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Beneficial and Harmful Herbs Used for Losing Weight

Herbal Weight Loss: No "Magic Formula"

By Melanie McLean

Bunch of Organic Dandelion Greens

Bunch of Organic Dandelion Greens

Bill Boch / Getty Images
I don't have to tell you that there isn't such thing as a pill or remedy out there that will magically make the pounds melt away, but healing herbs, when used safely, can promote weight loss in a variety of ways. The action of certain herbs "trick" the brain into thinking the stomach is full, while others function thermogenically (speed up the body's metabolism).

How Thermogenic Herbs Work

Thermogenic herbs (most classified as stimulants) contain substances like caffeine that speed up body functions like heart rate, digestion, and respiration. Their effects may get you up off the couch and keep you moving. Some thremogenic herbs like green tea, nettle, and dandelion are safe as, or safer, than prescription and over the counter weight loss drugs. Other herbs act as diuretics (water reducers) by causing water weight loss. Buchu and uva-ursi rid your body of excess fluid, but weight returns quickly when the herb is halted. Even though some can be very beneficial, others can be potentially dangerous and even toxic.

Beware These Herbs

It should be noted that the FDA (Food and Drug Commission) has linked the following to cause serious side effects and even death -- so AVOID THEM
  • Herbal Laxatives - Usually sold as a diet tea, cascara, senna, buckthorn, aloe and rhubarb root. These herbs can cause cramping, diarrhea, and if overused, could cause your bowels to no longer function without laxative stimulation.

  • Ephedra - Also known as ma huang, in high doses can raise blood pressure, increase heart rate, and over stimulate the central nervous system. The FDA reports more than 800 reports of side effects linked with the use of ephedra, including heart palpitations, seizures, stroke, chest pain, and heart attack. This herb has caused at least two deaths.

  • Herbal fen-phen - Ephedra is the main ingredient in the version of the dangerous diet drug known as fen fen. Herbal fen-phen has not been shown to even work in clinical trials, buy we know its misuse is associated with sever side effects, from heartbeat irregularities to death from heart attack and stroke.

What is Safe?

  • Cayenne - If you aren't plagued by spicy food, try sprinkling a dash of cayenne on your food. It contains an ingredient called capsaicin that stimulates saliva, stimulates digestion and accelerates your metabolism at a safer level.

  • Green Tea - This healthful tea is a natural stimulant that behaves much like coffee but with the added benefit of vitamin C and flavoniods (compounds that are antioxidants). You can regulate the strength of the stimulant by steeping the tea quickly or for a long time. It can be purchased in a tea bag, or loose. It also is available in capsules, but is said to be better assimilated as a liquid.

  • Seaweed - A good source of trace minerals such as chromium and iodine, seaweed is a natural thyroid stimulant. It is usually contained in kelp capsules or tablets. If you suspect your weight problem is due to a thyroid problem, or if you currently take any thyroid medication, you should check with a doctor before taking kelp or seaweed.
Good luck in exploring all your herbal options. Remember your health is very important and herbal remedies should be viewed with the same precaution as taking any medication. If you want to make herbs a part of your health regime, you should research and thoroughly investigate all our earth has to offer!
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