From the Greek phyton (‘plant’) and therapeuin (‘to take care of’), phytotherapy literally describes the use of plants for treating (or preventing) disease. It’s the most ancient form of healthcare there is, the first written references dating back to around 3000 BC.
It initially amounted to the simple cataloguing of home and empiric remedies of local customs (herbal teas, infusions, powders, poultices …), but traditional phytotherapy gradually developed as a result of biochemical and pharmacological knowledge to grow into what we now recognise as ‘modern’ phytotherapy. Aiming to scientifically validate the medicinal usages of our ancestors, it also offers new methods of extracting active principles which extend the therapeutic field.
So how does phytotherapy fit into a weight loss programme? In combination with a balanced diet and regular exercise, plant extracts can support your efforts to lose weight by acting on interrelating parameters, from appetite control to metabolism of fats and modulation of energy expenditure. Here we take a closer look at the essential ingredients of a slimming pharmacopoeia.
The fruit of the carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua L.), carob is a Mediterranean legume primarily grown in the Iberian peninsula.
A flat, dark brown pod, it contains a cocoa-flavoured pulp which promotes a feeling of satiety. It therefore indirectly helps with weight control by curbing cravings (1-2). This satiogenic effect is due to its galactomannans, a type of soluble fibre which delays emptying of the stomach.
While carob powder can be added to drinks and sweet dishes, extracts of carob standardised in galactomannans (such as CSAT®, a patented carob supplement standardised to 30% galactomannans) guarantee maximum efficacy.
Part of the Lamiaceae family, Indian Coleus (Coleus forskohlii) is a tropical plant from northern India, used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine.
The plant’s roots are much sought-after because of their content of forskolin. Also called coloneol, this diterpene is involved in the process of thermogenesis (the production of body heat) and regulates endocrine function. This species of coleus thus supports effective fat metabolism and weight loss (3-4).
Identified in 1974, forskolin is today found in high-performing synergistic slimming supplements (such as the powerful Advanced Fat Burner, which along with forskolin, also contains green coffee, inulin, East Indian globe thistle and garcinia).
Could chilli peppers (Capsicum annuus) have a fat-burning effect while firing up our tastebuds?
Maybe. This small berry-fruit from the Solanaceae family definitely plays a role in weight control as a result of its capsaicinoids: these also activate thermogenesis while at the same time helping to modulate appetite (5-6).
A good way of boosting your metabolism without setting your mouth on fire, is to take a chilli extract supplement (for example MetadrineTM, a formulation which combines the patented compound Capsimax® with green tea, garcinia and cacao).
Knotted wrack (Ascophyllum nodosum) is a brown seaweed that grows along parts of northern Atlantic coast and fully deserves a place in any slimming programme.
Helping to promote weight loss and a healthy gut, it contains specific polyphenols which target alpha-amylase and lipase, two digestive enzymes responsible for breaking down sugars and fats (7).
The subject of extensive scientific study, both in animals and humans, this valuable marine species is a key ingredient in cutting-edge supplements targeted at weight control (such as Fat & Carb Blocker, a supplement containing eco-friendly Ascophyllum nodosum from France, obtained using simple water extraction).
Resembling a small yellow pumpkin, garcinia (Garcinia cambogia) or Malabar tamarind
It’s the fruit’s rind in particular, which supports weight management and fat metabolism, as a result of its high levels of hydroxycitric acid (HCA) - between 15% and 30% (8). Though there is more to discover about its properties, this compound is recognised as an inhibitor of ATP-citrate lyase, an enzyme involved in synthesising fatty acids, and in this respect, garcinia may help reduce adipose storage (9).
So to optimise your slimming efforts, consider supplementing with garcinia rind extract, making sure you choose a formulation with a high concentration of hydroxycitric acid (the supplement Garcinia Cambogia is standardised to 60% HCA, the highest percentage on the market).
We all remember sucking on liquorice sticks on the way home from school. But did you know that behind this simple sweet, appreciated the world over, lies a root that’s symbolic of traditional Chinese medicine?
Containing multiple active substances such as glycyrrhizic acid, glabridin and liquiritoside, liquorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) has antioxidant properties and supports good gastrointestinal health, by, in particular, mediating liver enzyme pathways. This partly explains why it targets visceral fat (10-11).
As you’ve probably guessed, munching on sweets is hardly the best way to trim your waistline. A much better option is to take a liquorice extract supplement (such as the patented product Viscerox®, with 30% polyphenols and 3% glabridin for unbeatable efficacy).
An unexpected resource from Ayurveda! Mukul myrrh, which has the Latin name Commiphora mukul, is a shrub that grows in Indian desert regions.
Its trunk oozes an oleoresin gum which supports weight loss, fat metabolism and cardiovascular health (12-13). Its versatility comes from its content of guggulsterones, plant sterols which act primarily at an enzyme, thyroid and adipocyte level (14).
So how about giving yourself the maximum chance of success by including it in your high-performing slimming programme (with, for example, the product Weight Loss Formula, enriched with Commiphora mukul and renowned plants such as green coffee, Dolichos Biflorus and konjac for a comprehensive action)?
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