be burned by the body. It is also widely reputed to have an affect on the hypothalamus in the brain, increasing appetite control. The extract has been developed and patented for use in weight-loss supplements.

Is It Safe?

In “Report on the Safety of Carallumafimbriata and its Extract,” written for the FDA, Harry G. Preuss, professor of physiology, medicine and pathology for Georgetown University, concludes that caralluma is safe at the recommended dosages. He wrote that the cactus from which caralluma is derived has been a part of India’s food chain for years, with no reported negative side effects. There have been two clinical studies of patients taking the supplement—neither resulted in any adverse effects.

Clinical Trials

In the first clinical trial (performed in India), 50 overweight participants were divided into 2 groups. Twenty-five received the active compound containing caralluma, and 25 received a placebo. This double-blind, placebo-controlled study lasted for 8 weeks and showed limited adverse reactions (mild stomach upset, constipation and flatulence, which dissipated after a week). At the end of the trial, both the circumference of the participants’ waists and levels of hunger were significantly less in those who received the active compound. The second trial (completed in California) yielded similar results and further indicated the safety of the extract.


As with any change in diet or supplements, consult your doctor before beginning a regimen. Little is known about any potential long-term side effects, as caralluma fimbriata is still a relatively new ingredient in the U.S. marketplace.

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